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May 30, 2013 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-05-30

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>> Torah portion

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Our Strength Lies
In Viewing Ourselves

Parshat Shelach: Numbers 13:1-15:41;
Joshua 2:1-2:24.

Efrat, Israel

T

he most difficult incident in
the desert was the refusal of
the Israelites to conquer the
Land of Israel. Had they left Egypt
and made their way directly to the
Promised Land, the redemption
would have happened immediately.
The day they refused to
conquer Israel was the
ninth day of Av, a true
doomsday of Jewish his-
tory, on which we com-
memorate the destruction
of both Temples, the expul-
sion of Jews during the
Spanish Inquisition and
the Nuremberg decrees
that signaled the beginning
of the Holocaust.
What is the connection
between the sin of the
scouts and the commandment of the
ritual fringes that concludes this por-
tion? The Sfat Emet (Yehuda Aryeh
Leib Alter, 1847-1905) explains the
sins of the scouts in profound psycho-
logical terms. He asks how renowned
men, who had just experienced the
miracles of the Exodus from Egypt,
could lose their faith in God to such
an extent that they refused to attempt
the conquest of Israel. His response is
that their sin was not a lack of faith
in God; their sin was a lack of faith in
themselves: "We were in our own eyes
as grasshoppers..." (Numbers 13:33).
The scouts seem to have been
dumbstruck by the power of the
indigenous peoples and by their own
impotence. The inherent message of
that sentence of self-deprecation is
that if we see ourselves as being small
and powerless, that is exactly how
our enemies will see us. Their sin was

that they didn't believe in themselves.
This is the most profound message
of the ritual fringes — and specifi-
cally of the t'chelet, the royal blue-
dyed fringes entwined with the white
threads that are reminiscent of the
blue-white of the sea, the blue-white
of the heavens and the presence of
God.
The first message of the
ritual fringes, therefore, is
to remind us of God and
His commandments, which
must follow us wherever
we go just as our outer gar-
ment follows us wherever
we go.
But there is a second
idea. The high priest in
the sanctuary wore a tzitz
(turban) made of fchelet
(blue dye) with words upon
it reading "Holy unto the
Lord:' T'chelet was the highest symbol
of the high priest and echelet was the
color that emanated from the expen-
sive dye taken from the rare hilazon
fish; it was worn by royalty and by the
aristocracy.
Every Israelite male was com-
manded to wear echelet because he
was indeed a miniature high priest
imbued and emboldened with the
command to be a member of a sacred
nation and a kingdom of priests/
teachers to all of humanity.
We dare not forget the high calling
with which God charged us to bring
blessing and redemption to the entire
world. We dare not lose faith in our-
selves because if we do, the world will
not be redeemed. ❑

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin is chancellor of
Ohr Torah Stone and chief rabbi of Efrat,

Israel.

May all your dreams
come true!
You have been such a joy
in our lives!

Love,
Mom,Dad, Davis, Sam
Toto & Bentley

1Via z

tr

We are so proud of you!
Congratulations on getting
your Masters.
You are an incredible perso n
and will go far in life.
Much success in your career.

All our lore,
Mom, Dad, Jeff and Sim

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You continually make us proud, keep
shining your light, we look forward to
sharing your journey ahead.

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May all your dreams come true!

You have been such a joy in our

Love

Mom,Dad, Da

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May 30 • 2013

41

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