The Torah Portion of Shelach
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
"For the tribe of Yosef, for the tribe of Menashe" (Bamidbar13: 11)
Regarding Ephraim it is not written "For the tribe of Yosef, for the tribe of Ephraim" . The Daat Zekainim explains, that here Yosef received his punishment for speaking an evil report about the brothers. It is written "the tribe of Yosef" next to the tribe of Menashe, since there came out from that tribe Gadi ben Susi who was one of those sent by Moshe to spy out the Land (who brought up an evil report on the land of Israel), and it isn't written "the tribe of Yosef" next to the tribe of Ephraim, since there came out from that tribe Yehoshua bin Nun, who did not agree with the advice of the spies (i.e., the 10 spies who spoke an evil report on the land of Israel).
"And you will look upon the land, what is it?" (Bamidbar 13:18)
3 times in the Torah it is written "And you will look", to hint about the statement (in Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 3, first Mishna) "Know from where you came, and to where you are going, and before Whom in the future you will give a judgment and accounting" :
1) "And you will look upon the birth-stool" (Shemot 1:16, regarding the order that Pharoah gave to the midwives), hints about the phrase: "from where you came".
2) "And you will look upon the Land, what is it?" (Bamidbar 13:18, regarding Moshe's instructions to the spies), hints about the phrase: "to where you are going".
3) "And you will look upon it and remember all the Mitzvot of Hashem" (Bamidbar 15:39, regarding the Mitzvah of Tzitzit), hints about the about the phrase: "and before Whom in the future you will give a judgment and accounting" .
The Holy Ari says, that the bringing of the first fruits is an atonement for the sin of the spies.
Rabbi Menachem Zambe ztz"l explains, for this reason it is written in the Mishna, "One who goes down into his field and sees a grape cluster which is a first fruit, a pomegranate which is a first fruit, a fig which is a first fruit, ties upon it a band, etc." In truth, for all of the seven kinds (for which the Land of Israel is praised) it is required to bring first fruits from them, but the Tanna in the Mishna emphasized these particular kinds, because it was these particular kinds of fruits that were taken by the spies, and in this way we repair the spiritual damage caused by that sin.
The spies went on the 29th of Sivan and returned on the 8th of Av.
On the night after that, they (all the people who believed the evil report of the spies) wept. Hashem said, you cried for nothing, I will fix for you a weeping for the generations, and this is the day of the destruction of our Temple on Tisha B'av.
The punishment of the spies.
The punishment of the spies was, that their tongues stretched out until their navels, and there were worms coming out of their tongues until their navels, and they were suffering like that until the 17th of Elul, and that day is their Yahrzheit; so it is written in the Shulchan Aruch, Siman 580. The Bait Yosef asks, why was the day of the death of the spies counted among the fast days for Tzaddikim (righteous people)? Isn't it written that "when evil people perish there is rejoicing song"? However, they probably repented, but did not merit to have their repentance accepted.
"The beginnnings of your kneadings you shall raise up a loaf as a portion" (Bamidbar 15:20)
The word for kneading in Hebrew is "arisa" , which can also be understood as "bed" . Immediately when you get up in the morning from the bed, it is necessary to begin serving Hashem, and from that you will have a lot of success during the rest of the day. (from Mayana Shel Torah)
"The beginnings of your kneadings... " (Bamidbar 15:20)
There are people that say that at the time of their old age, then they will have free time to serve Hashem. And that is what the meaning of the words "the beginnings of your kneadings" refers to: during your youth, immediately serve Hashem, and don't wait for a later time. "Don' t say that when I will have free time I will learn, for perhaps you won't ever be free". (from Mayana Shel Torah)
"On the corners of their garments" (Bamidbar 15:38)
And why did it command to put the Tzitzit on the corners of the garment? It says in the Midrash and is brought by Rashi, this is in order to recall for us the goodness that the Holy One Blessed Be He did for them in the time that they went out from Egypt, for it is said "And I carried you on eagles' wings" (Shemot 15:4). (Note: The Hebrew word for corners and wings, which is "Kanfei" , appears in both of these verses.) And why does a Tallit of 4 corners require Tzitzit, and not one with 6, or 5, or 3? This is in parallel to the 4 languages of redemption which were stated in Egypt: "and I will bring you out", "and I will deliver you", "and I will redeem you", "and I will take you" (Shemot 6:6-7) The torquoise wool is becasue of the plague of the first-born which was at night, because torquoise wool is simlar to the color of the sky when it is darkened at night. The 8 threads correspond to the 8 days that passed from the slaughtering of the Passover offering until the splitting of the Reed Sea.
The word Tzitzit has the Gematria (numerical value) of 600, and has in it 8 strings and 5 knots, together adding up to the number 613 (the number of Mitzvot in the Torah)
The Gr"a z"l wept before his death. His students said to him, behold, you have been serving Hashem all the days of your life, so why do you need to weep? Certainly you will merit the World to Come. He said to them, that he is crying because he is going away from such a world as this, in which it is possible to merit for a small amount of money, to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tzitzit which is weighed against the whole, entire Torah. (Note: see preceding paragraph, which shows how the Tzitzit stand for all 613 Mitzvot.) And there (in the World to Come) it is already impossible to fulfill this great Mitzvah.
There is a puzzling Midrash that says: "Tzaddikim (Righteous people) eat Cooked Food, enjoy Robbery, and say Chedolaomer (a word which is similar to Chedorlaomer, the name of one of the Kings in the war between the four kings and five kings in the days of Avraham Avinu)". The Midrash can be understood by means of Roshei Teivot, the initial letters of the Hebrew words for "Cooked Food", "Robbery" and "Chedolaomer". The Hebrew word for "Cooked Food" is "Mevushal", which is spelled with the Hebrew letters "Mem", "Bait", "Shin, and "Lamed". These letters are the initial letters of the Hebrew words in the saying "Mistapek B'mah Sheyaish Lo", which means "He is satisfied with what he has", which refers to Rebbe Chanina Ben Dosa, who was satisfied with a small portion of Carob from one Shabbat to the next Shabbat. The Hebrew word for "Robbery" is "Gezel", which is spelled with the Hebrew letters "Gimel", "Zayin", and "Lamed". These letters are the initial letters of the Hebrew words in the saying "Gam Zu L'tova", which means "Also this is for the good". Thus, "enjoying Robbery", is a reference to Nachum Ish Gam Zu, whose favorite saying was "Also this is for the good". [Note: there is a story told about Nachum Ish Gam Zu, in which some thieves robbed him. They emptied out a box of treasures that he was entrusted to carry and refilled it with seemingly worthless sand and dirt. Ultimately benefited because of that robbery.] "Chedolaomer" is spelled with the Hebrew letters "Kaf" "Dalet", "Lamed", "Ayin", "Mem" and "Raish". These letters are the initial letters of the Hebrew words in the saying "Kol Mah D'aveed Rachmana L'Tav Aveed", which means "Everything that the Merciful One (i.e., Hashem) does, is done for the good". This is a reference to Rebbe Akiva, who frequently said "Everything that the Merciful One does, is done for the good".
The Torah Portion of Shelach has 119 verses. Haftora: "Vayishlach Yehoshua" (Yehoshu 2)Pirkei Avot, Chapter 3 (second cycle).
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772