The name of a parshah symbolizes and encapsulates the central theme of the parshah.1 This week's parshah is traditionally called "Shelach." We have a rule that "tradition of Israel is Torah." Meaning, that the traditions of Israel have the weight of Torah, sometimes even taken into consideration when making a Torah ruling. Therefore, the name Shelach is Torah and we must take a lesson from it.

What is the lesson we are meant to learn from the name Shelach? And how does this name encapsulate the theme of our parshah?

The word Shelach means “to send.” It is the beginning of the story of the spies who were sent by Moses, the leader of Israel, to spy out the Land of Israel. This seems to be a story about what occurred while the spies were scouting out the Land. How, then, can it be symbolic of the parshah? Especially when the parshah ends with the mitzvah of tzitzit, which is symbolic of all of the mitzvot, as it says, "And you will see it [the tzitzit] and you will remember all the mitzvot of G‑d."2 How can a story of the past be connected and symbolic of all of the mitzvot that we are obligated to do ad infinitum? In other words, what is the eternal lesson to be gleaned from this story that must be applied to every mitzvah that we Jews do?

Another question: The story of the spies begins, "And G‑d spoke to Moses to say [“laimor”]. Send for yourself..."3 Rashi4 explains, "[Send the spies] at your discretion. I am not commanding you, if you want to—send." In other words, this statement "Send for yourself" is only to Moses. When it says laimor, it usually means that Moses should say it to the Jewish people. What is the message here for all of the Jewish people?5

To understand this, we must first understand the sin of the spies. Moses told them to inspect the land, and when they returned, they reported on what they saw. What, then, was their sin?

Moses sent them to figure out what would be the best way to conquer the land. He didn't have a question whether or not they would conquer it. G‑d said that He would give us the land, so it was a sure thing. But there is a rule that we try not to rely on miracles. At least try to do things in a natural way, with the least amount of miracles possible. The spies were to scout the best route to capture the land, with the least amount of miracles necessary. However, when they gave their report, they came to the conclusion that, "We can't go up to the nation, because it is stronger than us."6 That was the sin. G‑d clearly said that He would be giving us the land. They were merely sent to find the best way to enter the Land. They failed when they came to the conclusion that “we can't conquer it.” They failed to realize that it was not a question of whether or not we would conquer it, but how we would conquer it.

This is the first lesson from Shelach, with regards to every mitzvah. We have to realize that it is G‑d Who gave us the mitzvot. There is, in fact, no question of whether we can accomplish our mission or not. We must do our “scouting,” making a vessel through which G‑d can act.

You may ask: What about a person like me, who is paralyzed and locked in a body that is unable to do mitzvot? Or, what about a person who is held captive, like in the Russian gulags of the past, unable to do mitzvot? In those cases, even with total self sacrifice, one would be unable to do mitzvot.

In that case, G‑d clearly doesn't want him to do the mitzvah. It is like a mitzvah that can only be done by a woman, like the counting of the days before mikvah, which is not applicable to men, or the mitzvah of circumcision, which is not applicable to women. The same is true for a person who is in one of the aforementioned situations. The mitzvot that he physically cannot do are simply not applicable to him.

The Torah speaks about ordinary circumstances, and in normal circumstances, a Jew has to see himself as able. He mustn’t convince himself otherwise.

The second lesson we may learn from here that applies to every mitzvah is that, aside for the specific intent that we must have with every mitzvah, we should also have in mind that we are doing this simply because it is what G‑d wants. And that is what we say in the blessing before mitzvot, "That He sanctified us with His commandments, and He commanded us..."

Now we can understand why the parshah that has the mitzvah of tzitzit, which is symbolic of all of the mitzvot, is called Shelach. The message of Shelach pertains and is a prerequisite for every mitzvah.

Shelach is Moses sending the spies in preparation of entering the Holy Land. The idea of the Holy Land is that of infusing the physical with holiness. That is what happens when we do a mitzvah, we infuse the physical object used in the performance of the mitzvah with holiness. In a way, we are creating many mini-Israels, making the physical holy.

This is said specifically to Moses, because we each have a little bit of Moses inside of us. It is this little bit of Moses that gives us the strength to accomplish the fusion of mundane and holy, the G‑dly and the physical, heaven and earth.

This is perhaps what laimor means here. The message of Shelach pertains to each and every one of us, and therefore, should be conveyed to the Jewish people. It is this message of Shelach that is the theme of our parsha.

However, we are still left with a question: If the message of Shelach is so important and fundamental to all of our mitzvot, why does G‑d make it dependent on the person's choice, as Rashi explained that it was up to Moses whether or not to send the spies? Why didn't He make it a required prerequisite?

The whole point of our Torah and mitzvot is to draw G‑dliness into the physical. As the Midrash explains, that the unique achievement that was accomplished with the giving of the Torah is that now "above can descend below, and below can ascend above."7

Above descending below is understood as G‑d being drawn into creation. But how does the below truly ascend above?

The norm is that G‑d is the giver and we are the receiver. We receive our whole existence from Him. If he would stop giving, if He would stop creating us, we would simply (heaven forbid) cease to exist.

For us to ascend above would mean that we too, so to speak, become givers like G‑d. Like our sages say, "We become G‑d's partner in creation." And like the Talmud tells about a famous debate between the sages, that a voice came from heaven saying that Rabbi Eliezer was right, and the sages responded, "Torah is not in the heavens." G‑d then said, "My children were victorious over Me, My children were victorious over Me." We are in the "above" position. We have the power to affect and give to Torah.

The words "My children were victorious over Me" shows the partnership between G‑d and the Jewish people, because, like in a real partnership, sometimes one partner's opinion wins, and at other times, the other partner's approach prevails.

To accomplish this, G‑d made it our choice. Because, if He would have made the message of Shelach an obligation, then by definition, we would be in the receiving position. This is because we would be doing His commandment, making us the receivers, and there is no way of getting out of that position.

By making it our choice, G‑d put us in the above position. And since the message of Shelach is for all mitzvot, we have the ability to affect every mitzvah and all of creation. We ascend above.

May we merit to be the partners G‑d wants, and affect the world to the point that it becomes a true home for Him. This will usher in the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.8