Posted on June 15, 2017
This week we chant the dramatic portion of Shelach Lecha in the book of Numbers, the story of the meraglim, the spies. The Israelites have journeyed to the borders of the Holy Land, just a year and a half after leaving Egyptian exile. Under God’s direction, Moses sends 12 spies, one from every tribe, princes of the people—wealthy men of standing—into the land of Canaan to scout out the land and see if it can be captured.
The spies take a month and they see the whole land—and report back to Moses that the land is very good, flowing with milk and honey. They bring back a huge cluster of grapes, so large it needs to be carried by two men on a pole, now the enduring symbol of Israel’s tourism ministry. Everything’s going to be great—only it’s not. Ten of the twelve spies then report that the people of the land are huge—“we felt like grasshoppers next to them”—and numerous, the cities fortified and unassailable. The Israelites have no chance, in spite of having God’s support.
Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Shelach Lecha 5777
Talk About It: The Ethics of Speech
Posted on June 8, 2017
This week our portion, Beha’alotecha from the Book of Numbers, is filled with a series of incidents and events from the Wilderness Days, as well as a couple of important commandments. It’s in this week’s portion that instructions are given to create the first menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum that has become the most enduring symbol of Judaism. It’s also here that we get the first rumblings of rebellion that will explode into full-fledged revolt against Moses and Aaron in just a few more weeks, the disastrous story of Korach. But most significant in this week’s sedrah is a peculiar little story about gossip.
Moses has married a new wife, and his brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, don’t think much of her. So they begin to talk about her, and about Moses, behind his back, circulating rumors and gossip. She isn’t of the right ethnicity, they don’t like her influence on Moses, she probably laughs inappropriately or wears her hair too long.
Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Beha'alotecha 5777