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Parashat Sh’lach L’cha (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

“Thus shall you be reminded to observe all my

commandments and to be holy to your God.”  (Numbers 15:40)


Sh’lach L’cha is a fateful parasha (portion).  Moses sends twelve men to scout the land of Canaan.  When they bring back positive reports, but fear they cannot conquer the land (only two disagree), the people despair and God condemns the entire Egyptian-born generation to die in the wilderness.  While the scouts are sent with a mandate to seek out the physical aspects of the land, the story is really a parable about the inner journey to faith.   This is emphasized in a deliciously subtle way in the closing verses, which describe the mitzvah, or commandment, of tzitzit.

The Torah commands us to wear tzitzit, or tassels, on the fringes of our clothes (including women; Babylonian Talmud Menachot 43a), and to look at them and be reminded of the commandments.  Specifically, the Torah admonishes us, “V’lo taturu….asher atem zonim achareihem, “ …so that you do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge.” (Num. 15:39)  The two verb forms, v’lo taturu, do not follow, and zonim, lusting, are the same as in Moses’ charge to the scouts in the beginning of the parasha (Num. 13:1) and when God punishes the people for their lack of faith (Num. 14:33).

By linking the commandment of tzitzit to the spies’ (and people’s) lack of faith, the message of tzitzit is transformed from a simple behavioral reminder (Do commandments!) to the much more complicated affirmation of faith (Believe!).  The Torah says a lot about what to do, but it says a lot more about what to believe.

Shabbat shalom!

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