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Friday, June 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Shelach

I am saddened to report of the passing of my great uncle, Rabbi Shlomo Jakobovits, earlier this week. He was the principal of Eitz Chaim schools in Toronto for over 30 years. He was also well known by all who met him as a man who was fluent in Torah and history and possessed a unique ability to captivate listeners while expressing his broad knowledge. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Shlomo ben Yoel.


Keeping it "in the family," here is an interesting linguistic nuance I heard last year from my cousin, Dr. Yoel Jakobovits. As we all know, parshas Shelach begins with the infamous story of the meraglim. Or does it? The term is never used once. Although in parshas Chukas, it states (21:32) that Moshe sent "leragel es Yazer," here that verb is not used. Rather, the men are sent lasur. However, when the episode is recounted in the beginning of Devarim, it is stated (Devarim 1:24) of the men, "vayragelu osah." And of course, when Yosef first meets his brothers in Mitzrayim, he indeed charges them with being meraglim.


The difference in meaning and thus, the reason for the change, he explains, is that a tar would seem to be someone who is seeking out the good, exploring the virtues of the area. Perhaps this is even the origin of the English word, to tour. This was supposed to be the essence of the mission of these 12 men. Indeed, Yehoshua and Caleiv stayed true to that mission with a glowing report of how beautiful and plentiful the land is and how easily it can be conquered. However, there was a transformation that took place from the original purpose and for the other 10 men, it became a very negative fact-finding mission. Ultimately, in retrospect, as recounted in Devarim, they went as meraglim. The other instances in which we see the term used is also with a negative connotation. The spies in Chukas were sent to exploit the weaknesses of Yazer and Yosef charged his brothers with doing the same of Mitzrayim.


The term used at the beginning of the parsha is used once again at the end, regarding tzitzis - velo sasuru acharei levavchem ve'acharei eineichem. Here, too, it can be explained that what the Torah is warning us not to do, is to follow our hearts and eyes when they appear to be seeking out a better life for us. We must stay true to our path and not stray after the temptations they present before us.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
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