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Parashat Shelach 5779 — 06/29/2019

Parashat Shelach 5779 — 06/29/2019

Bamidbar 13:1-15:41
We have, in past years, discussed the nature of the sin of the meraglim / spies, and what may have been the hidden agenda(s) that steered them astray. But there is a second aspect to the issue, and that is the way the people as a whole reacted to the spies’ slanderous report. That reaction, of course, was to weep and wail over the seeming impossibility of conquering the Land of Israel, and to plot a return to Egypt and bondage. Gd’s reaction to their weeping is to promise that that night (Tisha B’Av) would become a “night of weeping for generations” (did you ever wonder where your mother got the expression “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about”?). We fast on Tisha B’Av every year to mourn the destruction of the two Temples. What is at the bottom of this reaction?

Here is an interesting take by R. Goldin:

Most revealing of all, however, are the final, culminating words of the spies: “And there we saw the nefillim, the sons of the giant from among the nefillim; and we were in our own eyes as grasshoppers and so were we in their eyes!” (13:33)
A careful reading of this sentence reveals a striking “Freudian slip” millennia before Freud. “We were in our own eyes as grasshoppers,” the spies proclaim, and only then “so were we in their eyes.” Only once we felt our own worthlessness did we become worthless in the eyes of others.
Here then, in their own closing words, the bottom line, the true failure that lies at the core of the sin of the spies: when all is said and done, the spies are guilty of a loss of faith in themselves.
How overwhelmingly devastating their implied message to the Israelites must thus have been!
Do you know how we felt and what we realized when we saw ourselves matched against the nations of Canaan?
We realized that it’s all been a lie – all that we have experienced and all that we have been promised over these last months – the plagues, the Exodus, the parting of the Reed Sea, the Revelation at Sinai…
We are not a conquering nation; we are not a fledgling, divinely chosen people. We are grasshoppers! We are still the servile slaves who endured centuries of servitude to Egyptian masters. We haven’t changed, we haven’t moved an inch.
We simply cannot do it. We will never enter that land, we will never possess that land, we will never become a nation; we will never achieve our “promised” destiny.

Now of course, the spies’ words prove prophetic. They did feel like grasshoppers, and this feeling obviously struck a chord with their listeners. The nation was just a fledgling people, saddled with the slave mentality imposed upon them by decades of backbreaking and spirit-breaking servitude. They really couldn’t enter and conquer the land, because they had convinced themselves they couldn’t do it. They certainly had changed, but apparently not as much as they needed to in order to move on to the next level of challenges that they would encounter in the Land.

Why had their growth lagged? In last week’s parashah we read that the Midrash criticizes the people for leaving Mt. Sinai “like a young child fleeing school.” In R. Goldin’s words, the problem wasn’t that they left Mt. Sinai; the problem was they left Mt. Sinai behind them. In other words, they had not internalized Torah to a level sufficient to lift them completely out of their old ways of thinking and acting. This is borne out by the fact that Amalek was able to attack the nation at Rephidim, shortly before they arrived at Sinai (Sefer Shemot, Parashat Beshallach). The Rabbis homiletically render Rephidim as rifui yadayim / weakening of the hands, because their grasp on (the parts of) the Torah that they had learned at a prior stop had weakened. That is, they had failed to learn and internalize even the small pieces of Torah that were given out at that time as a kind of appetizer, and the results were not good.

What do we mean when we talk about studying Torah and internalizing Torah? We have been discussing over the past several weeks that Torah is the expression in the sounds of human speech, specifically the Hebrew language, of the structure of creation at its subtlest, most abstract level. The vibrations of these sounds perfectly mirror or recreate the internal, virtual vibrations of the transcendental level of creation, which appear to us as the manifest creation. “Learning Torah” then would be learning to station our awareness on the transcendental level of creation and training ourselves to hear the sounds of Torah and to perceive the mechanics by which they translate from sound into material creation. When we have reached the level of consciousness where the transcendental level of creation is stabilized within our own awareness, then we have truly internalized Torah – Torah becomes the vibrations of our own unbounded nature.

Before we can know anything, we first must know our own selves. When we know ourselves to be infinite, unbounded pure existence at our core, we gain a mastery over the individual aspects of our nature – our mind, body, intellect, ego. We are tightly connected to Gd; we have made Gd’s Will our will so that our actions spontaneously reflect and support Gd’s plan for universal evolution. We are finally living life in a way that demonstrates faith in ourselves and also validates Gd’s faith in us.

Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Shelach
“Sh’lach” means “send”; “lecha” means “for you, for yourself”.

This parshah gives an opportunity to explore the nature of Moses’s self, the nature of our self, the nature of the Self, Gd, who is the Self of All beings.

Gd says “send for yourself spies” to Moses, and Rashi, the most quoted commentator on Torah, interprets it as meaning, (paraphrasing) “Not at my command, but if you feel to do it for yourself, then send spies.

Why did Moses send spies at all? Why did he not just trust Gd’s promise that Gd would be with the Children of Israel and they would conquer? By sending spies, he was creating a separation between Gd and himself.

And in our own life, we can ask, “Why do we keep our distance from Gd, by making Gd an object rather than the Essence of our Soul”.

The answer to the second is easier than the answer to the first because we know ourselves first hand: We don’t choose to create a distance between ourselves and Gd: this distance is already there since we are born with it; we are not born experiencing ourselves as Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent. We exercise caution in our lives because we know there is a possibility that our spontaneous thoughts and feelings may not accurately resonate with Total Reality.

This caution is equivalent to sending spies for ourselves.

But wait! There’s nothing but Gd. Gd is All. Everyone, every thought, every decision, every action is Gd. So it was Gd within Moses that produced the thoughts and the decision and the action to send spies.

And in our lives, it is Gd within our thoughts, that guides us to every decision, including the decision to be cautious, to seemingly keep Gd at a distance, an object, rather than the Sole Subject, the Sole Knower, Sole Actor, Sole Being expressing as all the individualities, such as ours.

Despite Gd’s promise that he will support Israel and no enemy will stand before them, ten of the spies say it will not be safe to enter Canaan: the Children of Israel will not be able to defeat the current inhabitants. Fortunately, two trust Gd and say it will be safe

The people are terrified by this report of the ten and they believe them despite the efforts of two of the spies and Moses to reassure them that Gd’s promise is true: they will be able to safely enter Canaan, the Promised Land.
Gd then declares that because of this bad behavior the Children of Israel will have to spend 40 years in Midbar, the desert.

Why did Gd put the thoughts into the spie’s minds that caused them to bring a false report? Why did he put the thoughts into the people’s minds that caused them to believe the spies and not Moses, the trusting two spies or Gd?
One way to look at this is to look at “40” as a symbol of fulfillment: 40 days of the Flood, 40 days Moses spent on the mountain receiving Torah (twice), 40 the age at which Isaac and also Esau married.

“Forty” is 4 times 10: four for the Four Worlds, different stages in the manifestiation of Creation, and ten for the Ten Sefirot, 10 fundamental Qualities of Gd, within Gd.

But why 40 years, not 40 days or forty minutes, 40 seconds? What is the symbolism of a year?

A day is a full rotation of the Earth around its own axis: a year is a full cycle of the Earth rotating around the Sun.
The Earth symbolizes mundane, material existence and the Sun symbolizes celestial, divine existence.

Egypt (“Mitzraim”) means “boundaries, limits, restrictions.” “Midbar” means “desert, wilderness, barrenness,” but, symbolically, transcendence.

“Canaan,” the Promised Land, means “synchronicity, integration,” the integration of boundaries and transcendence, the land where our ancestors and we can experience Gd’s Presence fully.

The goal of human life, the mission of our life, is to return to Full Awareness of the reality that All is One: this is the Promised Land, Full Integration of boundaries/limits and Transcendence, Freedom. This is the experience of Gd’s Presence, not in the duality of Gd and human, but the Oneness within which all details, all beings, exist.

This Land is not the modern state of Israel or any nation, any physical place. This Land is the State of Awareness in which we experience ourselves as Complete Synchronicity, All-in-All.

How can we experience this?

By transcending through whatever range of techniques we have, including our tradition daily prayer routine, to whatever extent we can; and then acting in the field of boundaries so that gradually, transcendence comes to pervade all the boundaries, dissolving their nature as limits and restoring them to their nature as conduits through which Wholeness Acts.

So let’s rise to experience the spies, Moses, Egypt, Israel, all the planets and all the stars and all the space between them and within them, all diversity as expressions of our own Self, the One Self, Gd, Consciousness, above duality/diversity.

Our religion, especially Love as the center of our religion helps. Helps greatly!

Baruch HaShem