Thoughts on Parashat Sh’lach

This week’s Parasha, Sh’lach, is found in Numbers 13:1 – 15:41 [i] and begins with the well-known account of Hashem, through Moshe, sending the twelve spies into the land of Canaan. Their responsibility was to “check it out” and see if it is as good as the LORD had promised. It should be noted that these men were not rabble-rousers or trouble makers, rather they were chiefs or leaders within their tribes. As with the census, this tribal grouping did not include the tribe of Levi, the guardians and caretakers of the Mishkan. Chosen and charged, the twelve went on their way. Forty days later they returned, carrying examples of the bounty. However, ten of the twelve were convinced that they would not be able to conquer the inhabitants of the land as, “All the people we saw there are men of great size! …  We seemed like grasshoppers in our eyes as well as theirs” (13.32-33)!

As the narrative continues, we hear, what will prove to be a common complaint,

“If only we had died in Egypt! If only we had died in this wilderness! Why is ADONAI bringing us to this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be like plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” (14.2-3)

This carries the same tonal quality as an earlier complaint,

The grumblers among them began to have cravings, so Bnei-Yisrael began to wail repeatedly, saying, “If we could just eat some meat! We remember the fish that we used to eat in Egypt, for free—the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic! But now we have no appetite. We never see anything but this manna.” (Numbers 11.4-6)

Recently on Facebook, I saw a graphic which read, “Remember, that sometimes, not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” Another bit of reality, this time from the realm of music, are these lines from the chorus of a song by the Rolling Stones,

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you might find you get what you need. [ii]

In Proverbs it is stated, “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but one who talks too much comes to ruin” (13.3 [iii]). Ya’acov (James) may have had this in mind when he penned these words,

For we all stumble in many ways. If someone does not stumble in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. (James 3.2)

It is miraculous that Hashem did not honor the peoples’ spoken request but instead He honored His promises to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Even though there were consequences brought about due to the grumbling, complaining and disobedience, Bnei-Yisrael did in fact enter into the Land of Promise, howbeit much later than they would have liked. And it was in the interim period, the Wandering as it is called, that Hashem proved His love, care, and compassion for Bnei-Yisrael, time and time again.

The final section of this week’s parasha contains the third reading of the Kriyat Shema. This passage requires all of Bnei-Yisrael to wear tzitzit (or fringes) on the four corners of their garments, as a reminder to “remember and obey all My mitzvot and you will be holy to your God” (Numbers 15.40). This is not just another command but a mnemonic devise set in place by Hashem to help Bnei-Yisrael remember to emulate ADONAI and walk in holiness. The tzitzit were to be for Bnei-Yisrael what the Ruach ha-Kodesh is for the follower of Yeshua today.

But the Helper, the Ruach ha-Kodesh whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything and remind you of everything that I said to you. (John 14.26)

However, neither the presence of Ruach ha-Kodesh nor the wearing of the tzitzitaccomplish their purposes if the individual does not pay attention to them.

The Haftarah, Joshua 2:1-24, recounts the event of Joshua sending spies into Canaan, specifically Jericho which would be Bnei-Yisrael initial incursion point into the land. This time however, instead of a split report, the spies proclaim,

Surely ADONAI has given all the land into our hands,” they said to Joshua. “Indeed, all the inhabitants of the land have melted in fear before us.” (2.24)

Whereas the first report the spies was riddled with fear and doubt, ““We cannot attack these people, because they are stronger than we” (13.31), this time, the statement was one of trust and faith “Surely ADONAI has given all the land into our hands.” Today, we have two choices. The first, is to walk in fear and doubt, always seeing the obstacles and giants before us that we cannot overcome. The second, is to walk in trust and faith in Hashem, knowing that He goes before us and that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8.37). This choice, as with following the leading of Ruach ha-Kodesh or taking notice of the tzitzit is for each of us to make. ADONAI will not make the choice for us, He is waiting for us to choose, preferably to choose life.

Shabbat Shalom

[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

[ii] Written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.

[iii] Complete Jewish Bible, Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern.