Sichos in English
Parshas Shlach; 26th Day of Sivan, 5751
On Shabbos, we read the entire weekly Torah-portion, fusing each of the separate
elements of the Torah reading into a single whole. Just as the Shabbos day
includes within it all the days of the previous week, so is the Shabbos reading
all-inclusive in nature. Although each of the different readings contains an
individual message, their being read together as a single parsha endows
them with a point of general significance. In a larger sense they share a point
of connection, not only to the entire parsha, but to the Torah as a
whole, for the entire Torah is a single indivisible entity.
concept that all of the Torah’s elements are interrelated is especially
relevant to Parshas Shlach, in which the interrelationship of the parsha’s
various components is more clearly discernible. The majority of the Torah
reading is concerned with the mission of the spies and the reaction of the
Jewish people upon their return. Even the subsequent passages, for example, the
passage concerning the wine libations and the passage concerning the separation
of challa, were mentioned directly after G-d told Moshe that the Jewish
people would remain in the desert for forty years, indicating that afterwards
they would enter Eretz Yisroel.
the concluding passage mentions the mitzva of tzitzis, a mitzva
of all-encompassing significance that brings to mind the totality of the 613 mitzvos.
This further indicates the connection shared between one passage of the Torah
and all the rest.
is necessary to understand, however, why this concept - how each passage of the
Torah is connected to the Torah as a whole - is expressed by Parshas Shlach.
What is the connection between this concept and Parshas Shlach? Similarly, it is
necessary to understand the connection between Parshas Shlach and the month of
Sivan, in which it is read.
concepts can be understand through analyzing the story of the spies and, more
particularly, through contrasting the narrative of the spies sent by Moshe
Rabbeinu with the Haftora’s narrative of the spies sent by Yehoshua.
Among the differences between these two narratives: a) There was no direct
command for Moshe to send spies; G-d left the matter to Moshe’s discretion. By
contrast, Yehoshua was explicitly commanded to send spies. The reason for this
is obvious — after the disastrous results of the mission of the spies sent by
Moshe, Yehoshua surely would not have sent spies unless commanded to do so by
G-d. b) In regard to the spies sent by Moshe, the Torah uses the expressions
"men" and "explore." In regard to the spies sent by Yehoshua,
the expressions used are "spies" and "search out,"
expressions that imply more clandestine activities. c) Moshe sent twelve spies
and Yehoshua sent only two. d) In regard to the spies sent by Moshe, the Torah
mentions the names of the spies and specifically states that they were the
leaders of the people, whereas the identity of the spies sent by Yehoshua is not
mentioned in the narrative. e) The spies sent by Moshe were sent openly; the
entire Jewish people knew of their mission. Moreover, there was no attempt to
hide their mission from the gentiles. Rather than divide Eretz Yisroel among all
twelve spies, with each one exploring one portion, they traveled conspicuously
as a group. Yehoshua by contrast, sent his spies secretly, concealing the matter
from the Jewish people and surely, from the K’naanim. f) The spies sent by
Moshe traversed Eretz Yisroel in its entirety. Yehoshua’s spies, by contrast,
were instructed to "see the land and Yericho," (i.e., their mission
was of a more limited scope). As it turned out, they merely went to Rachav’s
house, fled to the hills for three days, and then returned to Yehoshua; they did
not explore the land as a whole, and did not even explore Yericho in its
differences in nature between the mission of Moshe’s spies and that of
Yehoshua’s spies, revolves around the differences in the purpose of these
missions. There are two general reasons why the Jewish people sent spies to
Eretz Yisroel: a) to prepare for the conquest of Eretz Yisroel by uncovering its
roads and fortifications so that it would be easier to plan an attack. b) To
investigate the nature of the land in order to inform the people of its positive
qualities so that they would be eager to settle in it.
sent the spies primarily for the second purpose. He wanted them to explore the
land in order to tell the people of its positive qualities. As for the first
reason, he was confident that the conquest of Eretz Yisroel would be
accomplished in a miraculous manner. In Yehoshua’s time, however, when the
Jewish people were on a lower spiritual plane, and were not expecting the
miracles that Moshe would have brought them, it was necessary to prepare for
actual war. This was Yehoshua’s main objective in sending his spies to Yericho.
As for the idea of investigating the nature of the land in order to inform the
people of its positive qualities, this was no longer necessary, for it had
already been accomplished by the spies of Moshe.
further explain: The Jewish people asked Moshe Rabbeinu to send spies in order
to "search out the land," i.e., to investigate how the land should be
conquered. But Moshe did not consider that purpose significant, as he told the
people, "G-d, your L-rd, proceeds ahead of you. He will fight for
you." Nor was there any need to explore the roads, because they would
simply follow the pillar of cloud that led them by day, and the pillar of fire
that led them by night.
why then did he send the spies? "To explore the land....so that they shall
see what kind of land it is...if it is good...if it is rich..." That is why
he instructed them to bring back some of the fruit of the land — so that the
Jewish people would all be able to see with their own eyes the land’s positive
by contrast, did not send spies for this purpose, for it had already been
accomplished by Moshe’s spies. Rather, his spies were sent for the purpose of
preparing for the conquest of the land. Yehoshua realized that the conquest he
would lead would not be accompanied by the miracles that would have
characterized Moshe’s conquest of the land, thus he felt the need to send
spies to investigate the nature of the land’s defenses.
on these general principles, we can explain the other differences between the
mission of the spies sent by Moshe and those sent by Yehoshua. As mentioned, in
Yehoshua’s case, there was no Divine command to send spies, because from G-d’s
perspective there was no need for such a mission. The land would be conquered in
a miraculous manner and He had already assured the people that it was a good and
Jewish people, however, felt the need to send spies. Moshe agreed, since, as
Rashi states in Parshas Dvarim, he hoped that once he agreed wholeheartedly to
their request, they would feel that he was not hiding anything from them and
would withdraw the request.
this did not happen, Moshe presented the request to G-d, asking Him whether or
not spies should be sent to explore the land - not to search out the easiest way
of conquest, but to bring back a report that would make the people desire to
conquer it, as explained above. G-d replied that this was left to Moshe’s
discretion. G-d did not oppose such a mission, nor did He see a real need for
it. Moshe, however, as the shepherd of the Jewish people, felt the need for the
people to be encouraged and, therefore, consented to the sending of the spies.
this reason he sent twelve spies, one for each tribe, and chose the leader of
each tribe. His intent was for the spies to explore the entire land and see that
there was a portion appropriate for each of their respective tribes. Therefore,
he sent the tribal leaders, individual’s who best knew the needs of their
respective tribes, and could tell them upon returning that there was a portion
of Eretz Yisroel appropriate for them.
was with this intent that the spies traveled together as a group throughout
Eretz Yisroel. Since the land had not, as yet, been divided into tribal portions
it was impossible to send each of the spies to explore the specific portion
destined for his tribe. Rather, all of them had to see the entire land, and to
appreciate how the land as a whole was suitable for their particular tribe.
also explains why their mission was not a secret. It was made known to the Jews,
because its entire purpose was to whet their appetite to enter Eretz Yisroel.
Moreover, their mission was not even concealed from the K’naanim. Since it was
not directed at military objectives, the spies had no reason to obscure their
identity so as to mingle with the local people to discover whether they were
afraid of the Jews or not. Similarly, they were confident that just as the
conquest of Eretz Yisroel would be carried out in a miraculous manner, so too,
would they be able to carry out their mission in a miraculous manner, so that
they would have no reason to worry about getting caught. Yehoshua’s spies, on
the other hand, had a clear military objective: to discover the most practical
way to conquer Yericho. For this reason, he sent the spies secretly, sending two
and not twelve (to be able to hide easier). The mission was not publicized to
the K’naanim, nor to the Jewish people (lest word of it leak to the public at
intent was not to convince the people of the land’s favorable qualities, thus
there was also no reason to choose the leaders. (Doing so would also make the
mission public knowledge.) It was preferable to send individuals with military
also explains why the spies returned to Yehoshua without making a thorough
investigation of Yericho. After Rachav told them that "the fear of you has
fallen upon us. All the inhabitants of the land have melted with terror because
of you...there is no courage remaining in any man," they did not need to
make any further investigations. They knew that the land could be conquered.
above explanation also clarifies another problematic point regarding the mission
of the spies sent by Moshe. Since the spies were the leaders of the Jewish
people and unique individuals selected by Moshe Rabbeinu, how is it possible
that their mission led to such disastrous results?
answer is that the spies’ mission did, in fact, accomplish its intended goal.
They came back and told the people that Eretz Yisroel was a land of milk and
honey and brought samples of the fine fruit it produced. The Jewish people,
therefore, actually experienced the land’s positive qualities. It was this
experience that motivated them many years later, under the leadership of
Yehoshua, to enter Eretz Yisroel with happiness and joy.
even at the time of their journey, there was, in a spiritual sense, a positive
dimension to their mission, for the very travels of such spiritually exalted
Jews through Eretz Yisroel, began the ultimate conquest of Eretz Yisroel. Thus,
their mission was part of the service of elevating the lower aspects of our
mission of the spies sent by Moshe also teaches another lesson. A spy was sent
from each tribe because each tribe has a unique approach to the service of G-d.
For example, the service of the tribe of Yisachar centers on Torah study and
that of Z’vulun, on commercial activity, the proceeds of which were used for tz’daka.
The other tribes also had a path of service unique to it. Eretz Yisroel is
divided into twelve portions, one for each of the tribes, because the refinement
of that portion of land is dependent upon the service of that particular tribe.
would seem more appropriate for each of the leaders to have investigated the
portion of Eretz Yisroel appropriate for his particular tribe, and yet, we find
that the opposite was true. All twelve spies traversed the entire land together.
This emphasizes how the individual service of every Jew is interconnected with
that of our people as a whole, for - as an expression of the mitzva of ahavas
Yisroel - one Jew helps another carry out his service. Furthermore, through
the collective efforts of the entire Jewish people (as represented by their
leaders), the refinement of the world is carried out in a more complete and
Based on the above, we can understand the connection between Parshas Shlach and
the month of Sivan, the month associated with the giving of the Torah. As
mentioned, Parshas Shlach is always read towards the conclusion of the month of
Sivan; moreover, the spies themselves began their journey on the 29th of Sivan.
connection between the parsha and the month revolves around the concept
explained above - that the spies’ journey was a phase in the elevation and the
refinement of the world.
refinement of the world is accomplished through the power of the Torah. Thus,
the conclusion of the month of the giving of the Torah represents the extending
of the Torah into the world at large and the refinement of the world that
results from this act.
Torah is connected with the Jewish people, as reflected in the fact that the
name Yisroel is an acronym for the Hebrew words that mean "there are
600,000 letters in the Torah." Each Jewish soul is rooted in one of the
Torah’s letters which serve’s as the source of its life-energy and vitality.
are two laws concerning a Torah scroll that have significant parallels in our
service of G-d: a) Each letter in a Torah scroll must be surrounded by
parchment, and b) a Torah scroll is incomplete unless it contains every single
letter. From this we can infer that each Jew has a service unique and specific
to his particular soul, separate from that of other Jews, yet the service of one
Jew is incomplete until he joins with the entire Jewish people. Similarly, there
are two levels of refinement to be accomplished by the Jewish people: one that
is the responsibility of each particular individual, and one to be accomplished
by the people as a whole.
explain: The concepts of oneness and division are intrinsic to the Torah and its
mitzvos. The Torah is one, for it is G-d’s wisdom and "He and His
wisdom are one." By contrast, there are 613 mitzvos. Since the mitzvos
are G-d’s directives for man’s conduct in the world, just as the world has
613 dimensions, so too, there are 613 different mitzvos.
contrast between oneness and division is reflected in the difference between p’nimiyus
ha’Torah (Torah’s mystic dimension) and nigleh (Torah’s legal
or revealed dimension). Nigleh is concerned with the refinement of the
world, defining what is kosher and what is not, what is pure and what is impure.
Like the world, nigleh is characterized by division, including the basic
division into sixty different tractates. P’nimiyus ha’Torah, on the
other hand, concerns itself directly with G-d ("Know the G-d of your
father.") Hence, just as G-d is one, this Torah discipline is characterized
above is also reflected within the Jewish people. From the perspective of the
soul all Jews are united. In what respect, then, are they divided? In terms of
their bodies, in which their souls are clothed in order to carry out the service
of refining the world. The conscious powers of the soul (intellect and emotion)
are characterized by division, and it is the essence of the soul (the revelation
of which is through the service of bittul) which reflects oneness.
journey of the spies teaches us that our efforts to refine the world do not
relate only to those aspects of the Jewish people and the Torah that are
characterized by division, but also to the transcendental levels that reflect G-d’s
specifically, it can be explained that the two above-mentioned approaches to the
service of refinement, an approach that focuses on particular divisions and an
approach that is characterized by oneness, reflect the difference between the
mission of the spies sent by Moshe Rabbeinu and those sent by Yehoshua. Moshe
sent twelve spies, one for each of the services that characterizes the Jewish
people, and he charged them with exploring the entire land, i.e., all of its
contrast, the mission of the spies sent by Yehoshua was characterized by
oneness. To that extent, he sent spies only to Yericho, "the lock of Eretz
Yisroel," i.e., a city which, in essence, includes the entire country and
thus relates to the approach of oneness.
these spies were sent in response to G-d’s command, i.e., as an expression of
the quality of bittul which brings the essence of the soul, i.e., the
quality present in all Jews without distinction, into revelation,. The dimension
of oneness associated with this mission is also reflected by each of the terms
used by the verse "two men [to] spy in secret."
in contrast to twelve, reflects the two fundamental thrusts - positive activity
and the negation of undesirable influences - which include the totality of our
service. "Men," as opposed to leaders, indicates an emphasis - not on
the greatness of the qualities possessed by the individual, but - on the
essential qualities common to all men.
spy in secret" reveals a modest approach to the service of G-d
characteristic of the quality of bittul. One does not seek personal
aggrandizement or publicity.
The above concepts receive further emphasis in light of our Sages’ explanation
that the two spies sent by Yehoshua were Kalev and Pinchas. Why Yehoshua sent
Kalev is understandable; he was the only one of the spies (other than Yehoshua
himself) sent by Moshe who accomplished his mission successfully. Why was
Pinchas chosen? As mentioned above, Yehoshua sent these spies to prepare for the
conquest of Eretz Yisroel, and the Tribe of Levi (Pinchas’ tribe) was to take
no part in this war of conquest.
question can be resolved in light of our Sages’ statement that in the Era of
the Redemption, Eretz Yisroel will be divided into thirteen portions, a portion
to be set aside for each of the tribes, including the tribe of Levi.
the present era, the tribe of Levi does not have a portion in Eretz Yisroel nor
a portion in the spoils of war, because - as the Rambam writes - the Leviim,
"Were set aside to serve G-d, to worship Him, and to instruct others in His
straight paths and righteous judgments.... Therefore, they were separated from
the ways of the world and do not wage war as the other Jews do, nor do they
receive an inheritance.... Rather, they are G-d’s legion, and He, blessed be
He, provides for them.
applies in the present era, when the material nature of the world prevents a
person from being both totally dedicated to G-d and simultaneously involved with
worldly affairs. In the Era of the Redemption, however, when the world will be
refined and "the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the
waters fill up the ocean bed," there will be no need for the Leviim to set
themselves aside from worldly involvement. Hence, they will receive a portion of
can be explained that the division of Eretz Yisroel into thirteen portions is
associated with the transcendent oneness that will permeate the world in the Era
of the Redemption, for "echad" (Hebrew for "one") is
numerically equivalent to thirteen. This oneness in the Era of the Redemption,
will also be reflected by G-d Himself dividing the land.
the refinement of the world relates only to those levels of G-dliness that
reflect the division within the world. In the Era of the Redemption, by
contrast, we will merit the revelation of the levels of G-dliness that transcend
the divisions of the world and reflect G-d’s oneness.
universal oneness also relates to the tribe of Levi, for Levi is a tribe that
possesses a general quality which relates to the entire Jewish people. In the
words of the Rambam: "Not only the tribe of Levi, but each and every man
who is motivated by the generosity of his spirit to stand before G-d and serve
Him...is sanctified as holy of holies. G-d will be his lot and inheritance
forever...like the Kohanim and Leviim.
sent Pinchas as one of his two spies as a foretaste of, and in preparation for,
the conquest of Eretz Yisroel in the Era of the Redemption, and to emphasize the
quality of oneness.
The above concepts also share a connection to the concluding passage of Parshas
Shlach, which deals with the mitzva of tzitzis. Tzitzis is
a mitzva of general significance, as reflected by our Sages’ statement
that it is "equivalent to all the mitzvos," and "And you
shall see it and remember all the mitzvos of G-d." On the surface,
however, this is problematic, for as mentioned above, mitzvos are the
medium G-d has granted us to relate to the particular elements of this world,
therefore they are characterized by difference. If so, how can there be a mitza
that is all-inclusive in nature?
answer is that this is, in fact, the nature of all the mitzvos. The inner
dimension of all the mitzvos is that they are the Torah’s commands, and
they all convey and communicate G-d’s Oneness. Out of all the mitzvos,
this is openly revealed in the mitzva of tzitzis, for the
numerical equivalent of the word, together with its physical form — eight
strands and five knots — reflect a connection to all 613 3 mitzvos.
mitzva of tzitzis allows this oneness to be reflected in the
observance of all the mitzvos, causing even those mitzvos which
reflect the division and difference prevalent in the world at large to be
characterized by a spirit of oneness. This is alluded to in the expression
mentioned in the passage concerning tzitzis, "So that you remember
and fulfill all of My mitzvos," i.e., this mitzva makes one
conscious of the fact that all the mitzvos are G-d’s mitzvos,
united with Him. Thus, tzitzis shares a connection to the mission of the
spies, whose journey was characterized by oneness.
reading of this week’s Torah-portion should inspire us to greater activities
in the sphere of ahavas Yisroel, first and foremost, in thinking about
how to fulfill both the material and spiritual needs of our fellow Jews.
increase in ahavas-Yisroel should also be expressed in activities that
emphasize oneness among Jews in both of the two fundamental categories which
characterize the service of the Jewish people, Yisachar - those individuals who
devote themselves to Torah study - and Z’vulun - those individuals involved in
worldly affairs. Regarding Yisachar, the Rambam writes that it is a mitzva
for a Torah sage to "teach all the students," i.e., to extend his
teachings to as many students as possible. Similarly, in regard to Z’vulun, it
is possible to make a donation to tzedaka on behalf of someone else, and
there are some affluent people - may their numbers increase - who give donations
on behalf of each member of the Jewish people.
the context of activities that emphasize the unity of the Jewish people, it is
also worthy to mention the campaign to study the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah.
This campaign unites many Jews throughout the world in the study of a single
text. In a similar vein, it is important to mention the spreading outward of the
teachings of Chassidus. These teachings unite the inner dimensions of the Jewish
people with the inner dimensions of the Torah, and thus, with the inner
dimensions of G-d. And it is the spreading of these teachings that will hasten
the advent of the era in which "The earth will be filled with the knowledge
of G-d as the waters cover `the ocean bed."
The Haftora concludes with the verse, "G-d gave the entire land into
our hands and all the inhabitants of the land have melted [in fear] of us."
This verse should serve as a directive for us at present. We should not return
to the gentiles one inch of those portions of Eretz Yisroel G-d has given us.
The resolve to maintain full possession of Eretz Yisroel will lead us to the era
when the size of Eretz Yisroel will be increased and it will encompass the lands
of 10 nations. Then it will be divided into thirteen portions, the tribe of Levi
also receiving a share, as mentioned above. And we will proceed to the Beis
HaMikdash and offer the Thanksgiving sacrifice in thanks for our redemption
from exile. May this be in the immediate future.