The Portion of Shelach

Numbers 13:1-15:41

This week’s portion focuses primarily on the Sin of the Spies, which results in God’s decree that the Israelites must wander in the desert for forty years instead of entering the land of Israel directly. It also includes details regarding a number of laws, such as the libations which must be brought alongside certain sacrifices and the separation of a portion of all bread baked for the sustenance of the priests. We are told what must be done to atone for sins and, through the example of the wood-gatherer, what to do with those who violate the Sabbath. The portion ends with the command to tie fringes, or tzitzit, onto the corners of any four-cornered garment.

 

 

Topic 1: The Sin of the Spies

In our portion, God tells Moses to choose a representative from each tribe to scout out the land that He has chosen to give the people. Moses selects reliable men and instructs them to examine the country carefully, not only militarily (are the cities fortified? What are the people like?), but also agriculturally (is the… Read More »

 

 

Topic 2: Punishment

God is infuriated by the people’s mistrust and ingratitude, and threatens to wipe out the nation. Moses begs God to reconsider, taking into account the impression such action would make on the nations that watched God take Israel out of Egypt. God relents, in accordance with Moses’s words, and opts instead to sentence the nation… Read More »

 

 

Topic 3: Libations, Challah and Atonement

The Torah describes the accompanying offerings that must be brought alongside sacrifices. Depending on the animal brought, the Torah lists the amount of flour, oil and wine that is to accompany the offering. This applies regardless of who brings the offering.   The Torah also sets out the requirement of separating Challah, a portion of… Read More »

 

 

Topic 4: Public Desecration of the Sabbath and Tzitzit

A brief story is related in which an individual is caught collecting wood on the Sabbath, an act that is forbidden. The people bring the man before Moses, for they do not know what to do with him. God instructs Moses to execute the sinner by stoning him outside the camp.   The portion ends… Read More »
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