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July 24, 2017

Shlach Lecha (Send Forth) Parsha – Weekly Torah Portion

Shlach Lecha

Numbers 13:1-15:41

This Week’s Torah Portion | June 11 – June 17, 2017 – 17 Sivan – 23 Sivan, 5777

In A Nutshell

The portion begins with Moses sending the twelve heads of the tribes to spy in the land of Israel, to examine it and prepare to enter it. The spies return and describe a land flowing with milk and honey, but occupied by giants that will make it impossible to enter the land, conquer it, and rule it. Their words spread fear in the people, except for Joshua Ben Nun, and Caleb Ben Yephunneh. This angers the Creator and He wants to destroy the entire people. Moses prays and asks for mercy on the people. As a result, only the ten spies that slandered the land die in a plague. The other two, Joshua Ben Nun and Caleb Ben Yephunneh continue to accompany the people. Later in the portion, the children of Israel trip once more and seek to run back to Egypt. In the end they repent and abort their decision. Afterward Israel make another mistake: they try to fight and conquer the land without instructions to do so, and therefore fail. The portion ends with the instruction to wander another forty years in the desert until the entire generation of the spies passes away, except for Joshua Ben Nun, who is to lead the people into the land of Israel. 

 Commentary by Dr. Michael Laitman

We have to develop from our will to receive, from our ego, into a state in which we come to be “the people of Israel,” when we are all Yashar El (straight to God), having the quality of the Creator: bestowal and love. We will all be in “love your neighbor as yourself,”[1] in love of others, because we have no other choice. We must not go by our own reason, which alternates between dictations to advance and retreat. Rather, we must fight while examining if we are doing what is right, and if the way is right. The portion explains that we cannot know what to do or even where to start. It is a problem because we are accustomed to work by the mode of “A judge has only what his eyes see.”[2] It seems as though we must advance by following our essence, according to our Kelim (vessels/tools), using our minds and hearts. The Creator demands that we develop and do something. But how can we do something if we cannot tell between right and wrong, if we do not know whether to move forward into war or run back to Egypt? We can see that there are giants in the land of Israel. And while there are also fruits there, we cannot tell who rules there, which desires, or how big they are.Hence, the portion, Shlach Lecha (Send Forth) explains how we should advance correctly. There is a demand by which a person must check the road with one’s reason and see how to advance in spiritual development. The whole Torah speaks of spiritual development, how we can move from a state of egoism into one of love of others, as in, “love your neighbor as yourself; it is a great rule in the Torah.”[3] This is why we must go by what our eyes see and examine our egos, our ill wills, and see how we hate others, repel them, think only of ourselves, and how isolated we are from others and cannot even think of them. Instead, we should picture what love is, if and how much we love others others, how much can we think of others and unite with them (as the global crisis demand of us to do these days). We feel that we are facing this great assignment, which is why the wisdom of Kabbalah is appearing, so we may ask for help to rise to the degree of connection and unity, of real love of others, since without it we will not survive in this developing world. The time has now come for us to begin to actualize the Torah. This is why we have come to the land of Israel and settled here after the exile, after all the preparations we have experienced all through history. Today we must be as spies, scrutinizing the meaning of “being a spy” and the meaning of “love your neighbor as yourself,” to see if we can do it or not, and what we must in order to achieve it. When we consider our current state compared to the state we must achieve we see it is impossible. This is the problem of the spies. They were not told that they had to do anything except check and see that it was impossible, yet want it so much as to make us feel we have to achieve love of others because this is the Creator’s will. This is how our entire development should be. We must reach one of two pressure points: the first is that we cannot achieve love others because without it we have no life, and the second is that we must achieve it nonetheless. We have to come to a great cry with faith above reason, and then comes the light that reforms, as it is written, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the Torah as a spice”[4] because “the light in it reforms.”[5] The light embedded in the Torah, in the proper study of it, in the internality of the Torah, namely the wisdom of Kabbalah, comes and corrects us. Therefore, there is no need to run back to Egypt or cry that we cannot do it because “It is not for you to complete the work, neither are you free to idle away from it.”[6] Rather, all we need is to act, as it is written, “Whatever your hand finds to do by your strength, that do” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). And the minute we come to a point of complete shattering, then “The Lord will fight for you” (Exodus 14:14). Therefore, we need not go to war and think that we will win by our own strength. Who are we after all? One the one hand, before us is the massive, bursting ego that is stopping us, as those giants that live in the land of Israel portray.”[7] In truth, they are our own desires facing us, and we cannot fight them. However, we must confront them although we know we cannot overcome them. On the other hand, we must rise to faith, to a great power of demand until the light comes and corrects these desires from hostile ones into desires of the land of Israel. Indeed, it is a dilemma that we face prior to entering a new degree, to which we must prepare. It always happens, every time. The inner war is against our desires and qualities because “the inclination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). We are all born with an ego that keeps developing. If we advance toward spiritual ascent it develops even more, as it is written, “He who is greater than his friend, his inclination is bigger than him.”[8] This is why we cannot fight the ever growing ego. However, if we are in the right environment and annul ourselves before it, regarding the people around us as the greatest in the generation, we begin to absorb from them the importance of the goal. The friends give us the sensation that it is possible, that we can burst in such a way that will lead to a genuine prayer, to the “gate of tears.” On the one hand, we are aware that we cannot that correction in us; on the other hand we know that the light, the Creator, can make it in us, if we only ask, if the goal is more important to us than anything. This why our work is in a group, in the right environment, because this is the only way we can muster the strength to advance on the right path. Questions and Answers It takes time before one can adopt a new environment. True, there are many inner struggles and things to overcome, but it does not always feel like that. That is, we experience different situations, some good, some not as good, and some frightening. It depends on the pace of progress and the time we dedicate to tit. What are the spies? Whom are we fooling? The spies are within. When we want to know how to advance despite everything, we need to examine the road. After we examine it we must not go with the spies, favor them, or listen to them since we examine the road with only our five egoistic senses. In other words, should we not believe what we think and feel? Of course not, how can you believe them? Assume we are at a certain degree, and need to rise to a higher one. The gap between the degrees is an entirely different life, and different mind and heart. How can we rise from degree to degree when we do not know what the next degree is like because it is in a different, spiritual dimension? In that dimension, the qualities and thoughts are different, the perception of reality is different, and so is the worldview. When do we understand that we have risen a degree? We understand it only once we are there. The question is how can we reach it? The desires and the fruits in the land of Israel are so big; everything is big. From the point where we stand we cannot ascend by ourselves because only the upper light that created the ego can correct it. This is why it is written, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the Torah as a spice” because “the light in it reforms.” That is, only through the light are we reformed. And once we are corrected we rise to a higher degree. What does it mean that ten spies say one thing and two of them say something else? It is very confusing. They are qualities within us. “Man is a small world.”[9] All the portions in the Torah deal with the development of man’s soul. This portion describes the spies, where ten think one way and two think another. However, this is a good situation, when the soul advances properly, this is why ten are against and two are in favor. How do we know to whom we should listen? It is a problem. We have to make mistakes. It is written, “A person cannot understand words of Torah unless he has failed in them,”[10] and also, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does good and will not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). At each step, we sin, fall into wickedness, and taste our own evil. Our lack of progress is caused only by us. We see how we make our own lives bitter, as though retreating further from our initial point. This is the sign that we are advancing correctly. Henceforth, we move on. That is, we must go through everything that is happening in the Torah, all the mistakes, problems, and everything that is on the way. Is there nothing we can do? We cannot avoid doing. We must examine our evil inclination to the fullest and ask for help each time we are stuck. If we do not taste the bitter, we also do not demand the light that will come and correct our evil. Then the light enters the evil, corrects it, and we receive a soul. The evil, along with the light that corrected it and fills it is called a “soul.” This is the only way to obtain a soul. Prior to that, we have none. Is this what “a land flowing with milk and honey” means? Yes. Eretz (land) means Ratzon (desire), a desire that is all milk and honey. That is, it is the degree of Bina, light of Hassadim, the desire to bestow, with light of Hochma inside, meaning attainment, closeness to the Creator. The spies point out the nations that live in the land; why is it important? These are desires within us that we need to correct in three lines. We need to correct them in the twelve tribes—YodHeyVavHey in three lines, to make it YodHeyVavHey times three. The land is also called “the land of Canaan”. Did Moses not lead them to the land of Israel? Before it was called “the land of Israel,” it was called “the land of Canaan”. Before it was “the land of Canaan”, it was Egypt, then a desert. It is the same desire; there is only one, but it is given different names each time according to its corruption or correction. Is Canaan a desire that is scrutinized before it becomes Israel? Before one conquers the desire in the proper manner, it is called “the land of Canaan”. What are the giant fruits? The fruits are what a person receives as a result of one’s work. It is the flavor of the intention to bestow that one performs and feels in the will to receive. These are truly huge fruits, 620 times bigger. We taste pleasures because we develop and understand what bestowal means, what is the sensation of the Creator in a corrected desire. The children of Israel are still in the will to receive, yet they are told about fruits that exist in the desire to bestow. How can they grasp what it is about or know it is good? When a person stands before the next degree to which one ascends, it is possible to see that degree “from afar,” similar to Moses who saw the land of Israel from Mount Nevo. What does it mean that we taste the good, which is then taken from us so we may climb another step? A person can take these fruits, carry them on one’s back, and possess them, but not taste them. There is still no Kli (vessel) in which to fill oneself with all the attainments, pleasures, and fulfillments that exist in the desire to receive in order to bestow in a corrected soul. It sounds like a great promise; why would anyone want to run from it? It requires substantial, difficult corrections, which are impossible to do. The reward for doing them is wonderful, but this requires fighting huge desires—all the nations that dwell in the land of Israel. But it is not a war that one fights alone; rather, the light does it. It is not easy to attain it, understand that we do not correct the desire. The children of Israel want to advance, which is a mistake. Alternatively, they want to run back to Egypt; this is a mistake, as well, or go to the land of Israel by themselves, and again, it is a mistake. So what do you do? Cry out and demand. Where does one find the strength to endure not being able to fight or run? Is it the group that gives strength? Yes, the strength of Arvut (mutual guarantee). The Creator broke the single soul that He created into myriad pieces. Other than that, the Creator created nothing. And it is all so we may feel that we are independent in our own shares, and be able to acquire the rest of the parts, thus becoming similar to the Creator. Each of us acquires that great soul; each one becomes as great as the Creator and is in Dvekut (adhesion) with Him. Our whole work is to keep acquiring parts of our soul, which seems to us as though it is not ours, but others’. The means to do it is the group, as it is written, “Either friendship or death.”[11] When we connect to a group and to people who want the same goal, we create unity among us, which elevates the importance of the goal until we are ready to demand it, and then comes the light and reforms. The Creator wanted to destroy the people of Israel and Moses prayed for them. What kind of a solution is that? It is a struggle within. Moses is the point that pulls us forward, the point of Bina. He is the faithful shepherd. We constantly advance with faith, with the power of bestowal. The term “faith” does not refer to blind faith, as we normally think, where we do what we are told. Rather, faith is the quality of bestowal. It is when one is willing to give to everyone, as it is written, “That which you hate, do not do to your friend,”[12] and “love your neighbor as yourself,” meaning give everything we have. This is the goal we must achieve. Moses is that point within each of us, the spiritual gene that pulls us toward that quality. It gradually develops in us and through it we can reach the land of Israel. Why did the ten spies die? It is not life and death in the sense we think of it. Their death means that their role has ended because in the form that they have it is impossible to advance. These are all qualities within us. It is possible to advance with the qualities known as Joshua and Caleb, but not with the rest of the qualities. Joshua and Caleb are two lines, Gematrias, qualities. From The Zohar: The Spies However, do not rebel against the Creator. We must not rebel against the Torah because the Torah does not require wealth or vessels of silver and gold. And you, do not fear the people of the land, for if a broken body engages in the Torah, it will find healing for everything. It is written, “And health to all their flesh.” All the slanderers over a person turn into his helpers and declare, “Make way for so and so, the King’s servant!” In other words, let no one stop him from coming to the King to serve Him.

Zoharfor AllShlach Lecha (Send Forth), item 67

It is impossible to advance to the next degree, the land of Israel, unless we see it as a great, sublime degree, the degree of Bina. When entering the degree of the land of Israel, when we acquire it, it becomes Keter (crown), meaning the world of Ein Sof (infinity). When we see what fruits grow there and how incapable we are of getting them we enter the desert. We cannot go around the desert or avoid walking through it. Forty years is the distance between Malchut and Bina, the distance of the ascent to that level. After forty years we are ready to reacquire the quality of bestowal, to reenter the ego and begin to correct it into the intention to receive in order to bestow, namely the degree of the land of Israel. Following the desert, we enter the land of Israel, where wars over the conquest of the land take place. There we turn the will to receive into the desire to bestow. In all forty years of the desert, we only had the intention to bestow in order to bestow. That is, we corrected ourselves only to the point of not harming others. But once we enter the land of Israel we do good to others. Why did the Creator not let the people win? After all, they awakened with a certain desire and He seemingly prevented it from them. The Creator did not prevent it; He only showed how unprepared to enter the land of Israel they still were. However, by seeing that they were unprepared they understood which Kelim they had to acquire. These are the forty years in the desert, the great corrections we have to undergo, and which we cannot avoid.


[1] Jerusalem Talmud, Seder Nashim, Masechet Nedarim, Chapter 9, p 30b. 

[2] Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Baba Batra, 131a; Masechet Sanhedrin, 6b.

[3] Jerusalem Talmud, Seder Nashim, Masechet Nedarim, Chapter 9, p 30b.

[4] Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Kidushin, 30b.

[5] Midrash Rabah, Eicha, Introduction, Paragraph 2.

[6] Mishnah, Seder Nezikin, Masechet Avot (a.k.a. Pirkey Avot), Chapter 2, Mishnah 16.

[7] Deuteronomy 1:28. [8] Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Sukkah, 52a.

[9] Midrash Tanchuma, Pekudei, item 3.

[10] Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Gitin, 43a.

 [11] Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Taanit, 23a.

 [12] Masechet Shabbat, 31a.

  

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