* Got to have faith!! That is the underlying message of the episode of the spies which we read about this week. Our ancestors were on the verge of entering the land of Israel. G-d had wanted the event of entering into Israel to be as open of a miracle as the splitting of the sea and receiving the Torah, and with the blind faith of the famous words the Israelites uttered Na’aseh ve nishma – we will do as You wish without asking. However, the Jews screamed “Wait!! Let us send spies to investigate the land. They will advise us which cities can be conquered easily so we should know who to attack first. The spies will also ascertain the native language, for then we can be trained to uncover their strategies easily.” They were preparing for war where it was unnecessary. “Just have faith in Me and everything will be okay”.
In today’s times, we are required to do effort and not rely on miracles. But G-d specifically said there is no need for any effort; in this incident, just rely on G-d. However, the Israelites wanted confirmation by eyewitness reports that the promised land was, in fact, good. G-d replied “Have I not already said the land is good?” G-d’s words are true and require no tests. This is a fundamental essential of Judaism ‘faith’. Similarly, we have to refrain from conducting business on Shabbat, even though, in some vocations, it’s considered a very active day. This was especially a big test many years ago in the United States, where on Sunday, virtually everything was closed. So the pressure on Shabbat – Saturday – was very tempting. It was the busiest day of the week. Who would have thought that today, banks and liquor stores would be open on Sunday. This relieves the pressure on our beloved Shabbat. So G-d reluctantly permitted Moshe to select and send out spies even though disaster was imminent. G-d sets the table for us to make the right decision but it’s our choice, and whatever we decide, He helps us reach those goals. By doing so, he strengthens the freedom of choice process.
* Moshe selects a representative from each tribe to enter the land for the spy mission.
* The spies returned from spying the land at the end of 40 days. All but two spies, Kalev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua ben Nun, gave the land a thumbs up.
* Many reasons have been given as to why the majority of the spies gave a bad report. A few are: They each had high positions in the desert and were afraid they would lose it once the nation arrives in the new land. Another reason – human nature is such where it’s hard to adjust to change. It seems they were content in the desert.
* The people panicked and cried out to Moshe “Why did you take us out of Egypt – to die in this land?”
* G-d threatens to annihilate the Jewish people; however, Moshe intercedes on their behalf and saves the day. Well, almost. G-d punishes measure for measure. The generation of the wilderness, who reluctantly rejected to proceed to the promised land, will die in the desert. The Israelites will remain there for 40 years until all will be deceased. Only their children will have the opportunity to enter Israel.
* Moshe achieved partial forgiveness for the Jewish people by appealing to the Divine Attribute of Mercy. G-d had promised that He would always respond favorably to these. There are Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, but Moshe appealed only to six at that time. He felt that the Jews had not done repentance for their rebellion against G-d. He therefore asked for postponement of punishment to prevent immediate and complete destruction.
* The punishment was postponed. Unfortunately, however, the inception of ‘that day’, referring to the ninth of Av, where our nation has had one bad omen after another, began, as a result of the spy incident. Every Tisha B’av, for as long as the Israelites were in the desert, they would be instructed to place themselves in their own graves which was dug out before. The next day, when the smoke cleared, they would tally up who survived and who perished.
* It was inevitable that the morale would be down among our nation. So G-d decreed and instructed a new meal offering that will only be observed when entering the promised land .This showed a vote of confidence to the future and young generation that G-d intends to fulfill His promise in which His children, the chosen people, will inherit the land.
* While in the wilderness, the Israelites did not set aside a portion from their dough. They became obligated only after entering the land of Israel. From then on, whenever someone made a quantity of dough from one of the five types of grain (wheat, barley, oats, spelt, or rye) he was required to separate a part of the dough termed challah. This portion was given to the Kohen. Our sages ordained that challah be separated today as well. Today, our challah has to be burned. Again, we fulfill the obligation, whether it be in Israel or abroad, by separating and burning that very small piece of the dough. We then recite the blessing Baruch ata…..asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu lehafrish challa min haissa — separate challah from the dough. If one forgets to take challah from the raw dough, he must still take it from the bread. Although anyone in the household may separate challah, this mitzvah was specifically commanded to the wife. She thereby amends the sin of the first woman, Chava. Adam was created completely pure without evil desires. Chava caused him to lose his purity. After he sinned, he and his descendants were drawn to physical desires. The mitzvah to separate challah has the potential to bring back the purity of spirit that was lost through Adam’s sin. Hence, by fulfilling the mitzvah, a woman rectifies Chava’s sin. One should be careful to fulfill this Mitzvah of separating challah. Famine is brought upon the world as a result of neglecting it while its observance brings bracha to the household.
* The Shabbat is one of the fundamental essentials of Judaism; this is the reason its juxtaposes next to the section of idolatry; both are equally important in Jewish faith. The Torah records an incident of a violator and the consequences.
* G-d presented us with one commandment that has the purpose of reminding us of all His other commandments. This is the commandment of Tzitzit. Tzitzit means fringes. They refer to threads attached to a four-cornered garment. The aim is for a Jew to look at them and remember G-d. It is attached to four corners which is aimed in four different directions to remind us that we are obligated to act in a Jewish manner, wherever we turn.