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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5755) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of RabbiYissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torahportion: Tape #16, Mixed Seating at Weddings. Good Shabbos!

Near Sightedness & Far Sightedness Characterize Beginning & End of Parsha

In the beginning of this week’s parsha the Torah relates the story of theMeraglim. We all know that they came back with a very poor report and as aresult of that incident Klal Yisroel spent 40 years in the Wilderness. Theend of our parsha concludes with the mitzvah of Tzitzis. If we look carefullyat the Torah’s language, we may find it striking that the Torah uses almostthe exact same language in these two sections. In connection with the spiesthe instruction was given “U’Reisem es haAretz” (and you shall look at theLand) and in connection with the Tzizis it says also “U’Reisem oso” (and youshall look at the Tzitzis).

I think that the Torah is trying to tell us that there is a connection betweenthe “U’Reisem oso” of parshas Tzitzis and the “U’Reisem es haAretz” of parshaMeraglim: The spies failed to learn the message of parshas Tzitzis.

What is the message of parshas Tzitzis? The Gemara in Menochos (quoted by theRamba”n on this week’s portion) explains the Torah’s linkage between lookingat the Tzitzis and “remembering all the commandments of Hashem” (as indicatedby the verses) as follows: The Tzizis contains within it the Techeles, theblue thread. The Techeles resembles the Sea, the Sea looks like the Sky, theSky reminds you of the Kisseh haKavod (the Divine Throne), and the KissehhaKavod reminds you of all the commandments of Hashem.

Thus we see from Tzitzis that a human being is capable of seeing much morethan meets the eye — he can see a simple thread of blue, and trace thatsymbolism to the Sea and to the Sky and to the Heavenly Throne and to all thecommandments of the L-rd.

The spies were told to see the Land, but what did they see? They only sawthat which was in front of their noses — they saw big people, they sawgiants, and they saw a land that was intimidating and scary. Did they seethat Eretz Yisroel is the “Chariot” for G-d’s Divine Presence? Did they seethe holiness of the Land. No. They were myopic. They were near-sighted inwhat they were able to view.

This is what Chaza”l are trying to tell us A human being is capable of somuch… seeing implications, seeing ramfications, seeing results…if only hewill look. But, as the expression goes, there are none so blind as those whowill not see.

Why did the spies refuse to see? Because they had a “negius”(selfish-motivation). Chaza”l tell us they were each leaders. They each hadpositions of honor in the community. They were afraid that if they went intothe Land of Israel, they would lose their positions of honor and leadership.When a person has a “negius” that perhaps he will have some loss of honor, hecannot see… he refuses to see.

This is the lesson of Parshas Tzitzis: We are capable of seeing very veryfar, but only if we open up our eyes and be honest enough to see things asthey really are.

Netziv: Channeling Individuality within the Context of Torah.

The verse at the end of the Parsha states, “…and you shall not stray afteryour hearts and after your eyes…” The Sifrei says the purpose of this verseis to elucidate the verse in Koheles that says “Rejoice young man in youryouth and go after the dictates of your heart”. I would not know, says theSifrei, if the verse in Koheles means “Do whatever you want” or if it means”Go on the straight and narrow path”. Therefore, the verse in this week’sportion says “Do not stray after your hearts.”

What kind of mistaken assumption were we to have made from Koheles that theverse in parshas Tzitzis had to inform us otherwise? This Sifrei begs forexplanation.

The Netziv in his commentary on Chumash gives a beautiful interpretation ofthis Sifre: He explains that the Tanna is bothered by the expression “LoSasuru” (You shall not stray). This verb has the connotation of going outand charting new paths (as in “Lasur es haAretz” — to spy out the land, tofind new paths). He asks, why does the Torah specifically use this expression– don’t chart out new ways? The Sifrei answers, because we we might be misledby the verse in Koheles. Shlomo HaMelech tells us, as human beings — followthe dictates of your hearts. Perhaps that means a person can do whatever hewants… the Torah says No! Sure, follow the dictates of your heart…butwithin the context of Torah. Within the context of Torah Law, do your ownthing.

The Talmud says in many places that various Amoraim had their “own” specialMitzvos. They specialized in particular commands that they found particularaffinity to, in terms of their own personalities and individualities. This isan appropriate applications of Koheles’ “Go after the dictates of your heart”.It means that if I have an incliniation to specialize and excel in a particularDivine Command, then I should do my own thing and excel in that area.

The Torah is an individual Torah. Not everyone has to do all the Mitzvos thesame way. But perhaps I would think that if Shlomo HaMelech is telling us “Doyour own thing” then you can literally do whatever you want… Therefore, theTorah must clarify: “You shall not stray after your own hearts.” To chartout new courses (sasuru), which are not in the context of Torah…that No!Why not? Because “I Am the L-rd your G-d who took you out from the Land ofEgypt”. In Egypt, before you had a Torah you were allowed to do whatever youwanted. But once the Almighty gave us his Torah, then, individuality has tobe channeled within the context of that Torah.

There is no room, according to Chaza”l, to make up “new customs”, “new mitzvos”or “new ceremonies”. This is not Da’as Torah. “You shall walk according tothe dictates of your heart”: In the context of Torah you may do things, butdo not stray (lo sasuru) — no innovations. We have a Ribbono shel Olam thatgave us the Torah, we don’t have to invent our own Torah. We do not need a”New Jewish Agenda”, the “Old Jewish Agenda” is mighty fine for all of us!


Tzizis — Fringes worn on four-cornered garments
Tanna — Rabbinical scholar from the period of the Mishneh
Amora — Rabbinical scholar from the period of the Talmud
Da’as Torah — Sanctioned Torah practice
Koheles — Ecclesiastes (written by King Solomon

Personalities & Sources:

Ramba”n — Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (1194-1270) Gerona, Spain; Jerusalem. Oneof leading Torah scholars of the Middle Ages
Netzi”v — R. Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (1817-1893) Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin,Lithuania.

Transcribed by David Twersky Assistance by Dovid Hoffman

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion (#16). The corresponding halachic portion for this tape is: #16, Mixed Seating at Weddings. The other halachic portions for Parshas Shlach from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:

  • Tape # 061 – The Minyan, Who Counts?
  • Tape # 105 – Tallis: Does it Cover Only Married Men?
  • Tape # 150 – Tzitzis: Must They Be Worn?
  • Tape # 197 – Carrying Medicine on Shabbos
  • Tape # 243 – The Concept of Prison in Jewish Law
  • Tape # 287 – Women and Tzitzis
  • Tape # 333 – Techeiles Today

Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from:

Yad Yechiel Institute
Call (410) 358-0416 for further information.

Also Available: Mesorah / Artscroll has published a collection of Rabbi Frand’s essays. The book is entitled:

Rabbi Yissocher Frand: In Print

and is available through Project Genesis On-Line Bookstore: