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Shelach in a Nutshell

Shelach in a Nutshell

Numbers 13:1–15:41


Moses sends twelve spies to the land of Canaan. Forty days later they return, carrying a huge cluster of grapes, a pomegranate and a fig, to report on a lush and bountiful land. But ten of the spies warn that the inhabitants of the land are giants and warriors “more powerful than we”; only Caleb and Joshua insist that the land can be conquered, as G‑d has commanded.

The people weep that they’d rather return to Egypt. G‑d decrees that Israel’s entry into the Land shall be delayed forty years, during which time that entire generation will die out in the desert. A group of remorseful Jews storm the mountain on the border of the Land, and are routed by the Amalekites and Canaanites.

The laws of the menachot (meal, wine and oil offerings) are given, as well as the mitzvah to consecrate a portion of the dough (challah) to G‑d when making bread. A man violates the Shabbat by gathering sticks, and is put to death. G‑d instructs to place fringes (tzitzit) on the four corners of our garments, so that we should remember to fulfill the mitzvot (divine commandments).

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Darrell Robertson Durango via June 15, 2017

I could be way off and completely wrong, but I think the greater lesson is the activity in anticipation and preparation for Shabbat. We are to look forward to and desire Shabbat with such degree of desire that we spend time during the week to gather and prepare. "Death" is separation of the living and the dead. If we seek life with Shabbat at its center, we should not be separated. But I could be totally whacked. Reply

Lee Brookline, MA June 15, 2012

Wonderful Comments Thank you all for the thought-provoking comments and to for posting a great recap of Shelach! Shabbat Shalom to all! Reply

Tony London, England June 12, 2012

GIANTS What are the giants in the land today? Why has Israel been out of the land for so long? Why is there no peace in the land today? Reply

Ruth Dallas June 17, 2017
in response to Tony:

Hashem told us He was giving us the land. He already took us out of egypt with signs and wonders. The question is: why were we more afraid of the inhabitants of Canan than of Him?
He created heaven and earth and everything whithin. We failed to have faith. Simple as that.

Ruth Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for June 11, 2012

Re: Concerns If the man had gathered wood to warm a sick child or parent he would not have been punished. On the contrary, we are obligated to do all that is necessary to save life even if it means to desecrate the Shabbat.

While the Man was indeed punished for desecrating the shabbat, that is only part of the story, the Midrash relates that this Man was a praiseworthy individual and actually purposely desecrating the Shabbat with noble intentions, for more on this see: Would You Do Anything For Your Child? and Sinning Against the Letter Vav Reply

Dr Jeffrey Hoos Woodbridge, CT June 10, 2012

Concerns What does it say about us as a Jewish people to kill a man, for a gathering of sticks.
What symbolism should we gather from this and what person, had to carry out this act upon another human being?
With death comes no chance that this person could be doing acts of kindness, and healing the world.
Who is to judge this man, I can only think, if he had to gather these sticks, to light a fire, to warm a sick child or parent.
I need to understand the lesson being taught here. Reply

BT Rappaport May 16, 2012

TO JAN As this is a quick summary, it doesn't tell the full story of the man gathering sticks and instead just mentions it. You could find a fuller explination in a less brief summary of the Parshah by clicking Parshah in Depth on the right side of this page. Reply

Gershon McGreevy via June 19, 2011

To Jan These are all events that are recording in the Portion of Shelach. Reply

Jen via June 18, 2011

Question A man violates the Shabbat by gathering sticks, and is put to death. What does this mean? How does the last paragraph relate to the article? Reply

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