Most of this week's parashah relates the story of the Spies that
Bnei Yisrael sent to examine Eretz Yisrael and the tragic aftermath of
that excursion. Afterwards, the Torah teaches the mitzvah of Challah
/ giving a kohen a portion of each dough that one kneads. The Torah
says (15:19, 21): "It shall be that when you will eat of the bread of
the Land, you shall set aside a portion for Hashem. . . From the
first of your kneading you shall give a portion to Hashem, for your
Why, asked R' Joseph B. Soloveitchik z"l (died 1993) is this
mitzvah taught in this parashah? Why is it not mentioned in next
week's parashah together with the other produce-related, Eretz
Yisrael-dependent laws, such as Terumah?
R' Soloveitchik's answer is quoted as follows: The commandment to
separate Challah is different from Mitzvot such as Terumah and Ma'aser
in that the latter apply to the produce of Eretz Yisrael wherever the
produce may be, while the former applies to a dough kneaded in Eretz
Yisrael regardless of where the wheat grew. [Ed. note: By rabbinic
decree, Challah is separated even in the Diaspora.] Terumah and
Ma'aser are indicative of the intrinsic holiness of Eretz Yisrael and
of the blessing attributable to the Land itself. Not so Challah.
That mitzvah is a reminder of G-d's blessing that rests on the
handiwork of the residents of Eretz Yisrael.
The mitzvah of Challah belongs specifically after the episode of
the Spies, for their very doubt was whether Bnei Yisrael were strong
enough to conquer and inhabit the Land. In the context of those
doubts, the Torah teaches that the efforts of those who inhabit the
Land are blessed. (Quoted in Shiurei Ha'rav Al Masechet Challah)
"One man each from his father's tribe shall you send, every one a
leader among them." (13:2)
Throughout the ages, commentaries have struggled to understand
the sin of the Spies. As our verse testifies, they were leaders of
their tribes! Where did they go wrong?
R' Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg z"l (rosh yeshiva in Berlin and
Switzerland; died 1966) offers the following explanation: The Spies
were indeed leaders of the nation, but there are two kinds of leaders.
Some leaders have farsighted vision and can anticipate and prepare for
the future needs of their charges. Other leaders do not have this
ability; their strength is in rallying the people to achieve a
The Spies were the latter type of leaders - they had the skills
to lead Bnei Yisrael through the desert, but not to prepare them for
new surroundings in Eretz Yisrael. Indeed, the Zohar indicates that
the Spies' negative report was influenced by their fear that they
would lose their leadership positions once the nation settled in the
Can the Spies be faulted for not being fit for the task that was
assigned to them? R' Weinberg explains that they were faulted only
because they let their personal biases influence their report. That
bias weakened their resolve to do the best job possible. Had they not
thought about retaining their jobs, they would at least have retained
their faith in Hashem.
"These are their names - For the tribe of Reuven -- Shammua son of
R' Avraham Saba z"l (1440:1508) notes that there appears at first
glance to be no rhyme or reason to the order in which the Spies are
listed. By tribe, that order is: Reuven, Shimon, Yehuda, Yissachar,
Ephraim, Binyamin, Zevulun, Yosef (Menashe), Dan, Asher, Naftali, Gad.
This is neither the order of the tribes' birth, nor is it the order of
In fact, the list is a modified version of the order in which the
tribes traveled. R' Saba explains that the factor that influenced the
order of the tribes here is the relationship of the tribes to Eretz
Yisrael. Two-and-one-half tribes chose to settle outside the Land -
Gad, Reuven and half of Menashe. Gad, the instigator, is therefore
listed last. Reuven should have been listed second to last, but
because he was the bechor / firstborn, his descendants' failing is
overlooked and he is listed first.
[Shimon follows Reuven because they camped and traveled together.
Yehuda comes next because of his importance and the fact that one of
the two good spies, Kalev ben Yefuneh, came from Yehuda. Yehuda and
Yissachar are paired because they camped and traveled together.]
Ephraim and Binyamin are pushed ahead of Zevulun because the other
good spy, Yehoshua bin Nun, came from Ephraim, while the Bet Hamikdash
was destined to be built in Binyamin's portion.
Yosef is mentioned together with Menashe (rather than with his
other son, Ephraim) because Yosef and Menashe both chose to remain
outside of Eretz Yisrael; Yosef, when he did not ask his brothers to
bury him in Eretz Yisrael immediately after his death, and Menashe,
when half of his descendants chose to receive their land east of the
Jordan River. Indeed, it was Yosef's apparent lack of attachment to
the Land that caused some of his descendants to accept land outside of
"`Hashem, Slow to Anger, Abundant in Kindness, Forgiver of Iniquity and
Willful Sin, and Who cleanses -- but does not cleanse completely,
recalling the iniquity of parents upon children to the third and fourth
This verse is part of Moshe's prayer on behalf of the Jewish
People after the sin of the Spies. Moshe's prayer included most, but
not all, of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy mentioned in Shmot 34:6-
7. (The full list is: "Hashem, Hashem, All Powerful, Compassionate
and Gracious, Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness and Truth;
Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of
Iniquity, Willful Sin, and Error, and Who Cleanses -- but does not
cleanse completely, recalling the iniquity of parents upon children
and grandchildren, to the third and fourth generations:")
The following Attributes are missing from Moshe's prayer in our
parashah: Hashem, All Powerful, Compassionate and Gracious, Truth;
Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of Error.
R' Avigdor Katz z'l (Vienna; 13th century) explains: Commentaries
explain that the repetition, "Hashem, Hashem," teaches that G-d is
merciful both before a person sins (although G-d knows he will sin)
and after he sins. Here, there was no purpose in mentioning the first
"Hashem" as the Jewish people had already sinned.
Regarding the omission of "All Powerful," Moshe could not pray
that G-d have mercy because of that attribute, since the Spies' sin
had been in doubting whether Hashem was in fact powerful enough to
defeat the Canaanites. (See Bemidbar 13:31 - "We cannot ascend to
that people for it is stronger than Him!")
Moshe could not mention "Compassionate and Gracious" because the
Spies had spoken lashon hara. A person who speaks lashon hara is
called a "fool" (Mishlei 10:18), and the prophet Yishayah teaches
(Yishayah 27:11), "For it is not a nation of understanding [i.e., it
is a foolish nation]; therefore, its Maker will not show it
compassion, and its Creator will not be gracious to it."
Next, Moshe could not appeal to G-d's attribute of "Truth," since
the Spies had not spoken the truth.
Moshe could not pray to G-d as the One who practices Chessed /
Kindness for that would have "reminded" G-d of Avraham, the greatest
human practitioner of Chessed. Avraham, too, had expressed doubt when
Hashem had promised him the Land. (See Bereishit 15:8)
Finally, Moshe could not appeal to G-d as the "Forgiver of
Error," for an error is an unintentional sin. Here, the Spies had
(Quoted in Nimukei Chumash L'Rabbeinu Yishayah)
Letters from Our Sages
This week, we continue with excerpts from the will of R' Yaakov Lorberbaum
z"l (died 1832; the "Nesivos").
9. When praying, have in mind the meaning of the words. When
saying the Honored and Awesome Name, have in mind what is written in
the Shulchan Aruch [i.e., that the Four Letter Name means, "Master of
the World, Who Was, Who Is, and Who Will Be," and "Elokim" means,
"Powerful and Capable of Anything, and Master of All Forces."]
Regarding esoteric intentions based on the wisdom of the kabbalah, one
must be on guard and extra cautious not to come to heresy. Nowadays,
one should not rely on any person to teach him this wisdom, especially
on one who has not filled his belly with Talmud and Halachah. As for
those who glorify themselves as knowing this wisdom, do not believe
them or desire them or listen to them, even on the smallest
matter . . .
21. Over and over I warn you: Distance yourselves very, very
much from having others rely on your trustworthiness, lest your
honesty be questioned in the end. Also, it is so easy to think of
justifications [to take advantage of others], especially when one
loves money; therefore, be very careful not to be in such a position
unless it is impossible to avoid it.
22. I further warn you not to cause any person to take an oath,
G-d forbid . . . It is preferable to lose all of one's money than to
be a rasha / sinner for one moment before G-d. If someone is
obligated by Halachah to make an oath to you, let him get away with a
cherem / ban instead. You will not lose out because of this; to the
contrary, what good is his oath if he cannot be trusted with money?
23. Avoid the need to litigate. If there is any dispute between
you and your colleagues, compromise, and do not litigate. Look, my
sons, at what Chazal said: "Yerushalayim was destroyed only because
people stuck to the letter of the law." If this was sufficient to
destroy Yerushalayim, how much more so should one avoid it with all
24. I also warn you that if you have business dealings with
someone who does not understand [the terms of the deal], speak to him
clearly and make him understand everything. Do not say: what
difference does it make - he is willing? . . . This is the meaning of
"Love your fellow as yourself." Do everything with the same
straightforwardness that you would wish for yourselves, and that which
is hateful to you, do not do to others . . .
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