This weeks Torah portion is Parashat Shelach where we delve into the interesting topic of is seeing believing? Parashat Shelach Lecha deals with the following topics:
- Moses sends 12 spies to the land of Israel
- The spies return and the chaos
- Decree of 40 years of wandering in the desert
- Mitzvah of Challah
- Mitzvah of Tzitzit
Shelach Lecha What Do You See?
Parashat Shelach Lecha opens with Moses sending 12 representatives of the tribes of Israel to see the land of Israel. Moses issues specific instructions to see the land, its cities, fruit. The spies return after 40 days with their report. The Land indeed is special and here is its fruit. They show the enormous grapes, figs and pomegranates. However, instead of saying let us go up they frighten the people. If this is the fruit imagine the size of the inhabitants?
Do Our Eyes See The Truth?
A few years ago our family nearly came to blows when a picture circulated on the internet about a dress. The question was what colour was this dress? Blue and black or white and gold? How was it possible for two people to look at the same picture and see completely different colours? And yet this was what was happening. Why we did not see the same colours I leave to the scientists.
But as a Rabbi and educator, the message is powerful. We cannot trust our eyes. Magicians use sleight of hand to trust us but even without magic. We know that we do not see with our eyes but rather with our mind. Our mind interprets what the eyes see. And here is the danger. Our minds can trick us into seeing things that we want to see. We will interpret things through the glasses we are using.
Story To Understand Parashat Shlach
Many years ago a young family moved next door to an old couple. The old lady wasn’t happy with the new neighbours. The kids were noisy and were always dressed shabbily. She would complain to her husband about the useless housekeeping skills of the mother. Look she would say, from the second story window. “This woman is so bad even when she washes the clothes she doesn’t bother to make sure they are clean!” For weeks the old lady would snigger and mock her neighbours. Until one day the husband couldn’t take it anymore. He went outside. Climbed a ladder and washed the second story windows!
We See What We Want To See.
This is the danger of the spies and what Parashat Shelach is warning us about. Our commentators argue as to whether the spies were righteous or not? One commentator suggests that the reason for their negative report was that once the People entered the land of Israel they would lose their elevated status as leaders of the people. This coloured their perspective. If we say that the Land cannot be conquered we can stay in the desert and continue in our position. Whether this is true or not, we see everything through the eyes of our experience.
Tzizit – What Lesson Does Shelach Teach Us?
The Torah at the end of Parashat Shelach teaches us about the mitzvah of Tzitzit. The Torah says Numbers 15:37
וְהָיָ֣ה לָכֶם֮ לְצִיצִת֒ וּרְאִיתֶ֣ם אֹת֗וֹ וּזְכַרְתֶּם֙ אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֺ֣ת יְהוָ֔ה וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָ֑ם וְלֹֽא־תָתֻ֜רוּ אַחֲרֵ֤י לְבַבְכֶם֙ וְאַחֲרֵ֣י עֵֽינֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־אַתֶּ֥ם זֹנִ֖ים אַחֲרֵיהֶֽם׃
That shall be your fringe; look at it and recall all the commandments of the LORD and observe them, so that you do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge.
The Torah is instructing us to look at the world through the prism of the Tzitzit.
When you look at the strings one notices that they are multiple threads wound together. Each side has 5 knots with a string wound around each section. When we look at the strings we notice that they are complex. This is the message. Meditate on the Tzitzit and note that the world is a complex place. Do not allow your eyes to lead you astray. Seek out advice lest you make a decision you regret.
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