The Real World – Parshas Shelach 2014

a deeper look at the weekly Torah portion
Elchanan Shoff

The Real World
Parshas Shelach

[Sponsored by anonymous likovod the kiddush of my daughter Rachel bas Shifra Milka and lerefuah shelaima Moshe Avrohom ben Batsheva, Meir Yaakov ben Fradel, Pinchus ben Fradel, and Chaya Rivkah bas Malka]

As his student Hoshea was heading out on a tremendously risky mission, Moshe worried about him. Hoshea was renamed by Moshe, and was now Yehoshua, the extra yod in his name, a letter of Hashems name, would offer him some assistance, “May Yah (Hashem) save you from the plot of the spies,” prayed Moshe. Why was Moshe most worried about this particular person? There were other spies too, after all! Couldn’t they all have used this special blessing?

The Tur writes that since Yehoshua was known by the nations as the successful general in repelling the attack of Amalek, he therefore needed to have his name changed so that those in the land of Israel would not recognize him. Meshech Chochma also ties this mission to the previous war with Amalek, where he explains that Moshe was most worried about Yehoshua offering a negative report about Israel, since he was viewed by the nation as the powerful warrior general, after his success against Amalek, and if he were to come back discouraged as the meraglim did, feeling as if there were no hope, then certainly the people would be more influenced by him than by anyone else, and there would truly be no hope.

Interesting to note also is that the name of Hashem that Yeshohua’s new name included, is the name Yah which is an incomplete name. When Yehoshua was successful defending the Jews against Amalek, Hashem promised that “a hand on the chair of Yah there will be a war between Hashem and Amalek through all generations.” Now the word for chair is normally kiseh but here it is kes, missing the aleph. And the word normally used for Hashem is the four letter name, which also includes a vav and a hey, absent in the name Yah. This is to teach us, that there chair of Hashem is incomplete, and His name is incomplete, as long as Amalek is around. Yehoshua is the one who beat Amalek, and he was armed with the name of Hashem that we use while battling Amalek.

Interestingly, the three letters left out of Hashem’s name are the letters aleph, vav and hey. These letters make up the word ivah. The passuk says “Hashem chose Zoin, and desired (ivah) to settle there. The desire of Hashem to be settled in the land of Israel, points out the Rokeach , is made up of the letters missing as long as Amalek is present. Amalek is the final impediment to Hashem’s true establishment in the land of Israel. And so, as they went in they needed to scout out the threat of Amalek, led by a person who could help them beat this archenemy. “There were three mitzvahs that the Jewish people were commanded to fulfill upon entering the land of Israel, to appoint a King, to wipe out Amalek, and to build the Temple,” says the Rambam. Hashem settling completely in the land of Israel, in the Beis Hamikdash, requires the absence of Amalek.

And so, they were told to “Go up in the Negev.” And indeed later we find out that “Amalek live in the Negev land.” The Meraglim were there to get the Jewish people ready to get into the land of Israel, and bring Hashem’s presence there, with no interference from Amalek. Yehoshua stuck to his guns, as did Kalev, but the others failed. Let’s try to understand what Amalek represented at this time, and how the Jews were being tested.

Amalek dwells in the Negev, in the south. Chiddushei Harim explains that the Negev, the south is the place of wisdom. We know that one who wanted to pray for wisdom was told to face south since the Menorah representing wisdom was in the southern part of the Temple. Often the south is seen as representing wisdom. Amalek resides in the place of wisdom – he is the intellectual challenge to Judiasm, the rational sounding reasonable brilliant part of the psyche that convinces one in the most reasonable tone of voice that his violation of Torah makes a great deal of sense. He lived on doubt, after all the gematria of Amalek is the same as that of the word safek meaning doubt. Our Torah is challenged to remain intellectual, and something that can be cerebral and never enter our lives or our hearts. That is amalek. The name Amalek lend us to understand that their essence is the separation of head from heart – am, “nation,” and malak, like the word melika, teaches the Baal Hatanya. When a bird is brought as a sin offering, the head is severed by a method called melika. The neck is broken from the back to remind us not to be too stiff-necked, to be ready to change our sinful ways. Amalek are a people of melika, of heads that are severed, for they refuse to allow what they know in their minds to reach their hearts or actions. This quality was inherited from their ancestor Esav, who had his head in the right place and knew right from wrong, but did not allow that wisdom to influence him.

Amalek appeared when the Jews “hands” became weak in their hold on Torah, when they were rafim in their relationship to Torah. Those who are rafim in their relationship to Torah study, says the Gemara elsewhere, will never make it to techias hameisim, they will never enter the land of true life, the Eretz Hachaim of the future world when the dead are revived. But the gemara tells us, if someone who does not learn nevertheless connects himself to the Torah, by marrying his daughter to a Torah scholar, doing business on behalf of a Torah scholar, and benefiting the scholar financially out of his own pocket, this person will indeed be revived at the time of techias hameisim for he was connected to Torah as well. It is only the Torah that brings one to life, and yet the person who is unfamiliar with Torah and does not study it can attain that very same connection by a less cerebral and more intimate physical experience of being part of the Torah life, and part of a Torah community.

It is this teaching that was meant to come to the fore, when the people were at the transitional stage, moving from the distraction free clouds of glory in the distraction free desert where Torah study was primary, to a land where wars would be wages, crops would be planted and harvested, and homes would be built. The ability to see how Torah could be more than an Amalakite brain exercise, but something that ould penetrate to the physical. Amalek came when the Jews had weak “hands,” not weak minds! Yehoshua, our prototypical superhero in fighting Amalek was armed with the confidence that in the very physical acts that we do, we can be connected to Torah. It’s not only when we are learning that we can make this deep connection, though that is crucial, and impossible to live without, there must also be the ability to take that learning into the physical parts of our lives without missing a beat. The head needs to be the beginning but not the end. At the end we must know that we can bring Hashem to dwell right in our midst, and have a Temple once again in Jerusalem, but we have got to get rid of Amalek first. The Torah must penetrate our hearts and lives. And then Hashem’s name and throne will be complete, and our world will be complete.

Yalkut Shimoni Bamidbar 13, 742, Rashi to Bamidbar 13:16 s.v. Vayikra
Tur Haaruch, Bamidbar 13:16 s.v. Vayikra
To Bamdbar 13:16
Shemos 17:16
Rashi to Shemos 17:16, See also Rashi to Yeshaya 12:2 s.v. Azi vizimras
Tehillim 132:13
Rokeach al Hatorah to Beshalach p. 94, Pirush Siddur Hatefilah Liharokeach Vol. 1 p 134 Herschler edition, Tosafos Hashalem to Shemos 17:16 #2, Sefer Hapeliyah s.v. Uparshas bereshis nishlam. Maharsha says the same thing in his comments to Menachos 87a, s.v. Al Chomosayich. See also Tosafos Hashalem to Eicha 1:6 #5, on the words lo matzo mireh of which the last 3 letters make up the word ivah.
Laws of Melachim 1:1
Bamidbar 13:17
Bamidbar 13:29
Cited in Likkutei Yehuda, from his great-grandson
Bava Basra 25b
See also the comments of Maharsha to Nedarim 9b regarding the Nazir from the south. See also Techeiles Mordechai of Maharsham to Shelach #13, s.v. Alu zeh, (p. 1226, in Machon Daas Torah ed.) where he asserts that the Negev represents Torah.
Torah Ohr (by R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi) to Tetzaveh, p. 85
Likkutei Maamarim of R. Tzadok of Lublin, 16; Shem Mishmuel, Tetzaveh/Shushan Purim, s.v. bigemara
Esav’s head was buried in the Cave of Machpelah (see Targum Yonason to Bereishis 50:13). Arizal wrote that Esav’s head was connected to holiness; see Yaaros Devash 2:15. See also Derech Sicha of R. Chaim Kanievsky, vol. 1, p. 100; Mareh Hapanim to Yerushalmi, Taanis 4:2 and Ben Yehoyada to Eruvin 53a.
Sanhedrin 10a. Bechoros 5b
Kesuvos 111b
Tanchuma Metzora 2, See the extensive comments of R. Chaim Palagi in his Pnei Chaim to Shelach s.v. alu zeh p. 241 in Shuvi Nafshi ed.
See Sheva Shmaatta (Introduction) where he explains that this is the meaning of the teaching of our sages (Sanhedrin 90a), “one who says there will be no techias hameisim from the Torah, has no portion in the world to come.” He explains that though normally this is understood to mean that a person does not believe that the Torah is the source for the concept of techias hameisim is being condemned. This is the understanding of Rashi there. He explains that this means that if a person does not understand that the power to revive the dead is from Torah, will have no portion in it, even if he believes wholeheartedly in the concept of techias hameisim otherwise.
See Avodah Zarah 2a where Hashem invites the people who were osek batorah to come and receive their reward. Tosafos to 3a s.v. shefilu clearly indicates the he understands this to mean Torah study but from the context of the Gemara, it seems that doing actions that assist others in learning is what he was asking them. Benayahu (of R. Yosef Chaim of Baghdad) writes in fact that this refers to engaging in activities that are Torah oriented, rather than just studying and explains that this is the meaning of the phrase osek batorah. R. Shlomo Kluger (Avodas Avodah, Machon Chochmas Shlomo ed. P. 13-14, s.v. Yismechu, and s.v viamar limi sheasak bah) writes extensively on this as well, and contrasts his opinion with that of Tosafos s .v. Amar Lahem Hakadosh Baruch hu.

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