Parashat Shelach

Parashat Shelach
BaMidbar 13:1 - 15:41
Yehoshua 2:1-24

Parasha Summary

Moshe sends twelve spies to the Land of Yisrael
Yehoshua's Change of Name
G-d threatens to wipe out the Benei Yisrael but relents when Moshe intercedes on their behalf
All who left Egypt would not enter the Land of Yisrael except for Yehoshua and Kalev
Setting aside Challah
Observance of the Shabbat
How to Treat Strangers
The Laws of Tzitzit

13:1 vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe lemor
And HaShem spoke to Moshe, saying:
2 shelach-lecha anashim veyaturu et-eretz kenaan asher-ani noten livnei Yisrael ish echad ish echad lemate avotav tishlachu kol nasi vahem
"Send, for yourself, men, and have them scout the Land of Kenaan, which I am giving to Benei Yisrael; one man, one man each, for his father's tribe you shall send them, each leader among them."

The three episodes: Miriam's punishment, Korach, and the spies, took place one after the other.

The episode concerning Miriam occurred while the Benei Yisrael were still in Chatzerot, on the 22nd day of the month of Sivan, in the second year after the Exodus from Egypt.  Thus, on the 20th of Iyar, the Cloud set out from Chorev; this was followed by a three-day journey, at the end of which they camped at Kivrot HaTaavah on the 22nd of Iyar.  There they made their demand for meat, of which they partook for an entire month (explained in Parashat Beha'alotecha).  This came to an end on 22 Sivan, and on that day they left for Chatzerot.

Now if we take into account that the spies were away for 40 days, completing their mission on the 9th of Av, it follows that they were dispatched on the 29th of Sivan from the Paran Desert ("Moshe sent them from the Paran Desert at G-d's bidding").  In other words, the Benei Yisrael reamined in Chatzerot only seven days, during which both the episode involving Miriam and the episode involving Korach took place.  Thus, immediately after the conclusion of Miriam's seven days of quarantine at Chatzerot, they left for Paran, where the scouts were sent out. (Taanit, Chapter 1)

This tells us that the episode of Miriam occurred first, followed by that of Korach.  The question may naturally be asked, why then has the Torah put the story of the spies after that of Miriam, rather than after the story of Korach, which happened earlier?  Why does Parashat Korach not appear here instead, followed by  Parashat Shelach?

The answer is that, by deliberately recording the story of the spies after the episode of Miriam, the Torah underscores the evil of what they had done.  They had witnessed the punishment that was meted out to Miriam for maligning Moshe: despite the purity of her motives, she was stricken by leprosy and alienated from G-d for seven days.  But they did not learn, from her fate, to desist from maligning the land, despite the short interval of time that separated the two events. (Rashi; Raanach.  See Mizrachi; Nachalat Yaakov)

In the second year after the Exodus form Egypt the Benei Yisrael approached the land of Yisrael, and were within eleven days of entering it, had they not sinned.  Moshe then said to them, "See! G-d has placed the land before you.  Head north and occupy it."

But the Benei Yisrael answered, "Let us instead send out men to explore the territory for us."

"G-d promised us," they replied, "that immediately upon entering the land we would enjoy every benefit and have abundant possessions, saying, '[You will also have] houses filled with all good things that you did not put there, finished cisterns that you did not quarry, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant' (Devarim 6:11).  However, when the Kenaani hear of our coming to take possession of the land, they will excavate pits and hidden bunkers under the earth where they will hide all their possessions.  So when we finally enter the land we shall find nothing, and G-d's promise will have become null and void.  Let us, therefore, dispatch spies to find all those hidden places, and they will know where all the concealed treasures are to be dug up."

This then is the intent of the words, "Send men ahead of us to explore (chafor) the land."  That is, "Let us send men who will observe the excavations (chafirot) and the hiding places constructed by the Kenaani for the purpose of concealing their possessions.  Our desire to send spies ahead is not prompted by doubt about the quality of the land. (BaMidbar Rabbah; Yalkut Shimoni; Tanchuma; Rashi)

When Moshe heard these arguments, he concluded that the idea to dispatch scounts was not without merit.  It even appealed to him, as revealed in Parashat Devarim:"I approved and appointed twelve men, one for each tribe" (Devarim 1:23).  Still, he hesitated to send them solely on the basis of his own judgment.  So he said, "I will go and consult G-d to see if He agrees with me."

When Moshe went to consult the Shechinah, G-d said to him, "They are capable of misleading you, for you are flesh and blood and do not fathom the hidden recesses of their hearts.  They tell you that the scouts should be sent for the purpose of locating the places of hoarding.  But I, Who test the inner parts of men, know that what prompts them is a lack of faith in Me.  Although I have already told them that it is a good land, they wish to know the quality of that land.  Nor is this the first time that they betray a lack of faith in My words; already in Egypt they had begun to offend Me in this manner.  I will say nothing more to you about this matter.  If you wish, send them."

G-d's answer is indicated in the words, "Send out men for yourself."  The words, "for yourself," are an allusion to what G-d said to Moshe, "Sending them will be your decision - an expression of what you want.  Nothing at all will I command you regarding this matter."

Another interpretation regards the words "for yourself" as informing us that G-d said to Moshe, "Even if they have already decided to send out spies, the final decision to send them will be yours; otherwise, it will constitute an insurrection against you - and woe to the generation where everyone is a leader.  You will be the one to dispatch whomever you wish.  But because they had no faith in Me, they will not be privileged to see the land when the time comes for Me to bequeath it."

One may think of this as follows:
A king had arranged the marriage of his son to a woman possessed of every virtue in clothes, wealth, and family.  But the son said, "I will to see her, for I do not believe what you tell me."The father became very angry at his son's lack of trust, but he knew that if he did not show the woman, the son would conclude that she must be homely.  So the king said to him, "I will show you the woman so that you will not be able to say that I want to mislead you and that I am lying.  But I swear that not you, but your son, will marry her."

Similarly did G-d speak to the Benei Yisrael.  After He told them that He was giving them a desirable country that lacked nothing, they said, "Send men ahead of us to explore the land.  Let them see whether it is good."  So G-d considered that if He did not permit them to dispatch scouts, they would say that it was a bad country.

"Let them, therefore, send out men.  But I swear that they themselves will not see the land."

"This land," G-d was saying, "that I am giving to the Benei Yisrael, I will give to their children and not them, not to those who provoked Me." (Abarbanel)

This entire matter of sending out spies angered G-d, but He said to Moshe, "If you are indeed sending scouts, choose men of substance and piety who will tell the truth and not resort to lies in order to malign the land."

Accordingly, the men that Moshe dispatched were important persons of high standing.  But they were corrupted and became wicked.

13:3 vayishlach otam Moshe mimidbar paran al-pi HASHEM kulam anashim rashei venei-Yisrael hema
Moshe sent them from the desert of Paran by the word of HaShem; all of them [were] men of distinction, they were the heads of Benei Yisrael.
The Prophet Eliyahu Teaches About Leadership

The Sage of the Talmud, Rabbbi Joshua ben Levi wanted to meet the prophet Eliyahu, and he prayed to G-d to fulfill his desire.  His prayer was accepted and Eliyahu the Prophet appeared to him.

"What is it you wish?" Asked Eliyahu.

"I want to know about the things that you do in this world."

"That cannot be," answered Eliyahu.

"Why not?"

"Because you will see me do things that you will find unbearable."

"Nonetheless, I wish to go with you."

"Good, come with me, then," replied Eliyahu, and they set off together.

When it became dark, they stayed for the night with a destitute couple whose only possession was a meager little cow.  The poor man welcomed them happily, served them food and drink, and honored them greatly, in accordance with their illustrious stature.

In the middle of the night, Eliyahu rose, and with one blow to the head of the cow, killed it.

"Could Eliyahu the Prophet be doing what even a mountain bandit would not do!" exclaimed Rabbi Joshua.  "Have you not sinned by what you have done?  The cow is this poor man's sole source of income, and here you have killed it!  Is this you way of paying him back for his having fed us and giving us a royal welcome?"

"If you ask me even one more thing," replied Eliyahu, "I will separate from you, and you will no longer be able to accompany me.  If you want to continue staying near me, be silent and do not ask about anything that I do."

They resumed their journey, and the second night they spent in the home of a very wealthy man.  Just then he happened to be preoccupied with building his house, and when he saw them, he did not even nod in their direction, nor did he rise or stir from his place.  Nor did he serve them anything to eat or to drink.

In the middle of the night, Eliyahu the Prophet arose, and asking Rabbi Joshua ben Levi to take hold of one end of a rope, he took hold of the other end, and after making certain measurements, erected a wondrous and magnificent palace comprised of 120 chambers.

Rabbi Joshua's perplexity grew.  He mused to himself: "In the case of that poor man who welcomed you into his house, serving you food and drink and honoring you so greatly, you killed his cow in the middle of the night.  But when it came to this rich man who did not even welcome you properly, you  bestowed this boon upon him, erecting a great palace for whose construction even vast sums of money would not have sufficed."

They then departed, arriving at a location whose residents were all very wealthy.  They were person of such self-importance that they did not even look at the two sages, and refused to provide them with food and drink.

The next day, upon arising, Eliyahu prayed to G-d to make them all leaders.

Subsequently they came to a place where inhabitants were all poor.  They the beheld the two sages, they welcomed them joyously, fed them and honored them greatly - despite the meager means at their disposal.

The next day, upon arising, Eliyahu implored G-d to provide them with a single leader.

Said Rabbi Joshua ben Levi to Eliyahu: "I can no longer bear the things that I see you do.  Please explain them to me, for I understand nothing."

"But if I explain everything, you will no longer be able to come with me."

"I agree - just explain to me why you killed the cow of that poor man!"

"know then," replied Eliyahu, "that on the same night, the wife of this man, who was more precious to him than thousands upon thousands of gold pieces, was meant to die.  So I killed his cow that it might take the place of his wife - 'a life for a life'" (Shemot 21:23)

"So what about that rich man who did not even turn his face in our direction and who did not feed us - why did you build him that great castle?"

"Know that if that wealthy man had dug 200 or 300 cubits under the house, he would have found a great treasure.  Therefore I anticipated him by building the castle.  It will not exist for a long time, however, for it stands miraculously.  It will collapse suddenly and he will never find that treasure."

"Those men of wealth who gave us nothing - why did you bless them with many leaders?" asked Rabbi Joshua.

"That was not a blessing but a curse.  For when there are many leaders, the result is havoc.  There is a saying, 'With many captains the ship sinks.'"

"On the other hand, upon those people who served us so well, I bestowed the blessing that they should have but a single leader.  For a city that is ruled by a single head will in the end survive."

Thus Ben Sirah delcares, "By a man of understanding is a city populated."

When we see a wicked man place his trust in himself and rely on his wealth, know that it is not to his advantage.  On the other hand, if we see a righteous man suffering and lacking even the necessities of life - it is not to his detriment but to his benefit, as an atonement for his soul.

If a man has money and he gives charity to the poor, his possessions will remain.  But if not, his money will fly from him as if it were on wings.

Now we understand what the Torah means by the words, "All the men were leaders of the Benei Yisrael."

Moshe instructed the men to operate under one leader - they should not all be heads and princes.  But, as indicated by the sequencing of the words "Moshe sent them... all the men," they did the exact opposite of what their overall leader to told them - they all became chieftains and commanders.  The result was  as the Torah goes on to reveal.

13:4 ve'ele shemotam lemate Reuven Shamua ben-Zakur
These are their names; for the tribe of Reuven, Shamua the son of Zakur.
5 lemate Shimon Shafat ben-Chori
For the tribe of Shimon, Shafat the son of Chori.
6 lemate Yehudah Kalev ben-Yefuneh
For the tribe of Yehudah, Kalev the son of Yefuneh.
7 lemate Yissachar Yigal ben-Yosef
For the tribe of Yissachar, Yigal the son of Yosef.
8 lemate Efrayim Hoshea bin-Nun
For the tribe of Efrayim, Hoshea son of Nun.
9 lemate Vinyamin Palti ben-Rafu
For the tribe of Binyamin, Palti the son of Rafu.
10 lemate Zevulun Gadi'el ben-Sodi
For the tribe of Zevulun, Gadi'el son of Sodi.
11 lemate Yosef lemate Menashe Gadi ben-Susi
For the tribe of Yosef, for the tribe of Menashe, Gadi the son of Susi.
12 lemate Dan Ami'el ben-Gemali
For the tribe of Dan, Ami'el the son of Gemali.
13 lemate Asher Setur ben-Micha'el
For the tribe of Asher, Setur the son of Micha'el.
14 lemate Naftali Nachbi ben-Vafsi
For the tribe of Naftali, Nachbi the son of Vafsi.
15 lemate Gad Geu'el ben-Machi
For the tribe of Gad, Geu'el the son of Machi.
16 ele shemot ha'anashim asher-shalach Moshe latur et-ha'aretz vayikra Moshe leHoshea bin-Nun Yehoshua
These are the names of the men whom Moshe sent to scout the land, and Moshe called Hoshea the son of Nun, Yehoshua.

Yehoshua's Name Change

These were the names of the men from birth - except for Yehoshua whose previous name had been Hoshea until Moshe changed it to Yehoshua. (Akadat Yitzchak)  Prior to this time the Torah referred to him often as Yehoshua, but it does so in anticipation of Moshes changing his name and calling him Yehoshua. (Zohar; Bachya)

The reason for this change of name by the addition of a yod (the tenth Hebrew letter), is that Moshe saw prophetically that Yehoshua would inherit ten portions in the land of Yisrael - the portions of the ten scounts who had maligned the land.  Kalev was rewarded by being given Chevron, as it is written, "And to Kalev they gave Chevron" (Shoftim 1:20). (BaMidbar Rabbah; Yalkut Shimoni)

From the fact that the Torah had also previously referred to him as Yehoshua - as in, "Yehoshua was thus able to break the ranks of Amalek and his allies with the sword" (Shemot 17:13); and i"But his aide, the young man, Yehoshua son of Nun, did not leave the tent" (Shemot 33:11) - others conclude that Moshe never changed his name at all. As for the present verse, the Torah is telling us that Moshe prayed on his behalf that G-d should help him withstand the counsel of the other spies (the Hebrew word 'Yehoshua' equals Yod - Heh 'Hoshea': G-d helping), should they malign the land of Yisrael.

He prayed for him and not for the others because Yehoshua was his disciple. Whenever a disciple becomes corrupt, people blame the teacher and say that what he did he learned from him.  Consequently he prayed for him. (Sifetei Chachamim. See Alshekh; Kavvanot HaAri; Yalkut Reuveni)

Moshe did not include among the scouts anyone from the tribe of Levi.  This is because the tribe of Levi was to receive no portion in the land of Yisrael, and only those tribes who would share in the land were dispatchec.

[In connection with the change of name from Hoshea to Yehoshua,] the Midrash relates that when G-d changed the name of our matriarch Sarah "Sarai your wife, do not call her by the name Sarai, for Sarah is her name" (Bereishit 17:15) the letter yod of Sarai took wing and appeared before the Throne of Glory, declaring, "Because I am the smallest of letters, You have removed me from the name of the righteous Sarah!" Where upon G-d said, "There will come a time when I will install you in what is an even more favorable position.  While until now you were [the end] part of a woman's name, you will then stand at the head of a man's name."

It was this Yod that Moshe now placed at the head of Yehoshua's name. (BaMidbar Rabbah; Yalkut Reuveni)

13:17 vayishlach otam Moshe latur et-eretz kenaan vayomer alehem alu ze banegev va'alitem et-hahar
To encourage them and allay any fears they might have of the country's inhabitants, Moshe gave them his staff which was inscribed with the Explicit Name of G-d.  He said to them, "Take this staff in your hands and fear no man.  For once they behold it, fear and trembling will seize them, and they will not be able to stand up against you."

And thus it was.  When the giants later saw the staff, they were overcome by fear and the scouts were saved.

An allusion to the staff is contained in the words, "go up this [way]...(alu zeh)."  The word Zeh is a reference to the staff, as it is written, "Take this (Zeh) staff in your hand" (Shemot 4:17).

Another view is that he passed on to them G-d's Name of twelve letters, so that they might, by uttering the Name, save themselves in times of distress.  This, too, is indicated by the word Zeh.

"Go up this [way] to the Negev..." Moshe told the scouts that upon coming into the Land of Yisrael, they should turn south, toward Heaven.  The soil in that region is the worst in the entire country, rocky terrain, unfit for planting: for this reason, it was used as a burial ground.  He deliberately wanted them to go there first, applying the strategy of the traders who exhibit their worst wares first and only then their very best.

By acquainting ourselves with Chevron, this "worst" part of the country, we can gain some appreciation of how admirable the entire Land of Yisrael was. (Rashi)

When the Benei Yisrael came out of Egypt, they lamented, "Will we ever find another land as excellent as the land of Egypt, so blessed in every way, including grains?"  So G-d said to them, "The land which you are about to occupy is not like Egypt" (Devarim 11:12).  He was saying, "This land that I am about to give you is not to be compared in its excellence to the land of Egypt."

Egypt was then superior to all other lands, as it is written, "It was like G-d's own garden, like the land of Egypt" (Bereishit 13:10).  Furthermore, the choicest region in Egypt was Tzoan, where the kings and the high-ranking Egyptians lived - as it is written, "For his princes were at Tzoan" (Yeshayahu 30:4).  Yet Chevron, located in the worst part of Yisrael, was seven times better than the choicest part of Egypt, Tzoan. For as the Torah now goes on to say, "Chevron had been built (nib'netah) seven years before Tzoan in Egypt" (13:22).  In other words, it was seven times more built up (mevuneh) and developed than the choicest region of Egypt, Tzoan.  This gives us an appreciate of how good the rest of the land of Yisrael must have been. (Sifri; Yalkut Shimoni)

In telling us about the virtues of Tzoan, the Talmud states that for every se'ah (about two gallons or eight liters by volume) of wheat planted, the yield was seventy kors (1 kor = 7 bushels or about 245 liters) of grain. Chevron was sweven times more productive, the yield from one se'ah of seeds planted was 490 kors. In other words, the rest of the land of Yisrael the yield was at least 500 kors for every se'ah (1 kor = 30 se'ah), in a normal year.  In a year of abundance, the yield would be a hundredfold greater, as it is written, "That year, he reaped a hundred times more than expected.  Accordingly, in such a year of blessed abundance the yield of the land would be 50,000 kors for ever se'ah sown. (Ketubot, Chapter 13)

13:18 ure'item et-ha'aretz ma-hiv ve'et-ha'am hayoshev aleiha hechazak hu harafe hame'at hu im-rav
See what the land is; and the people living on it; are they strong
19 uma ha'aretz asher-hu yoshev ba hatova hiv im-ra'a uma he'arim asher-hu yoshev bahena habemachanim im bemivtzarim
and how is the land in which they live, is it good, or bad?  And how are the cities in which they reside; are they open, or are they fortified?
20 uma ha'aretz hashemena hiv im-raza hayesh-ba etz im-ayin vehitchazaktem ulekachtem mipri ha'aretz vehayamim yemei bikurei anavim
How is the land [soil] is it fat [rich] or lean [poor], does it have trees, or not?  You shall strengthen yourselves, and you shall take some fruit of the land."  Those days were the days of the first ripening of the grapes.

Moshe told the scouts that their exploration of the land must establish four things:
  1. They were to see what kind of land it was by observing whether the people who lived there were strong or weak, few or many.  That is, was the blessing of the land such that it gave rise to large populations, and were its people physically strong or frail?
  2. What about the soil?  Was it suitable for dwelling upon and for sowing?
  3. What about the inhabited cities?  Where they open plazas or fortresses?  They were also to find out if the cities were attractive and well built, since an attractive city means a pleased populace.  Similarly, did their monarchs have two palaces - one for use in time of war and one for use in peace-time?  In other words, in times of peace, did the populace live in sprawling, open cities, unafraid of being attacked by enemies, only in times of war locking themselves into fortified and well secured cities?
"Therefore, observe if they dwell in open or fortified cities," Moshe told them.  "If in open cities, you will know that they are not apprehensive about war.  But if the cities are secured, it means that they live in fear."

That will be a good sign.  For in the case of Yericho, the Scripture wrote, "Yericho was locked and double-locked, none leaving and none entering" (Yehoshua 6:1), followed by, "G-d said to Yehoshua, 'See, I have given into your hands Yericho and its king.'"

G-d was saying to Yehoshua, "If you want to have a sign that Yericho and its king have been given over into your hands, observe that it is locked and double-locked, and it lives in fear."

We recall in this connection that it was actually the answer brought back by the spies that Yehoshua had dispatched to scout out Yericho.  They said to him, "Surely G-d has delivered all the land into our hands; and all the inhabitants of the country do melt away because of us."

Moshe instructed them to see if the soil was rich or meager, if it had trees or not; in other words, if it produced plentiful fruit of high quality.  

There was thus nothing that Moshe left out: since he was certain that it was a good land, he told them to look at everything.  It is like a man saying to another to whom he was selling a horse, "Examine it to your heart's content.  Observe its height and its shape and its color and how it runs, and you will become convinced that it is flawless."

"So, too," Moshe told them, "Do I command you to examine the land well." (Akedat Yitzchak)

Moshe then told them to "Make a special effort to bring back some of the fruits of the land."

"Although you are going in the season when the first grapes begin to ripen, and the owners of vineyards station guards at this time of year to prevent anyone from touching the fruit, enter without fear and partake of the grapes to your heart's content.  If no one dares tell you not to eat of the fruit, it will be another sign that G-d has given the land into our hands."

Another interpretation of, "Does the land have trees (a tree) or not?" is that Moshe asked them to find out whether any righteous person lived in the land and protected it, as a tree that protects those resting in its shade.  That is, they were to find out if Iyov, who had lived in the Land of Yisrael, was still living.  His merit would then be protecting the land and the Benei Yisrael would not be able to conquer it. (Bava Batra, Chapter 2; Yalkut Shimoni; Zohar; Rashi)

13:23 vayavou ad-nachal Eshkol vayichretu misham zemora veeshkol anavim echad vayisauhu vamot bishnayim umin-harimonim umin-hate'enim
They came until the Valley of Eshkol, and from there they cut off a branch and one cluster of grapes, and they carried it between two on a pole, [and they took] some pomegranates and some figs.
24 lamakom hahu kara nachal eshkol al odot ha'Eshkol asher-kartu misham benei Yisrael
That place they called the Valley of Eshkol, because of the event of the cluster that Benei Yisrael cut from there.
Since it is indicated that they cut one branch containing a single cluster of grapes, it follows that this cluster was borne by eight scouts, two at each corner of the frame. (Rashi. See Tosafot Sotah loc. cit.)

Our Sages have estimated the weight of the cluster by referring to the stones that the Benei Yisrael set up at the crossing of the Yarden.  In Sefer Yehoshua (4:2-5), G-d commanded him to pick one man from each tribe, and he was to place a single stone on his shoulder.  Since each of those stones weighted the equivalent of forty se'ah, and a se'ah amounts to about 17 pounds, it means that each man lifted up about 680 pounds.

Now, we have a fixed rule that a man can lift up by himself one third of what he can raise together with others.  Consequently, when they all helped each other carry the frame of grapes, they each bore an effective weight of 130 se'ahs, or over 2000 pounds.  Between them, therefore, they carried a total exceeding 16000 pounds, that being then, the weight of that one cluster. (Sotah, Chapter 7; Tanchuma; Yalkut Shimoni; Rashi)

Our Sages declare that the Torah refers to this place as Nachal Eshkol - literally "The river of the cluster" - on account of the wine that streamed like a river from this cluster.

Besides the eight scouts who carried a cluster of grapes, one carried a pomegranate and the other a fig.  Yehoshua and Kalev, however, did not want to take back anything, because they realized that the others were bringing along these fruits in order to malign the land.  They intended to point out that, just as these fruits of the land were extraordinary, so were its people extraordinary, and there was no way to defeat them.

Another view is that the spies did not really wish to take any fruits from the land, since they did not want the Benei Yisrael to see how blessedly luxuriant the fruits were.  Kalev drew his sword and said to them, "If you do not take back with you samples of the fruit, then either I will kill you or you will kill me."  They became frightened and took the fruit. (Tanchuma; Yalkut Shimoni)

13:25 vayashuvu mitur ha'aretz miketz arbaim yom
They returned from spying the land, at the end of forty days.
 The Torah here tells us that G-d caused the distances of the Land of Yisrael to shrink for them, so that instead of having to spend 160 days traveling from place to place, they spent 40 days.

This can be seen as follows:  The Land of Yisrael is 400 parsangs by 400 parsangs, and each parsang is 4 mil (about two miles).  Since in their great wisdom the Sages of the Talmud estimated that the average man's normal walking pace, without running or stopping, is 10 parsangs or 40 mil per day, in forty days it is possible to traverse a distance from east to west of 400 parsangs, no more.  They, however, covered the length and breadth of the Land in Yisrael in 40 days - a distance of 160 parsangs,  80 parsangs going and 80 parsangs returning.

G-d knew that they would be maligning the Land of Yisrael, and that for every day they spent exploring it they would have to remain an additional year in the desert, by divine decree.  He therefore shortened their time of travel so that the decree would be less severe. (Tanchuma; Yalkut Shimoni; Rashi.  See Abarbanel)

13:26 vayelchu vayavou el-Moshe ve'el-Aharon ve'el-kol-adat benei-Yisrael el-midbar paran kadesha vayashivu otam davar ve'et-kol-ha'eda vayarum et-peri ha'aretz
They went and came to Moshe and Aharon and to the entire congregation of Benei Yisrael [that came] to the desert of Paran, in Kadesh.  They brought word back to them, and to the entire congregation, and they showed them the fruit of the Land.
 They gave the following report:  "We cam to the land where you sent us, to Chevron, in accordance with your instructions to go first to the worst part of the land, but it, too, flows with milk and honey.  So too have we seen the blessed fruit that is to be found there, and from its fruit you can begin to realize how praiseworthy the rest of the Land is. (Alshekh)

"But what does all this blessing avail us?  One the contrary, it disturbs us, for there is no possibility that we will be able to stand up against its inhabitants." (Akedat Yitzchak)

They reported: "Not only are the people living in the Land aggressive, but the cities are large and well fortified. In adddition to these two obstacles, there is also the factor of the giants' descendants whom we saw there.  Who will be foolhardy enough to make his dwelling in the lair of the lion and the lioness?  Woe to anyone who even touches them!  Besides all this, the cities are so well fortified that they are impregnable."

"Amalek lives in the Negev area - on the southern flank.  Although he is only one king, he is in a very forbidding region, a terrain of rocks and boulders that is difficult to capture.

"Then there are the Chitti, Yevusi and Amori, who live in the hills.  These three kings dwell on the mountain plateau, while the Kenaani live near the sea and on the banks of the Yarden.  Again here, although the Kenaani are only one kingdom under one king, there are the additional two obstacles of the sea and the Yarden.

"How, then, shall we be able to attack and conquer them?  If we approach from the southern flank, we shall come up against Amalek and his searing hatred for us.  Should we, on the other hand, decide to approach by way of the mountains, we will be stopped by the three kingdoms.  Nor can we come by way of the sea or the Yarden.  There is thus no way in which they can be overcome."

We see that the spies had here appointed themselves to act as advisors - and this was their greatest sin.  Moshe had dispatched them to explore the land, to find out what it was like and who were the people that inhabited it.  But they saw themselves as counselors and said, "The people living in this land are aggressive and it cannot be conquered."  By acting as counselors, when they had never been dispatched for this purpose, they revealed the evil of their motive, which was to weaken the resolve of the Benei Yisrael to proceed to the Land of Yisrael. (Abarbanel)

When Yehoshua and Kalev saw that the other spies were beginning to malign the Land of Yisrael, Yehoshua spoke up to silence them.  But the spies told him, You, headless one, this matter does not concern you, so do not interfere! (Sotah, Chapter 7; Rashi. See Abarbanel, loc. cit.)

"YOu are as if without a head," they were saying, "for you have neither sons nor daughters, and therefore you are not afraid of being killed. But we have families and we tremble for their fate."

Seeing that they had silenced Yehoshua, and realizing that if he address them, they would likewise silence him, Kalev decided to silence them first. (Yalkut Reuveni; Pesikta)

13:30 vayahas Kalev et-ha'am el-Moshe vayomer alo na'ale veyarashnu ota ki-yachol nuchal la
Kalev silenced the people to [hear about ] Moshe, and he said: "We can surely go up [to the Land] and we shall possess it for we are surely able to overcome it."
31 veha'anashim asher alu imo amru lo nuchal la'alot el-ha'am ki-chazak hu mimenu
But the men who went up with him said: "We are not able to go up against the nation, for they are more powerful than we."
32 vayotziu dibat ha'aretz asher taru ota el-benei Yisrael lemor ha'aretz asher avarnu va latur ota eretz ochelet yoshveiha hiv vechol-ha'am asher-rainu vetocha anshei midot
They spread slander about the Land that they had scouted, to Benei Yisrael, saying: "The Land through which we have passed to scout it, is a land which consumes its inhabitants  and everyone one of the people we saw in it, are men of dimensions.
When the spies saw that whenever they wanted to speak, either Yehoshua, Kalev, or Moshe would interfere, to stop them from maligning the Land of Yisrael, they decided to say nothing in their presence, but to go among the people and there, without anyone to contradict them, say what they wanted to say.  This they did; they spread out among the populace and began to relate all that they had intended to relate.

When the spies' families heard all these things, they began to scream and to weep.  Their neighbors heard them, and followed suit, until a great human cry rose up from the entire camp. (Divrei Shlomo)

14:1 vatisa kol-ha'eda vayitnu et-kolam vayivku ha'am balaila hahu
The entire community arose and raised their voices; and the people wept that night.
All the 600,000 Benei Yisrael began a loud weeping.  "How are we to go on if it means that we will be falling into their hands?!" the people cried that night.

Tisha b'Av

The Torah stresses the particularity of that night, namely the night of the 9th of Av.

The spies were dispateched on the 29th of Sivan of the second year, they were away 40 days, and on the 40th day they returned with their report to the Benei Yisrael.  They therefore returned on the 8th of Av, considering that the 29th and the 30th of Sivan, plus the 30 days of Tammuz, plus 8 days of the month of Av, together come to 40.  In the course of the day, they spread their evil report, and on the night of the 9th of Av the people began their weeping.

It was then that G-d said to them, "Tonight your weeping is unfounded and unjustified.  But I swear that I will set this night to be an occasion for weeping throughout the generations." (Taanit, Chapter 4; Rashi)

Because of their sin, it was decreed at this time that the First Temple and the Second Temple would be destroyed on this date, and also, that every 9th of Av, throughout the 40 years, many would die on this night.  On the eve of every 9th of Av, Moshe would proclaim throughout the camp that they should dig graves for themselves and sleep in them, as there would no one to bury them.  In the morning of the 9th of Av, he would have it announced that those still alive should emerge from their graves.

Moreover, they would die in the same way that the spies did.  A worm would come out of their bellies and enter their mouths, killing them.

This terrible decree lasted for 38 years, until the entire generation, aged 20 to 60 - 603,550 men - came to an end. Thus, every year on this night between 15,000 and 16,000 people would die.

On the last, or 40th, year, they also entered their graves as they had been doing all along, but when morning came they all emerged alive.  Puzzled, they wondered if perhaps they had made a mistake in the day of the month, and it was not the 9th of Av.  So the following night they again entered their graves, and continued doing so for several nights, until the 15th of Av.  When they saw that they were not dying and there was a full moon, they concluded that since they could not be making a mistake about the day and the month, it must be that G-d had annulled the decree.

That day - the 15th of Av - they fixed as a holiday. (Yerushalmi, Taanit, Chapter 4; Rashi on Taanit loc. cit.; Rashbam, Bava Batra, Chapter 8.  See Tosafot ibid.; Yeffeh Mareh)

The Laws of Challah
15:17 vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe lemor
HaShem spoke to Moshe, saying:
18 daber el-benei Yisrael ve'amarta alehem bevoachem el-ha'aretz asher ani mevi etchem shama
"Speak to Benei Yisrael and say to them, at your coming to the Land into which I am bringing you,
19 vehaya ba'achalchem milechem ha'aretz tarimu teruma laHASHEM
When you eat from the bread of the land you shall separate a terumah for HaShem.
20 reshit arisotechem chala tarimu teruma kitrumat goren ken tarimu ota
[From] the first portion of your doughs you shall separate a loaf as a separated portion; like the terumah-gift of the granary, so shall you separate it.
21 mereshit arisoteichem titnu laHASHEM teruma ledoroteichem
Of the first portion of your doughs you shall give to HaShem as a terumah-offering, throughout your generations."
The Law of Separating a Portion from the Dough.

While in the wilderness, Benei Yisrael did not set aside a portion from their dough.  They became obligated in this commandment only after entering the Land of Yisrael.

From then on, whenever someone made an omer of dough from one of the five kinds of grain (wheat, barley, oats, spelt, or rye), he was required to separate a part of the dough, termed challah.  The challah was holy and was given to the Kohen.

The commandment of challah actually applies only in the Land of Yisrael at a time when the majority of the Jewish people is there.  However, our Sages ordained that challah be separated even outside of the Land of Yisrael, and even in our time, so that these laws should not be forgotten.  Today, our challah has to be burned.  Although we fulfill our obligation today even by separating a very tiny amount of dough, the minhag is to separate a kezayit of dough and burn it.  Someone who has prepared the appropriate quantity of dough, separates the challah and recites the blessing:

Baruch atah HASHEM Elokeinu Melech ha-olam asher kid'shanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu lehafrish challah.
 Blessed are You, HaShem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who commanded us to separate challah from the dough.

If one forgot to take challah from the raw dough, he must still take it from the bread.

Although anyone in the household may separate challah, this mitzvah was specifically commanded to the wife.  She thereby amends the sin of the first woman, Chavah.

Our Sages term Adam, "the pure challah of the world."  This means that he was created by HaShem completely pure, without evil desires.

Chavah caused Adam to lose his former purity.  After he sinned, he and his descendants were drawn towards physical desires (even if the fulfillment of these desires would harm them).  The mitzvah of separating challah has the potential to bring back the purity of spirit that was lost through Adam's sin.  Hence, by fulfilling this commandment a woman rectifies Chavah's sin.

One should be careful to fulfill the commandment of separating challah.  Famine is brought upon the world as a result of neglecting it, while its observance brings material blessing to the household.

15:37 vayomer HASHEM el-Moshe lemor
And HaShem spoke to Moshe, saying:
38 daber el-benei Yisrael ve'amarta alehem ve'asu lahem tzitzit al-kanfei vigdeihem ledorotam venatnu al-tzitzit hakanaf petil techelet
Speak to Benei Yisrael and tell them to make for themselves, tzitzit on the corner of their garments - throughout their generations  and they will place with the fringes of each corner a thread of blue.

Laws Concerning Tzitzit Threads

The threads for fringes must be spun for the purpose designated, by declaring at the beginning of production that they are being spun for making tzitzit or by a man telling his wife, "Spin me tzitzit for the tallit." If the threads were not spun for the designated purpose of making tzitzit, they are not fit for making fringes out of them.

If, after the fringes have been attached, the eight become untwisted making sixteen, they remain valid as long as enough remains of the twined thread to form a loop or winding. For this reason it is preferred practice to tie a knot at the end of the threads so that they should not untwist.

The length of a fringe may not be less than four thumb-breadths; according to some authorities, twelve thumb-breadths, which is standard practice today. There is no maximum length, and fringes may thus be made longer than 12 thumb-breadths. If after attaching long fringes, one then shortened them, they remain valid.

The aforementioned minimum length of thread refers to its length beyond the area of required knots that fringes must have.

One of the threads must be made longer than the others for winding around the others. If it is not long enough to form all the windings, part of the winding should be made with this thread and part made with another thread.  When blue wool (techelet - BaMidbar 15:37) used to be available for making fringes, it was standard practice for part of the windings to be done with the techelet thread and part with a white thread.

Choice wool is to be used in making the threads for fringes since it is a general requirement that every commandment be fulfilled in the most superior way possible. Thus, the wool should definitely not be of poor quality, full of those thorns that sheep gather in their meanderings, nor of animal hairs that cattle tend to slough off, nor of wool strands that weavers leave hanging from the garments they produce. To do otherwise is to demean the commandments.

Fringes made of stolen wool are invalid since the Torah says, "Have them make." That is, have them make from that which belongs to them, not from stolen property.

In making the aperture into which the fringe is inserted, care must be taken not to locate it higher than three thumb-breadths away from the edge because higher than three thumb-breadths is no longer considered as being in the corner of the garment, and the scripture specifically stipulates that the fringes must be "on the corners of their garments."

The apertures must also not be too low. The distance from the aperture to the bottom edge of the garment should not be less than a thumb-breadth or the distance from the end of the nail to the middle joint of the thumb. Less than the distance is no longer called "on the corners," but rather below the corners.

If after the fringes were originally inserted higher than three thumb-breadths, one wishes to enlarge the aperture so that the fringes now fall below that upper limit of three thumb-breadths, it does not help. They remain invalid by dint of the aforementioned "make-not-made" rule since the fringes were rendered invalid as soon as they were affixed above the designated limiting distance.

If one made the aperture higher than three thumb-breadths away and then, while tying on the fringes, he pulled down the knot, reducing the distance to within the prescribed proper limit, they remain invalid.

If after making the aperture properly, that is, above the lower limit of one thumb-breadth, one compressed the garment in the course of putting on the fringes so that the distance is now less than the prescribed limit, that remains valid since there is in fact sufficient distance.

Fringes were attached to a tallit and then it turned out that the tallit contained a number of linen threads, rendering it kelaim. If these threads are removed, it is necessary, according to some authorities, to detach the fringes and then attach them again.

The aforementioned limiting distances for positioning the aperture are determined by measuring along the garment rather than diagonally from the tip of the corner. The aperture must fall within the minimum and maximum distances both along the vertical and horizontal edges of the garment (length and width).

Among some people it is customary to make two apertures at every corner, placed side by side like the tzeirei vowel and to pass the fringe through both. This is accepted practice among adherents of Kabbalistic teaching. It applies, however, only to fringed garments that are worn under one's outer clothing. For prayer shawls or tallits (tallitot), the customary single aperture is made.

If the fringes were affixed into properly positioned apertures, but then in the course of time the tallit became frayed along an edge until there remained less than the one thumb-breadth minimum distance from the edge to the apertures, this does not invalidate the tallit. The fact remains that the fringe had been attached properly.

To prevent such fraying below the prescribed minimum, borders are sewn about the corners of the tallit.

If fringes are attached to a winter garment that has hooks at the edges, they should not be inserted into the hooks but placed above them. The reason is that these hooks are not regarded as being part of the garments proper for the purpose of fulfilling the requirement that fringes be attached to the garment itself. However, the hooks can be included in estimating the aforementioned minimum and maximum distances for placing the apertures.

If the hook opening is so wide that the aperture with the fringe through it would be more than three thumb-breadths from the edge of the hook, one should cut away a sufficient part of the hook to meet the required limit.

Since, according to some authorities, the unwoven strands at the edge of the garment are to be included in measuring the one and three thumb-breadth limits, it is preferable to cut off these strands and thus avoid ambiguity in applying the law.

At every corner of the garment should be affixed four threads, folded over, for a total of eight. If more were inserted, the fringe is invalid.

If the ends of the folded threads are connected, they must be severed before being inserted into the aperture. If the threads were cut apart after they were inserted into the aperture and at least one knot was tied, the fringe is invalid because of the law of "make-not-made."

After one inserts the four threads into the aperture so that they now hang down on each side of it, a double knot is made. The longest of the threads is then wound about the other seven threads and a double knot is again made. This is repeated a number of times until five double knots have been made, enclosing four spaces.The number of coils at each winding is not specified, as long as the distance between the first and last knots is four thumb-breadths and the rest of the thread is eight thumb-breadths long.

It has become a general custom to make 7 coils along the first of the spaces, 8 coils along the second, 11 along the third, and 13 along the fourth. All together they total 39, the numerical equivalent of the words "G-d is one" [Yod Heh Vav Heh Echad].

Among some people it is customary to draw 10 coils along the first of the spaces, corresponding to the letter Yod [numerical equivalent 10] of G-d's name, 5 coils along the second, corresponding to the letter Heh (5), 6 along the third, corresponding to the Vav (6), and 5 coils along the fourth of the spaces, corresponding to the second Heh of G-d's Name.

Some authorities caution that the fringes should be hung along the length of the tallit rather than along the width, as putting them along the width is not considered "on the corners." The requirement would then not be fulfilled by suspending them along the width.

It is forbidden to suspend the fringes along the diagonal of the tallit because that was the custom among the Karaites.

If the fringes were severed but enough remained of each of the eight threads to make a loop-plus-knot, the fringes are valid. If this much did not remain, even if only two of the eight threads were severed, it is invalid for we fear lest the two belong to one and the-same folded-over thread, in which case an entire thread would be missing.

Accordingly, if, when the fringes were affixed, one marked the threads in such a way that one knows that the two severed threads are not part of the same thread, the fringe is valid since the two other halves of those folded-over are of sufficient length to form a loop-and-knot.

A thread of the fringes was severed before they were attached to the garment and the severed thread is less than the minimum required length. If these fringes are first attached and only then is the torn thread reconnected, the fringes are invalid because of the law of "make-not-made." If, on the other hand, the thread was in order when the fringes were attached and became severed only subsequently, the fringes remain valid. The same is true if the torn thread was reconnected prior affixing the fringes to the garment.

The knots of the fringes must be tied by a Jew, and the fringes are invalid if the knots are made by a non-Jew. For it is written, "Speak to the Benei Yisrael and have them make tassels"--a Jew is to make them, not a gentile.

A Jewish woman may attach the fringes.

One recites the benediction when putting on a borrowed tallit. It is permissible to use another man's tallit without his knowledge and to make the benediction over it, provided he intends to return it to its place properly folded. On the Shabbat, one may return it even unfolded.

Similarly, one may use and put back tefillin without the owner's knowledge. In contrast, it is forbidden to use another man's book without his knowledge lest he tear it while reading.

If someone left Torah texts with a scholar as collateral, the scholar may study them without their owner's knowledge.

A tallit that is owned by two people must be fringed with tzitzit since the verse says, "on the corners of their garments." If one of the partners is a non-Jew, however, the tallit is exempt from this commandment.

One may remove the fringes from one garment in order to affix them to another garment. But it is forbidden to detach the fringes without cause since that debases the commandment.

If one removes them in order to put on better ones, that is permitted. Similarly, if one of the threads was severed, without, however, making the fringes invalid, it is permitted to remove them and attach good ones. One may also remove the fringes if his intention is to make a garment out of the cloth, and he may wear that garment. It must not, however, be an unseemly garment.

What we have said [about removing the fringes] applies only to a tallit or garment whose owner is bidden to observe this commandment. Consequently, one may remove the fringes from the tallit of one who has died since he is no longer subject to commandments.

One may not cut off the fringes together with the corners and then sew them onto another garment. For the Torah says, "and have them make tassels on the corners of their garments." That is, the corners must belong to that garment to which fringes are being attached.

[A tallit must be of a certain minimum size before fringes become obligatory;] it should be large enough to cover the head and the greater part of the body both in length and breadth, of a nine-year-old child. This comes out to about 6 handbreadths (rufos) in length and 1/2 cubit in breadth. A tallit of smaller dimensions is exempt from tzitzit.

Some authorities give the minimum dimensions of the tallit as one cubit and the width as larger than one cubit, or vice versa, the excess of one side is reckoned as part of the side that has less than a cubit.

A blind person is obligated to fulfill the commandment of tzitzit. Females and gentile bondmen who converted to Judaism but have not yet received the appropriate certificates freeing them of servitude, are exempt from the commandment of tzitzit.

If a minor of less than 13 years old knows how to wrap a fringed garment about himself, his father must buy him a tallit or a tallit-katan in order to train him in the performance of the commandments. A thirteen year old, of course, is responsible for fulfilling the commandments like any other adult.

The night is not a time for wearing tzitzit. Accordingly, if one puts on a fringed garment at night, he may not recite the benediction. Similarly, if one has already prayed the Evening Service even if it is still early, he may not recite the benediction when putting on tzitzit.

According to some authorities on Yom Kippur Eve, when it is customary to wear the tallit, a person is advised to put it on early and recite the benediction.

Those who habitually rise before dawn to study or have done so on the night when Selichot are recited, do not make the benediction when putting on the tallit-katan. They should just put it on and later when it becomes light, recite the blessing.

When the person then puts on the large tallit, he should while reciting the blessing keep in mind to have it include the tallit-katan as well.

Although fringes made by a non-Jew are invalid, if a known gentile merchant sells a fringed tallit which he claims to have bought from a Jew whose name he provides, one may buy it from him. Being a trader, he will not lie.

On the other hand, it is forbidden to sell a fringed tallit to a non-Jew, lest he put it on and thereby, by gaining the confidence of some Jew, lure him to his death. For the same reason, it is forbidden to give a fringed tallit to a gentile as collateral.

Fringes that have become unfit should not be cast away for this constitutes abuse of the commandment. One should store them away instead.

One may enter a toilet while wearing a tallit-katan under one's garments but not a tallit that one puts on as a prayer shawl.

It is permissible to lie down and to sleep in a tallit. Some consider it a mitzvah to sleep at night in a tallit-katan, and this has become common practice among those who are meticulous in the observance of the commandments.

Some people are careful not to have a gentile laundress wash a tallit or a tallit katan.

A person should be careful not to let the fringes drag on the ground. To one who allows this applies the verse, "I will sweep it with the broom of destruction." (Yeshayahu 14:23)

If one purchased a new tallit or a new tallit-katan, he recites benediction of Shehechiyanu when attaching the fringes. If he did not do so at the time, he recites Shehechiyanu when putting it on for the first time just as one does when putting on any other new garment for the first time.

One should be standing when wrapping himself in the tallit. It is customary to recite the benediction before actually putting it on. When putting on the tallit, one should be sure to drape it about the head. It is not sufficient to follow the custom of draping it folded about the neck and shoulders since according to some authorities one does not the fulfill the obligation. Those who place the tallit only about the shoulders and while covering the back leave the head uncovered, do not act properly. To them applies the verse, "But You...have cast Me (oti) behind your back" (1Melachim 14:9) That is "You have cast that which My emblem ("oti"), the tzitzit which are my emblem, behind your back;" and the benediction which one recites is then invalid.

Therefore, a person should be careful to cover his head with the tallit from the beginning to the conclusion of the prayer service.

If one has no tallit, he fulfills the obligation with the tallit-katan that he wears under his garments, provided that when he put it on he wrapped it about his head for an interval of time sufficient to walk four cubits.

Both when wearing the tallit and when wearing the tallit-katan, two of the fringes stay in front and two in the back. One is then surrounded by mitzvot.

Some people mark which fringes go in the back and which go in the front, and they do not change them.

Reciting the Benediction 

When putting on the prayer-shawl or tallit, one says the benediction, "Blessed are You, HaShem our G-d, King of the universe, who has consecrated us with His commandments and commanded us to put on the tzitzit."

Prior to reciting the benediction, one says, "Bless HaShem, O my soul. HaShem, my G-d, You are very great. With majesty and splendor are You attired, wrapped in light as with a mantle, extending the heavens like a curtain" (Tehillim 104:1,2)

After putting on the tallit, one then recites the verses:

"How precious and excellent is Your love, O HaShem! Therefore the children of man shelter beneath the shadows of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the ampleness of Your abode; and You make them drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light" (Tehillim 36:8-10)

When putting on the four-cornered tallit-katan, the benediction of, "Regarding the commandment of tzitzit" is recited:

"Blessed are You, HaShem our G-d, King of the universe, who has consecrated us with His commandments and commanded us regarding the precept of tzitzit."

Examining the Tzitzit

Before one actually puts on a tallit or tallit-katan, he is to examine the fringes to see if they are in order. Should they prove unfit, the benediction recited over them will have been said in vain.

It is not sufficient to check whether the upper part of the threads are intact. One must examine their entire length from the holes where the fringes are affixed to the garment all the way down to their tips, to make certain that none of the threads are cut, invalidating the fringes.

On the Shabbat it is especially important to examine the fringes. For if they are unfit, one not only becomes liable for reciting a benediction in vain, but he may become guilty of violating the prohibition against carrying something in the public domain on the Shabbat.

[Now that the unfit tallit or tallit-katan is no longer a proper garment, it is no longer considered to be worn, which is permissible, but, rather, carried.]

Some people have erroneously concluded that it is forbidden to wear on the Shabbat a tallit-katan of cotton, claiming that only woolen ones are permitted. This is a serious mistake and only results in non-observance of the commandment of tzitzit on the Shabbat. The contrary should be true since this commandment is to be observed on the Shabbat more meticulously even than on a weekday.

It is thus our duty to make it known that every kind of tallit-katan is permitted on the Shabbat, both during the daytime and at night, even though fulfillment of this commandment is not obligatory during nighttime. One may wear it in the public domain even where no eruv exists.

As already emphasized, however, one must be sure that the fringes are in order. Furthermore, if the threads are entangled, they must be separated prior to reciting the benedictions.

If one arrived in the synagogue after the congregational prayer has already begun and there is thus no time available for him to examine the tzitzit, he may join the prayer service without making the examination.

When wrapping the fringes about himself, a person should have it in mind that he is fulfilling all the commandments that G-d has bidden us to fulfill. For the Torah has specifically written, "You shall remember all of G-d's commandments..." (BaMidbar 15:38)

During the entire day, therefore, he should be aware of the tzitzit and thus remember.

If one is wearing a number of four-cornered garments, he recites one benediction for all of them. If, however, there was a lull between putting on one garment and another, he recites the benediction over each in turn. He does the same if, when he was reciting the benediction, he failed to keep in mind that it applied to all the garments.

Our sages are divided in their views on the question whether, having recited the benediction over the tallit-katan, one recites it again over the prayer-shawl tallit. Those who require this consider the spatial distance [between the home where the tallit katan is put on, and the synagogue where the tallit is worn] to constitute a "lull," while others do not qualify this as a "lull."

Many people rise and dress before daybreak, when the wearing of tzitzit is not obligatory and it is forbidden to recite the benediction. Later, however, they may forget and thus end up not reciting it at all. This problem affects not only those who rise early on occasion for personal reasons, but is of general concern, especially in the month of Elul, when people get up for the Selichot prayers, and also during the winter months.

The best procedure is for them to put on the tallit-katan when dressing, but without saying the blessing; and then, when they recite the benediction over the tallit, to touch the fringes of the tallit-katan and keep in mind to fulfill by this benediction also the requirement pertaining to the tallit-katan.

The same procedure should be followed by those who pray at home for reasons of health or age or whatever, and by those whose homes are located in the same residential complex as the synagogue.

By following this recommended procedure, one fulfills the commandment properly in reciting the required benediction, and one also avoids the possibility of reciting one benediction unnecessarily.

Clearly, the recommendation of putting on the tallit-katan without reciting the benediction applies to one who puts it on prior to the morning prayers. For those, however, who may sleep during the day---on the Shabbat, for instance, as has become customary or on a holiday---and they do so without wearing the tallit-katan---when they put it on again, they should recite the benediction.

If, inadvertently, the tallit fell off, when putting it on again the person recites the benediction, provided it fell off completely. If it only partially slipped off, it is not necessary to repeat the benediction.

If a tallit fell off during the Amidah and someone draped it about him, he recites the benediction after concluding the Amidah. The same ruling applies to a bridegroom upon whom a tallit is thrown. Even though others have cast it upon him, he is required to recite the benediction.

If one puts on a garment for which fringes are required and he fails to affix fringes, he is guilty of ignoring a positive commandment of the Torah.

One may enter a cemetery wearing a tallit-katan, provided he wears it so that the fringes beneath the other garments do not drag on the floor and cannot be seen from the outside.

If the fringes are visible from the outside, it is forbidden to enter a cemetery. For one is then guilty of "ridiculing the deprived" (Mishlei 17:5) That is, it then appears as if he mocks the dead who are deprived of the obligation to fulfill the commandments. By flaunting his fringes he is as if saying scornfully, "Look! You are removed from the commandment of tzitzit while I carry the responsibility of fulfilling it."

Since a person must be very, very conscientious in the observance of the commandment of tzitzit, he should not take off his tallit-katan during the entire day so as to have before him at all times a reminder of G-d's mitzvot.

For this reason there are five knots in the fringes corresponding to the Five Books of the Torah, and four corners to remind him of the mitzvot no matter in what direction he turns.

When reciting the Shema, one is required to grasp the fringes in his left hand. He then holds them against his heart, in fulfillment of the enjoinder that "These words which I am commanding you today must remain on your heart" (Devarim 6:6)

And when one is saying the words "and when you see them" (u're-item oto;" BaMidbar 15:38), he should actually look at the fringes. He is also to bring them close to the eyes and follow the beautiful custom of kissing them. One should likewise look at them when reciting the benediction when putting them on.

When a person is angry he should look at the tzitzit and his anger will pass. Significant in this regard is that the word kanaf (corner) has the equivalent numerical value of 150 (80 + 50 + 20), as does the word "ka'as," anger (60 + 70 + 20), suggesting that the fringes are a palliative against anger.

If one habitually passes the fringes before his eyes when reciting the Shema, he is assured of never becoming blind. For in addition to the straightforward meaning of the words, ("these shall be your tassels, tzitzit,"), they bear the connotation of, "you will have vision," (the word tzitzit being related to the verb l'hatzit, to glance or look at).

This connection of the commandment of tzitzit to sight is related to the fact that one looks at the two front fringes which, together, contain 10 knots, corresponding to the Ten Sefirot, and 16 threads. Their combined total is thus 26, corresponding to the Tetragrammaton (YKVK, 5 + 6 + 5 + 10 = 26).

An eminent authority has written that when reciting the tzitzit portion of the Shema during the morning prayers, one should grasp the fringes in his left hand, keeping them at chest level until he has said the words "Your teaching and words place upon your heart" of the Emet Ve'Yatziv hymn. Then he touches them to his lips. It is done at this point because the word "yasim" is the acrostic for Yehi Shem HaShem Mevorach, "May the Name of Hashem be exalted," and the tzitzit, as we have just noted, allude to G-d's Name.

It is customary among some to kiss the tzitzit at the words La-ad Kayamet, "eternally existing," since the word la'ad has the numerical value of 104 (30 + 70 + 4), and the fringes also comprise a total of 104 items: 4 fringes of 8 threads each (32) multiplied by 2, corresponding to the fact that when the tallit is inverted, the fringes again serve their purpose (+ 32); plus five knots on each of the 4 fringes (+ 20); also taken twice (+ 20) for a total of 104.

We have already noted that when the numerical equivalent of the word tzitzit (600) is combined with the number of knots (5) and threads (8), the value of 613 is obtained, corresponding to the 613 precepts of the Torah. Therefore, when saying the words "la-ad kayamet," one should, while grasping the tzitzit, focus on the thought that the commandments and the Torah are to last forever, that they will never be changed or replaced. For as we chant the Yigdal hymn every Erev Shabbat:

His Law G-d will not replace nor change for any other...

This Proclaims that the holy and exalted Torah that G-d has given us will never be exchanged or altered.

A great sin is committed by any man who avoids the commandment of tzitzit by not wearing a tallit katan. About such a person the scripture says, "Take hold of the ends of the earth that the wicked might be shaken out of it." (Iyov 38:13) That man, on the other hand, who is meticulous in the observance of this commandment, is considered as if he had fulfilled all the commandments of the Torah, and he will merit to behold the luster of the Divine Presence.

- MeAm Lo'ez; Midrash; Rashi; Ramban

Parashat Beha'alotecha

Parashat Beha'alotecha
BaMidbar 8:1-12:16
Zecharya 2:14 - 4:7

Parasha Summary

Lighting the Menorah
G-d describes for Moshe the Menorah for the Ohel Mo'ed
The Leviim are appointed to serve under Aharon and his sons
The Second Pesach in the month of Sivan is given for those who were unable to celebrate during Nissan
G-d's Presence in the cloud by day and the fire by night - departure when the cloud lifts from the Mishkan
The Benei Yisrael complain about the lack of meat
By the instruction of G-d a council of Elders is appointed
A very severe plague strikes the people
Miriam commits lashon harah and is punished with tzaarat (leprosy)

8:1 vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe lemor
And HaShem spoke to Moshe, saying:
2 daber el-Aharon ve'amarta elav behaalotcha et-hanerot el-mul penei hamenora yairu shivat hanerot
Speak to Aharon, and say to him, "When you light the lamps towards the face of the Menorah, shall the seven lamps cast [their] light."
The Midrash relates that Aharon was deeply distressed when he saw that eleven tribes, plus Efrayim, had brought offerings, but G-d had not instructed the tribe of Levi to do the same.

"It is on account of me," he reflected, "that this tribe, at whose head I stand, has not presented an offering.  Because I bear the blame for the Golden Calf, the Leviim have lost the privilege of submitting an offering at the inauguration of the Altar."

But G-d said to Moshe, "Tell your brother Aharon to cease grieving, for his tribe is destined for a more exalted honor.  They will be the ones to set up and light the Menorah of the Temple (Beit HaMikdash)."

This explains why the present Portion of the Torah, which deals with the Menorah-lamp, follows the Portion that dealt with the offerings brought by the tribal leaders. (Rashi; BaMidbar Rabbah; Yalkut Shimoni)

According to another interpretation, G-d said to Moshe, "Go tell Aharon to cease grieving at not having brought an offering for the inauguration (chanukah) of the Altar.  In the future I shall bring about through his descendants another inauguration - one that will be entirely in their hands.  Through the Hasmoneans I will effect wondrous things for the Jewish people, leading to an inauguration that will come to be known as Chanukah beit HaChashmonaim - "The Inauguration by the Hasmonean Dynasty." On that occasion, they will kindle the lights [of the Temple Menorah] which is greater mitzvah than offering sacrifices.  For while sacrificial offerings are brought only when the Temple is standing, the Chanukah lights will be lit throughout all generations - even when there is no Beit HaMikdash.

There is another precept that will alwasy be performed, the Priestly Blessing.  Accordingly, the Torah has placed, in succession, the chapters on the Priestly Blessing, the offerings of the tribal leaders, and the present chapter.  This teaches us that with the first and last commands, G-d comforted Aharon for not having been privileged to present an offering at the dedication of the Altar. (Ramban; Tzeror HaMor; Baal HaTurim)

The following analogy is appropriate.

A certain king once prepared a magnificent feast, and every day he invited numerous guests to celebrate with him.  However, he did not ivite a very great friend of his who loved the king dearly.  Naturally, the friend was deeply pained, imagining that the monarch's failure to invite him was an expression of his displeasure. 
But then the king sent for his friend and said to him, "True, I have made a feast and invited multitudes.  Know, however, that in honor of our friendship it is my intention to arrange a feast to which only you will be invited."

The situation is similar here.  G-d is the Supreme King, the festive occasion is the dedication of the Altar - and G-d says to Aharon, "Do not be distressed at failing to participate in the offerings for the inauguration, for you are the Kohen and there will be an inauguration reserved exclusively for you." (Tanchuma; Yalkut Shimoni)

As the Midrash said that Aharon was deeply distressed when he saw that "eleven tribes, plus Efrayim" had brought offerings.  The particular phrasing of this Midrash seems significant.  Why did it not state, simply, "When Aharon saw that twelve tribes had brought their offerings..."?  Why the particular construction suggesting that Aharon was distressed primarily because of Efrayim?

Recalling Parashat Shemini, that the tribal leaders brought their offerings on successive days, without interruption, beginning with the first day of the week, so that when the leader of Efrayim brought his offering on the seventh day, it was the Shabbat.

Now, a public offering may be presented on the Shabbat, because in relation to it, the prohibition against doing certain activities on this day is suspended.  This is not as regards a private offering.  That is, if an individual wishes to bring a sacrifice in fulfillment of an obligation, whether it be an oath-offering (neder) or a gift-offering (nedavah), he cannot bring it on a Shabbat, because the offering of a private person does not override the Shabbat prohibition against performing the tasks involved.

Thus, had Aharon not seen the tribe of Efrayim bring its offering, on the Shabbat, he would not have been so disturbed.  Instead of concluding that his own tribe had lost the privilege to participate in these sacrificial offerings on account of his wrongdoing, he would have thought that each leader had presented a person offering, not one on behalf of his tribe.  Once he saw that the offering of Efrayim abrogated the Shabbat laws, he knew that it was a public offering - and he was distressed at the implication.

8:3 vayaas ken Aharon el-mul penei haMenorah he'ela neroteiha ka'asher tziva HASHEM et-Moshe
Aharon did so; towards the face of the Menorah he lit its lamps, just as HaShem commanded Moshe.
"Towards the face of the Menorah" refers to the fact that G-d commanded him to arrange for all the lights to face the central branch, which was called "the face of the Menorah (penei hamenorah)."

The Torah here specifically praises Aharon for not having deviated from this instruction. (Rashi)  This seems superfluous, however, for how could Aharon have done other than what G-d commanded him? (Rashi)

The answer is contained in Parashat Tetzaveh, that whenever the Benei Yisrael did G-d's will, a miracle occurred affecting the central or western-most light.  Although the amount of oil in that branch was the same as in the others, sufficient for a single night, it burned an entire night and an entire day - and the lights for the following night were lit from that light.

Accordingly, the verse here tells us that as long as Aharon lived, this miracle continued.  In his merit, consequently, the western light was never extinguished, and the pattern of kindling the other lights from this light never varied. (Esh Dat, Tetzavah)

Another explanation of why it was necessary to emphasize that Aharon did not deviate from the instructions, is related in the following.

The seven lights symbolized seven of our forefathers: Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, David and Shlomo, with the central or western light corresponding to Moshe.  So G-d commanded that all the other lights should face the central light, telling us thereby that the western light (Moshe) was the most important one.  Since all the virtue and greatness of our forefathers derived from the fact that they headed the Torah and fulfilled its commandments, it naturally follows that Moshe, through whom the Torah was given, was the greatest among them.

The lights of the Menorah were meant to make evident this superiority of Moshe vis-a-vis the others.  Since they also served to show that he was greater than Aharon, represented by the fifth light, it might be thought that Aharon would be embarrassed to light the Menorah and demonstrate his inferiority.  So the Torah accents that "Aharon did that, lighting the lamps towards the face of the Menorah, as G-d commanded Moshe." (Zera Berach, Pt. 2)

8:4 vezeh ma'ase hamenorah miksha zahav ad-yerecha ad-pircha miksha hiv kamare asher hera HASHEM et-Moshe ken asa et-hamenorah
This is how the Menorah was made; beaten from [a block of] gold, from its base until its flowers it is beaten out [of solid block], according to the vision which HaShem showed to Moshe, so he made the Menorah.
When G-d commanded Moshe to make the Menorah, He cautioned him against forming it by parts - not to make the branches separately, as one usually does, and then weld them to the body of the Menorah proper. He instructed him to make it as a unity by hammering and molding the form of the Menorah directly from the metal.

Moshe, however, found construction of the Menorah more perplexing than the making of any of the other vessels of the Mishkan.  So G-d showed him a Menorah of fire, which Moshe copied.

That is the significance of, "This is how the Menorah was made... according to the vision that HaShem showed to Moshe."  It was like the Menorah which He had directly pointed out to him. (Tanchuma; Rashi)

An additional amount of information is included in the word vezeh (this) "this is how the Menorah was made.."; namely the height of the Menorah was 18 hand breadths corresponding to the numerical value of וזה (veseh - 5+7+6). (Yad, Bet HaBechirah 2; Sefer Mitzvot Gadol; Rashi; Bachya)

It explains why, facing the Menorah, there was a slab of pure marble, more strikingly beautiful than the gold, upon which the Kohen would ascend to prepare and light the lamps.  On it he would also place the wick tongs and ash scoops - the instruments used in caring for the Menorah.  This marble slab was 8 1/2 hand breadths high and 9 hand breadths long.

It is understood, then, that when the Torah said beha'alotecha, "When you go up..." (8:2), it was referring to the fact that the Kohen would have to ascend the steps of this slab whenever he wished to light the lamps. (Shiltei Giborim 31)

The same word also teaches us that he had to keep on kindling the lamps until the flame rose upward (leha'alot - to raise up).

It carries further connotation of ascent to eminence: the Scripture conveys that this Mitzvah would lend eminence to the Jewish people and increase their prestige in the eyes of the nations. (Rashi)

G-d is saying to the Benei Yisrael, in effect, "It is My wish that by lighting the Menorah you become a light for Me, just as I was a light for you in the wilderness" - as it is written, "G-d went before them by day with a pillar of cloud, to guide them along the way.  By night it appeared as a pillar of fire, providing them with lights" (Shemot 13:21).

An Apt Analogy
A man of normal vision and a blind man were walking along a road, when the former said to the latter, "Here, give me your hand and I will show you the way." 
After they arrived home, however, it was the man with the normal vision who now said to the blind man, "Light a candle for me and illuminate my way to return for what I did for you on the road.  I do not want you to feel humiliated by what I did for you."

G-d sees from one end of the world to the other, including both the good and the evil deeds of men.  The Benei Yisrael represent the blind man, for they had plastered over their eyes against seeing when they erected the Gold Calf.  So G-d proceeded to light the way for them in the wilderness.

Now, however, when they came to build the Mishkan, G-d said to them: "Because I do not want you to feel shame on account of the kindness that I extended to you by illuminating your path in the desert, pay Me back by lighting the Menorah before Me."

It is, of course, meaningless to speak of paying back or rewarding G-d, since He requires no man's light, being Himself the Illuminator of the world.  Nonetheless, He demanded payment as if He were their equal, forfeit the thought, out of His great love for them.  For the nations would then say, "How beloved are the Benei Yisrael before G-d.  See how He did not want them to remain in debt to Him and be ashamed!" (Tanchuma; Rashi)

Why Seven Lamps?

The number of lamps was seven, no more and no less, corresponding to the seven days of Creation.

Some see it as corresponding to the seven heavenly bodies (closest to the earth) - Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, the Sun and the Moon.

Others relate it to the seven nations that Moshe exterminated; as it is written, "He will uproot many nations before you - the Chitti, Girgashi, Amori, Kenaani, Perizi, Chivi and Yevusi - seven nations more numerous and powerful than you are" (Devarim 7:1).  So he made a seven-branched Menorah.

King Shlomo, on the other hand, ruled over seventy nations, as it is written, "Shlomo reigned over all kingdoms..." (1Melachim 5:1).  So he erected a Menorah of seventy branches.

An allusion to this future Menorah of King Shlomo is contained in the present verse, in the words, "The Menorah was made" (asah).  The numerical value of the word עָשָׂה (asah - 5+300+70=375) being the same as that of the name שְׁלֹמֹה (Shlomo - 5+40+30+300=375). (Yalkut Shimoni)

This correspondence derives from the fact that on high there exists seventy prototype nations, that is, the seventy supernal princes - Sarim, each of whom sustains one nation. (Baal HaTurim)

The lights of the physical Menorah serve to extinguish the "lights" of those princes on high.  This may be likened to a system of reality where for every light kindled below - in the material world - a light is dimmed elsewhere (on high).

Accordingly, because Moshe found it necessary to extinguish the lights of seven such "princes," he made a seven-branched Menorah.  Inasmuch as King Shlomo had to extinguish the lights of seventy nations, the Menorah he made comprised seventy branches. (Zera Berach)

8:5 vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe lemor
HaShem spoke to Moshe, saying:
6 kach et-haleviyim mitoch benei Yisrael vetiharta otam
Take the Leviim from among Benei Yisrael and purify them.
In the previous portion, after the first-born and the Leviim were counted, the latter had each been given their respective tasks in the Mishkan.

Here they are instructed, finally, to purify themselves before actually beginning to serve in the Mishkan. (Ramban)

This was necessary because they had remained ritually defiled ever since coming in contact with corpses when they killed all those who had worshiped the Golden Calf.  Thus the Torah had written, "Let each one kill, even his own brother, close friend, or relative" (Shemot 32:27).

All in all, G-d was saying to Moshe, "Take the Leviim - sway them with words of encouragement - and tell them how fortunate they are in having merited to become servants of G-d." (Bachya; Rashi; Yalkut Shimoni)

8:7 vecho-ta'aseh lahem letaharam hazeh aleihem mei chatat vehe'eviru ta'ar al-kol-besaram vechibsu vigdeihem vehiteharu
This is what you shall do to them, to purify them; sprinkle them with the sin-offering waters, and shave their entire bodies, and they shall wash their garments and purify themselves.
They are instructed to pass a razor over their bodies, the law being the same for a leper who is required to shave himself as part of the process of purification first shaving off the hair of his head, his beard, his eyebrows, and then all other body hair.

The Leviim were required to shave off all hair except for the side-locks proscribed by the Torah. (Ibn Ezra; Bachya)

After shaving off all their hair, they were sprinkled with the sin-offering water of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer).  Then they removed their defiled garments and put on clean ones. (Abarbanel)

The First Journey

In the second year after leaving Egypt, on the 20th of Iyar, the cloud rose from the Mishkan, signifying that they were to move away from this location.  It was the first time they broke camp since coming to the Wilderness of Sinai.

It follows that they had stayed in the Wilderness of Sinai - Chorev - twelve months minus ten days, since they had camped there on the first day of the month of Sivan, of the first year, and they were departing on the 20th of Iyar (the month preceding Sivan) of the second year. (Abarbanel; Rashi; Ramban)

10:12 vayisu venei-Yisrael lemaseihem mimidbar Sinai vayishkon he'nan bemidbar Paran
Benei Yisrael traveled along on their journey, form the Sinai desert, and the Cloud came to rest in the desert of Paran.

13 vayisu barishona al-pi HASHEM beyad-Moshe
This was the first time that they traved, on the order of HaShem, through Moshe.
14 vayisa degel machaneh venei-Yehudah barishona letzivotam ve'al-tzevao Nachshon ben-Aminadav
Then traveled the banner of the sons of Yehudah's camp in the forefront according to their divisions; in charge of its divisions [was] Nachshon the son of Aminadav.
15 ve'al-tzeva mate benei Yissashochar Netanel ben-Tzu'ar
In charge of the division of the tribe of the sons of Yissachar, [was] Netanel the son of Tzu'ar.
16 ve'al-tzeva mate benei Zevulun Eli'av ben-Chelon
In charge of the division of the tribe of the sons of Zevulun, [was] Eli'av the son of Chelon. The manner in which they set forth from here, set the pattern of all other departures.  First the cloud would rise from the Mishkan.  Then the trumpets would blare tekiyah-teruah-tekiyah, and the camp of Yehudah, Yissachar and Zevulun, headed by their respective tribal leaders - Nachshon son of Aminadav (Yehudah), Netanel son of Tzu'ar (Yissachar), and Eli'av son of Chelon (Zevulun) - would begin moving.

Why, it may be asked, did the Torah find it necessary to list the names of the leaders, having already listed them earlier?

The Torah, however, wishes to teach us that even when the Benei Yisrael were traveling, they were guided by their leaders.  They obeyed their commands, just as an army executes the orders of its king.

10:17 vehurad hamishkan venasu veneigershon uvenei merari nosei hamishkan
[Then] the Mishkan was dismantled and the sons of Gershon traveled, with the sons of Merari, those who carried the Mishkan.
At the same time that they, the camp of Yehudah, set out, Aharon and his sons would enter the Mishkan, and after removing the partition drape, use it to cover the Holy Ark.

The the Gershoni and Merari would dismantle the Mishkan and load it onto the wagons.  The Holy Ark and the sacred implements, they would leave in their places.

After the camp of Yehudah, Yissachar and Zevulun had left, followed by the Gershoni and Merari bearing the Mishkan, the trumpets would sound once more a tekiyah-teruah-tekiyah refrain, and the banner of the camp of Reuven, Shimon and Gad set forth, led by their respective tribal leaders, Elitzur son of Shedei'ur, Shelumi'el son of Tzuri-shaddai, Elyassaf son De'u'el.

After this camp of three tribes had left, the Kehati would lift the Holy Ark by means of the poles that had been inserted for this purpose, and place it on their shoulders.

When they departed with the Holy Ark, the trumpets would sound tekiyah-teruah-tekiyah a third time, and the camp of Efrayim, Menashe and Binyamin set out, led by their respective leaders, Elishamah son of Amihud, Gamliel son of Padah-tzur, and Avidan son of Gid'oni.

The the tekiya-teruah-tekiyah would be sounded a fourth time, and the banner of the camp of Dan, Asher and Naftali would depart, led by their respective leaders, Achi'ezer, son of Ami-shaddai, Pagi'el son of Achran, and Achirah son of Einan.

Because of its sacredness and great significance, the Holy Ark did not travel ahead of everyone else, but stayed in the middle, at the core of the Benei Yisrael, where it belonged.  There were thus two banners ahead of it and two behind it.

Another reason is this.  Had the Ark traveled at the head, on reaching campsite it would have had to be lowered to the ground, there to wait until the wagons carrying the Mishkan reached it.  To subject the Holy Ark to such a delay before it could be properly set up, would have been irreverent.

Accordingly, it was necessary for two banners to precede it, together with the Mishkan.  In this way, while the Ark was still in transit, the Mishkan would be put up, and when the Ark finally arrived, it could be set in place without having to stand in the open even for a moment.

Dan is referred to as "the ingatherer of the camps" because as the most powerful of the tribes, it remained at the rear. Marching last, it would "gather up" and collect whatever anyone had forgotten or left behind, and return it to its owner.

This journey away from the Wilderness of Sinai took three days, until they set up camp at Paran. (Ramban, Yitro; Bachya)

10:33 vayisu mehar HASHEM derech sheloshet yamim va'aron berit-HASHEM nosea lifneihem derech sheloshet yamim latur lahem menucha
They traveled from the mountain of HaShem a journey of three days, and the Ark of the Covenant of HaShem traveled in front of them a journey of three days, to prepare for them a place to settle.
34 va'anan HASHEM aleihem yomam benasam min-hamachane
The Cloud of HaShem was above them by day when they traveled from the camp.
Two Arks accompanied the Benei Yisrael in the desert.  In one Ark lay the last Tablets that Moshe brought down from the mountain of Sinai: this Ark never left the Ohel Mo'ed when not in transit, and en route it was carried in the center of the formations.

In the second Ark lay the fragments of the first Tablets that Moshe had shattered, and all alone it would precede the Benei Yisrael a distance of three-day's journey, clearing a path for them.

Hence the significance of the present verse declaring that "the Ark of G-d's covenant traveled three days ahead of them in order to find them a place to settle."

In other words, this particular Ark was used for readying a campsite for them; it would also accompany them into battle. (Shekalim, Chapter 6, according to Rashi; Radak.  See Raman; Abarbanel)

As this Ark moved along, two rays of sparks spurted from between the carrying poles, incinerating the snakes and scorpions and destroying whatever hostile elements came out against the Benei Yisrael. (Yalkut Shimoni)

The Torah now goes on to tell us that on the first journey, the Benei Yisrael, upon leaving the wilderness of Chorev (Sinai) on their way to the Wilderness of Paran, a distance of three-day's journey, covered the distance in one day, after the Ark prepared the way for them.

Besides that deployed Ark, the Benei Yisrael were enveloped by seven clouds of Glory - four along the four geographical directions, one over them, and one beneath them.  They were thus spared the inconvenience of the winds, the rain, and the dew.  The cloud that advanced before them smoothed their path.

Because they were thus enclosed by the clouds, the Benei Yisrael were not so much like wayfarers traveling on foot, but like passengers on a ship who take no heed of the motion of the vessel, neither by day or night.  Unperturbed by the elements around them, they felt as if they were in their own homes. (Rashi; Yalkut Shimoni)

10:35 vayehi binso'a ha'aron vayomer Moshe kuma HASHEM veyafutzu oiveicha veyanusu mesaneicha mipaneicha
Whenever the Ark departed Moshe would say, "Rise, HaShem, and may your enemies disperse, and those who hate You flee before You."
36 uvenucho yomar shuva HASHEM rivavot alfei Yisrael
When it rested, he would say, "Com to rest, HaShem, among the myriads and thousands of Yisrael."
We can easily see that this small chapter is out of place here, that it actually belongs after Chapter 18 of BaMidbar, which begins with, "On the march, the Ohel Mo'ed and the camp of the Leviim shall then proceed" (BaMidbar 2:17).

The chapter was inserted here, however, to act as a separation between one affliction and another, that is, between the chapter of, "[The Benei Yisrael] marked [the distance of] a three day journey from G-d's mountain," and the forthcoming chapter of, "The people began to complain and it was evil in G-d's ears."

That the present chapter is out of its proper place, is indicated in the Torah scroll by being bracketed within inverted letters Nun.  This tells us that it properly belongs 50 chapters earlier, near the verse, "On the march..." (Shayarei Kenesset HaGedolah, Yoreh Deah, in notes on Beit Yosef; Shabbat, Chapter 16; Bachya; Baal HaTurim; Sifetei Kohen; Rashi)

Another explanation given for the two inverted Nuns, pertains to the fact that the great merit of the Benei Yisrael, after all, stemmed from their having uttered two words at Mount Sinai: na'aseh "we shall do" and nishma "we shall heed."

That their distinction derives from this moment, is related to the fact that when G-d appeared on the mountain of Sinai, He was accompanied by 600,000 angelic beings that bestowed upon every Benei Yisrael two crowns so to speak, bearing the inscription of G-d's Explicit Name.  These corresponded to Na'aseh and nishma.

At this time they were more beloved than angels, having become transformed into spiritual beings.  Now, however, they were determined to free themselves of the yoke [of self-control] imposed upon them by the commandments of the Torah, and were running away from Mount Sinai like a man running away from a conflagration.  So, correspondingly, the Nun's were overturned, symbolizing the fact that now their condition was the obverse of what it had been when they exclaimed, "We shall do, and we shall heed (na'aseh v'nishma).

In this connection, note that the name of the Hebrew Nun (נ׳ו׳ן) is the acrostic of na'aseh v'nishma (נַ׳עֲשֶׂה וְ׳נִ׳שְׁמַע).

But why was this particular chapter inserted as a separation?

The answer - because these verses are pervaded with auspicious significance, projecting as they do the pinnacle of eminence that characterized the Benei Yisrael in the desert prior to their transgressions. (Yalkut Shimoni. See Rashi; Nachalat Yaakov)

Thus, although whenever they were ready to move on, the cloud would lift from above the Mishkan (hence, "Arise O Hashem") and the Ark that stayed ahead of them would stir, ready to depart (hence, "and scatter Your enemies!  Let Your foes flee before You!"), the cloud did not actually begin moving, nor did the Ark advance, until Moshe called out the appropriate words.

Similarly, when the Benei Yisrael were about to set up camp, the cloud and the Ark did not halt unless Moshe cried out, "Return, O HaShem, [to] the myriads of Yisrael's thousands."

This pattern found explicit expression in the earlier verse, "They thus camped at G-d's word and moved on at G-d's word, keeping the trust in G-d.  [It was all done] according to G-d's word through Moshe."

In other words, coming to rest and setting forth was conditional both upon the command of G-d and the command of Moshe.

"Arise," Moshe was saying, "so that the enemy who ventures out against us will be scattered before You, and those who come to oppress us out of hatred for You, will flee from Your presence.

On the other hand, when setting up camp he would exclaim, "Return, O HaShem, [to] the myriads of Yisrael's thousands." That is, "Rest Your presence upon the myriads of Yisrael's thousands, and let not Your Shechinah depart from them.  Bless them and multiply them into the thousands and tens of thousands." (Ralbag)

(To be continued...)

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