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This week's 10-Minute Torah (June 5, 2021): "Parashat Shelach (Lecha)" 5781

Parashat Sh'lach / פרשת שְׁלַח־לְךָ

Read on 5 June 2021 (25 Sivan 5781).

Parashat Sh'lach is the 37th weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading.

Torah Portion: Numbers 13:1-15:41

The parashah tells the story of the twelve spies sent to assess the promised land. Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu that he can send spies out to reconnoiter the Promised Land. Moses has the tribal chief select a man from each of the tribes to join the brigade, including Caleb ben Yefunneh and Hosea ben Nun. Moses adds a “yud” to Hosea’s name to call him “Yehoshua” of Joshua, which adds the oversight of G-d.

The spies return after 40 days with very fertile produce (figs, grapes and pomegranates). Ten of the spies report that the Canaanites are huge and they were like “grasshoppers in their eyes”. While they were telling the truth, they described it in such a way that made the Israelites think they would not be able to defeat them. Caleb and Joshua step up and try to reassure the people that with everything that G-d has done for them, surely He will see to it that the Israelites are victorious.

The people panic at the spies’ report and say that they wish they were back in Egypt so they wouldn’t have to die in battle. G-d tells Moses that He’s had enough of the people complaining and decrees that the people—those twenty years and older— will die in the Wilderness and their children will conquer the Holy Land.

Moses is then informed about libations, offerings, to make atonement for unintentional sins. There are various levels—individuals and the priests, when they unintentionally observe a rite for an idol. They are also informed about the challah. This is the portion of grain that is used to make bread, that is separated as an offering for the priests.

There is also an incident related about a man gathering wood on Shabbat. He had been warned not to do so and was seen by two witnesses. G-d tells Moses that he is to receive capital punishment.

Finally, we receive the commandment of the fringes (צִיצִת, tzitzit). We are told to put fringes on the four corners of our garments. This has now become the third paragraph of the “Shema”.

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