Parshat ha Shavuah Verses – Shelach / שְׁלַח

Every Parshah “accidentally” throws some very contemporary notes at you. Everyone knows how ancient the city of Hebron is. This Parshah points out the depth of its history by comparing it to a city, apparently, well known in the ancient word and stating that Hebron is seven years older.

כב  וַיַּעֲלוּ בַנֶּגֶב, וַיָּבֹא עַד-חֶבְרוֹן, וְשָׁם אֲחִימַן שֵׁשַׁי וְתַלְמַי, יְלִידֵי הָעֲנָק; וְחֶבְרוֹן, שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים נִבְנְתָה, לִפְנֵי, צֹעַן מִצְרָיִם.

22 And they went up into the South, and came unto Hebron; and Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were there.–Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.–

Hebron, surely, has a special place in my heart. It is this combination of beauty and pain, joy and tears, sanctity and murder that penetrates your very soul, and makes you ask the same question again and again: עד מתי? How much longer will we have to prove that Hebron is the ancient land where Jews lived since Abraham came there?

כז  וַיְסַפְּרוּ-לוֹ, וַיֹּאמְרוּ, בָּאנוּ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר שְׁלַחְתָּנוּ; וְגַם זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבַשׁ, הִוא–וְזֶה-פִּרְיָהּ.

27 And they told him, and said: ‘We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.

An interesting interpretation, of course, comes from the Hebron Jewish community on the eternity of Hebron alluded to right in these psukim

The Scouts, or spies that were sent by Moses, return with the report of the beauty and abundance of the land. We can see that abundance walking through the markets today:

One would think that their promised land is near, all they need to do is go!

And yet:

א  וַתִּשָּׂא, כָּל-הָעֵדָה, וַיִּתְּנוּ, אֶת-קוֹלָם; וַיִּבְכּוּ הָעָם, בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא.

1 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.

ב  וַיִּלֹּנוּ עַל-מֹשֶׁה וְעַל-אַהֲרֹן, כֹּל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם כָּל-הָעֵדָה, לוּ-מַתְנוּ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, אוֹ בַּמִּדְבָּר הַזֶּה, לוּ-מָתְנוּ.

2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron; and the whole congregation said unto them: ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would we had died in this wilderness!

ג  וְלָמָה יְהוָה מֵבִיא אֹתָנוּ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת, לִנְפֹּל בַּחֶרֶב–נָשֵׁינוּ וְטַפֵּנוּ, יִהְיוּ לָבַז; הֲלוֹא טוֹב לָנוּ, שׁוּב מִצְרָיְמָה.

3 And wherefore doth the LORD bring us unto this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will be a prey; were it not better for us to return into Egypt?’

There are many places in the Torah, where one thinks “How could they? They’ve just seen miracles! Their everyday existence was Gd filled! How can they complain and disobey Him?”

Meanwhile, isn’t this what we do all the time? We are given the clear guidelines to the happiness, joy and success. And …  we constantly break the rules. Years later we look back and recognise out shortcomings and lessons we had to learn despite ourselves. And we ask for forgiveness.

Later on in this Parshah the most beautiful piece of Jewish liturgy appears.

After Moses asks for forgiveness for the whole nation:

כ  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, סָלַחְתִּי כִּדְבָרֶךָ. 20 And the LORD said: ‘I have pardoned according to thy word.

סָלַחְתִּי

I hear this melody for days after Yom Kippur.

For me this prayer, this niggun means the closest connection to the Being that chooses to be all powerful and all merciful at the same time. And it is symbolised by an elderly man that comes to lead the prayers in my shul on the High Holidays. When he sings this word – salachti – I have forgiven, my heart skips a beat.

And there is a lot to forgive.

When 40 years after the time of our Parshah the story sort of repeats itself – Yehoshua sends the spies out.

This time, however, we hear this story from the insides of the fortified city:

ח  וְהֵמָּה, טֶרֶם יִשְׁכָּבוּן; וְהִיא עָלְתָה עֲלֵיהֶם, עַל-הַגָּג. 8 And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;
ט  וַתֹּאמֶר, אֶל-הָאֲנָשִׁים–יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי-נָתַן יְהוָה לָכֶם אֶת-הָאָרֶץ; וְכִי-נָפְלָה אֵימַתְכֶם עָלֵינוּ, וְכִי נָמֹגוּ כָּל-יֹשְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ מִפְּנֵיכֶם. 9 and she said unto the men: ‘I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.
י  כִּי שָׁמַעְנוּ, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-הוֹבִישׁ יְהוָה אֶת-מֵי יַם-סוּף מִפְּנֵיכֶם, בְּצֵאתְכֶם, מִמִּצְרָיִם; וַאֲשֶׁר עֲשִׂיתֶם לִשְׁנֵי מַלְכֵי הָאֱמֹרִי אֲשֶׁר בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן, לְסִיחֹן וּלְעוֹג–אֲשֶׁר הֶחֱרַמְתֶּם, אוֹתָם. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond the Jordan, unto Sihon and to Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.

This means that even 40 years after the fact the city dwellers were terrified of the children of Gd coming. How much more they should have been terrified when the Jews were next to Jericho previously!

Here’s a lesson to us, myself first. If you feel that a path you set for yourself is right, and in alliance with Gd’s will, go on it. Start moving now. Don’t wait for the best circumstances, don’t be afraid. Do your part, and He will do His.

Shabbat Shalom!

P.S. I just have to add this beautiful d’var Torah connecting this parshah with another one that I love by my favorite teacher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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