Contempt for God’s Word?

Contempt for God’s Word?

Jun 4, 2021 By Gordon Tucker | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

Numbers chapter 15, having set forth instructions for how to atone for unintentional sins, next turns its attention to deliberate transgressions (30–31):

But the person who transgresses with a high hand, whether native or sojourner—he reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from the midst of his people. For he has shown contempt for the word of the Lord [devar adonai bazah], and God’s commandment he has violated. That person shall surely be cut off, his crime is upon him.

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What True Leadership Demands

What True Leadership Demands

Jun 15, 2020 By Barry Holtz | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

This is truly a fateful parashah. For it is in this week’s Torah reading that we learn why Israel is condemned to wander in the wilderness for forty years before entering the Promised Land. The details of the story are straightforward: Moses chooses twelve representatives, one from each of the tribes, to scout the land that the people are about to enter. The spies are given a very specific assignment: Come back with facts—is this a good land? Are the peoples who live there strong or weak? What is the produce of this land like? (Num. 13:17-20) 

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The Power of One

The Power of One

Jun 28, 2019 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

This week’s parashah, Shelah Lekha, opens with the famous episode of twelve scouts going on a reconnaissance mission to the land of Israel. As most of us know the story, upon their return, ten of them recommend returning to Egypt, whereas just two, Joshua and Caleb, encourage the Israelites to continue their journey to the Promised Land. When we look at the verses of chapter 13, we discover that that is not exactly what they say.

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What Did the Spies Learn About the Land (Before They Even Went There)?

What Did the Spies Learn About the Land (Before They Even Went There)?

Jun 8, 2018 By Alex Sinclair | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

A Jewish leader is talking to a group of Diaspora Jews who are about to visit Israel. “Make sure you visit all over,” he says. “Find out what it’s like there. What are the people like? Is the food good? And when you come back, can you bring me a souvenir?”

Of course, I’m referring to Numbers 13:17–20. Yes, Shelah Lekha is the first example of Israel education in Jewish history. 

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Intermarriage and the Desert

Intermarriage and the Desert

Jun 16, 2017 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

In light of the recent work of colleagues and friends regarding the boundaries of the Jewish people and how that impacts the weddings that should or should not be performed, I cannot but help to read this Shabbat’s parashah in terms of boundaries.

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Do Not Enter

Do Not Enter

Jun 16, 2017 By Captain Soderstrom | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

This week’s parashah includes the story of the scouting of the Promised Land. My photograph Do Not Enter can be seen as a modern representation of what the scouts saw: the beauty and bounty of the Land along with the dangers some were reluctant to face. The female figure can be seen as the embodiment of the Land’s fertility, while the foreboding backdrop of a New York City alleyway and large guard dog represent the strength and ferocity of the people living there.

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The Gift of Hallah

The Gift of Hallah

Jul 1, 2016 By Reuven Greenvald | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

If you’re a hallah baker, like I am, you know that all your measuring, kneading, and hours of checking on rising dough are totally worth it when, after the hamotzi at the Shabbat table, your family and friends let out a collective “aaah.” When that fluffy, sweet piece of bread melts in their mouths, they know it’s really shabbes.

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At the Threshold

At the Threshold

Jul 1, 2016 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

In this week’s parashah, the Israelites stand at the boundary of the Land of Israel—with all its potential for religious and national destiny and for physical danger—considering whether or not to enter. During the spring 2016 semester, JTS’s own entrance was the location of an art installation by Silvio Wolf, who uses moving images, still projections, light, and sound to engage the history and symbolism of specific venues.

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The Desert Dead

The Desert Dead

Jun 12, 2015 By Raymond Scheindlin | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

When the spies returned to the Israelite camp in the wilderness of Paran after scouting out the Land of Canaan, they reported that the land did indeed flow with milk and honey but that it could not be conquered. 

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Grapes of Zion

Grapes of Zion

Jun 12, 2015 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

It might be surprising, given  its association with the people’s sin of being dissuaded from entering the Land, that the motif of the two spies carrying an enormous bunch of grapes (Num. 13:23) became a popular Zionist symbol and eventually even the logo of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. Indeed, it has been suggested by arts writer Menachem Wecker that several of the older Christian representations of this image deliberately portray the two grape-bearers in a negative light.

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The Clothes Make the (Wo)man

The Clothes Make the (Wo)man

Jun 13, 2014 By Michal Raucher | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

During graduation season, I try to learn everything there is to know about academic dress.

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Unity and Leadership

Unity and Leadership

Jun 13, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

At the very beginning of this week’s parashah, Moses organizes a mission to scout out the land of Canaan.

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Who Is Getting Stoned?

Who Is Getting Stoned?

May 29, 2013 By Robert Harris | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

Among other subjects, the parashah narrates the story of the spies, one from each tribe, whom Moses sends to scout out the Land. Specifically, let us join the narrative at the point that Joshua and Caleb (the two good or “heroic” spies) attempt to encourage the community—largely ineffectively—after the People express their fears that any effort to conquer the Promised Land will not be successful.

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The Depth of Sight

The Depth of Sight

May 29, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

The Torah reading of Shelah Lekha is literally and figuratively an “eye opening” parashah.

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A Cord of Blue Fringe

A Cord of Blue Fringe

Jun 16, 2012 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

A little blue thread has quietly woven its way back into our synagogue life. Its appearance was gradual, which makes its pervasive presence somewhat surprising. Strung from the corners of our tallitot, the thread of tekhelet intertwined with the white tzitzit threads has experienced a true renaissance in modern Jewish ritual. We learn of tekhelet from our parashah this week: “Speak to the Israelite people and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a cord of blue to the fringe [p’til tekhelet] at each corner” (Num. 15:38).

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Taking Responsibility for Our Mistakes

Taking Responsibility for Our Mistakes

Jun 16, 2012 By David Levy | Commentary | Text Study | Shelah Lekha

Why would God have made a plan that backfired so badly? Resh Lakish would have us understand that God’s plans were fine; it was ours that went south, when Moses acquiesced to the peoples’ need for a report.

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Holding On to Torah

Holding On to Torah

Jun 18, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Shelah Lekha

The metaphor is wonderful: the man at sea is Israel, grasping the tzitzit, with God the Captain of the ship stretching out a hand, holding the other end of the lifeline. As with all metaphors, it is not to be taken literally.

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Israel, Evil Speech, and the Spies

Israel, Evil Speech, and the Spies

Jun 18, 2011 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

The other scouts had not in fact stated that it was impossible to defeat the peoples of Canaan, yet Caleb seems to have understood this as being the import of their words. Why so?

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Our Covenant with God

Our Covenant with God

Jun 4, 2010 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

When Moses confronts the gravest challenge to his and God’s authority since the golden calf, the negative report of the spies sent to scout the Land of Israel, he responds with a lawyerly argument for divine mercy that is taken directly from the one that had staved off the people’s annihilation by God the first time around. The argument takes the form of a question: What will the Egyptians say if God destroys His people?

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Seeing Life in 3D

Seeing Life in 3D

Jun 20, 2009 By David M. Ackerman | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

Last Sunday, in honor of his seventy-fifth birthday, my father invited his eight grandchildren and their parents to join him on a guided visit of Ellis Island. Toward the conclusion of our tour, having taken in the key sites, we gathered outside, just beyond the stairs that led millions of immigrants from the processing hall and medical examinations to the ferries and barges that took them to Manhattan and beyond. At that spot, my dad shared with his grandchildren the story of his grandfather’s arrival in America, 110 years prior: in 1899, Nathan Mendelsohn, an eleven-year-old native of Iasi, Romania, traveled by ship from Rotterdam to New York.

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