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

“And God said, “I have forgiven, because of your words.” (Numbers 14:20)

The foundation of the Jewish interpretive tradition is the belief the words of the Torah are spoken by God. This endows them both with sanctity and with infinite meanings to discern (since God is infinite). Thus, every letter, word, and verse of the Torah is “fair game” for new readings. Parashat Sh’lach L’cha offers a good example.

Sh’lach L’cha introduces the expedition of the twelve spies into the land of Canaan. God tells Moses, “Sh’lach l’cha anashim, send for yourself men to scout the land of Canaan…” (Num. 13:1). The purpose is to determine whether or not it’s a good land (Num. 13:17-20). This is an external, physical task (scout the land) connected to a specific, visible geographic location (the land of Canaan). Or is it?

Sh’lach l’cha can also mean send to yourself. Now both the task and the target are internal and spiritual. God is telling Moses the people need to look inward, into themselves, and ask if they are ready for the sanctified life awaiting them. The journey is one of the soul and the destination is the sense of wholeness and self-worth. The twelve spies become our inner voices, which can either encourage and enable or discourage and depress. The report, “We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.” (Num. 13:33), is the crippling inner monologue of self-doubt.

Sh’lach L’cha is certainly a parable about faith in God. But it is also a parable about faith in self. Canaan becomes a metaphor for our individual spiritual aspirations and is a cautionary tale about self-sabotage.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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