Shelah Lekha – Perasha Synopsis

In Perashat Shelah Lekha, Hashem accedes to the demands of Bene Yisrael and instructs Moshe to choose a representative from each tribe in order to send them as a delegation to spy on the Land of Canaan.  Moshe appoints twelve men including Yehoshua bin Nun, and Caleb ben Yephuneh.  Moshe asks them to survey the the land to determine how it is, if the people are weak or strong, if the conditions in the land are good or bad, and to sample the fruits which the land has to offer.

After touring the land for 40 days, the delegation returns.  The spies agree that the land is flowing with milk and honey, yet they fear the inhabitants, and depict them as strong and fearless.  They describe the Nephillim, giant like men, who perceived them to be grasshoppers in size.  Caleb tries to silence his fellow spies, and assures Bene Yisrael that they will conquer the land. This causes hysteria throughout the nation, and a suggestion is made to return to Egypt.  The two spies, Yehoshua and Caleb in the lead, attempt to placate Bene Yisrael, but they are pelted with stones.  Hashem, disappointed at the situation threatens to eliminate Bene Yisrael. Moshe successfully intervenes on the people’s behalf, and appeals to Hashem to spare Bene Yisrael, if not only to protect His own good name.  Hashem instead decides to punish Bene Ysrael by having them wander in the desert for 40 years, until the entire generation of those who were taken from Egypt is gone. He spares the lives of Yehoshua and Caleb, because of their positive spirits. The other spies die in a plague. Bene Yisrael realizing their mistake ask for forgiveness, but are struck by the neighboring Amalekites and Canaanites in battle.

The Perasha also discusses the Missva of separating out a piece of Hallah as a portion for Hashem, as well as the atonement process for idol worship.  The incident known as “mekoshesh essim – a tree chopper” is described, an activity deemed to be a desecration of the Sabbath which carries the death penalty. The Perasha ends with the Missva of Sissit, as a reminder for all, about Hashem who has delivered Bene Yisrael from slavery in Egypt.

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