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

“They went up and scouted the land, from the wilderness of Zin
to Rechov, at Levo Chamat.” (Numbers 13:21)

Sh’lach L’cha is a fateful parasha (portion). God tells Moses, “Sh’lach l’cha anashim, send for yourself men to scout the land of Canaan…” (Num. 13:1). They bring back positive reports but only two of the twelve scouts believe the Israelites can conquer the inhabitants. Their voices are not heard and God condemns the entire Egyptian-born generation to die in the wilderness (except for Joshua and Caleb). The rabbis suggest even those Israelites who secretly agreed with Joshua and Caleb were condemned to die because they did not speak up (Numbers Rabbah 16:23). They did not let their voices be heard.

The Kli Yakar (Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim of Luntshits; 1550-1619) seizes upon the word anashim, men, to identify another unheard voice in this story: that of women. He suggests God prefers to send women to scout the land because they cherish the land and don’t count its faults. He imagines God deferring to Moses’ understanding of the situation, though, saying, “If you think the men cherish the land and are up to the task, ‘sh’lach l’cha anashim,’ send for yourself men.” Rabbi Lisa Edwards (Rabbi of Beth Chayim Chadashim, the world’s first synagogue created by and for LGBTQS Jews) observes the Kli Yakar doesn’t say women don’t see the faults; surely they do. But women weigh things differently and cherish the land despite its shortcomings. Imagine the rest of the Torah (and the rest of Jewish history!) had Moses sent women.

Sh’lach L’cha often is read simply as a parable about faith in God. Read more deeply, it’s a parable about faith in the power of your voice.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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