Sh’lach: Don’t Tell Me What to Do!

Sefer BaMidbar is filled with one tragic mistake after another. This week’s disaster is the episode of the spies who convinced B’nei Yisrael to reject Eretz Yisrael. Despite Hashem’s promises that He would safely lead the people into the Land, the m’raglim scared the nation with an evil report, replete with lies that Hashem was not capable of conquering the native giants. Considering that Hashem had taken the Jews out of Egypt for the express purpose of immigrating to Israel, the people’s refusal to march onward marked not only a rejection of Eretz Yisrael, but of G-d Himself. Consequently, Hashem declared that the current generation would not be allowed to enter the Land they had scorned.

It’s the secret to Jewish success and survival.

Sefer BaMidbar (aka the Book of Numbers) begins with another census, which, Rashi explains, demonstrates Hashem’s great love for us. Just as a person constantly counts money because every dollar is so precious, Hashem always wants to know the exact number of Jewish people in His “account.”

What makes a student “bright”?

This week’s sidrah opens with the daily commandment to light the Menorah in the Mikdash. Rashi (BaMidbar 8:2) explains that the name of the parshah, B’Haaloscha, describes this process as causing fire to “go up.” The kohen would hold the igniter to each cup of oil until the flame took hold and was able to rise on its own (Shabbos 21a).

It’s time to stop looking over our shoulders.

One of the harrowing predictions of the Tochachah (Admonition) is “You will flee, though there will not be anyone chasing you” (VaYikra 26:17). What is so terrible about that? Certainly, a false alarm is annoying, and running away for no reason is not an enjoyable experience; but would it be better if there actually was a hostile enemy in pursuit? The verse reads like a warning from Hashem against improper behavior with the threat of a dreadful punishment, but it ends up depicting a mere inconvenience!

We gain from giving, not taking.

Parshas Naso, the longest sidrah in the Torah, contains a wide variety of topics and mitzvos, and the commentators work hard to explain the connection between successive topics. There are many lessons to be learned from the Torah’s juxtapositions.

When is it appropriate to NOT believe in Hashem?

Parshas B’Har opens with the laws of Sh’mitah, including Hashem’s promise to provide for the Jewish people throughout the year that their fields are left fallow. The Torah then suddenly shifts to discuss the obligation to support a fellow Jew in financial need. What is the connection between these two topics, Sh’mitah and charity? Or, to quote from Rashi’s opening comment on the parshah, “Mah inyan Sh’mitah eitzel Har Sinai?”