The name of this week’s parashah is “Shalach” or “Shalach l’chah. You will find it in the Book of Numbers 13:1-15:41. This section is an example of how difficult it is to translate the Hebrew text into a foreign language. The non-Hebrew reader will miss the irony of this section. The word following “shalach/send forth” is the dative “l’chah” meaning approximately “for your own sake”. To the non-Hebrew reader this use of the dative case may seem superfluous but the Hebrew reader will immediately connect this section to the section in Genesis called “Lech l’chah” In Lech l’chah (Go forth and get out of there for your own sake) G-d sends Abraham into the land of Canaan with the words “Lech l’chah” now in the current parashah G’d told Moses to “send them (the spies) out into the land for your own sake”.
Despite their linguistic similarities, there are, however, great differences between the two statements. In Abraham’s case, he owns the challenge and seeks to fulfill the mission. In the case of the spies, ten of them flee from the challenge. Lech l’chah is about trust, the basis of the relationship between G-d and His people. This week’s parashah Shalach l’chah is about seeing only part of the story and living a life of negativity. It reminds us that facts are the basis of reality and not feel-good policies that in the end do more harm than good.
The text illustrates this point in the majority report (given by ten of the spies). They state (13:33): “Vanhi v’eiyneynu k’Chanavim v’chen hayiny b’eineyhem”. The Hebrew once again is hard to translate into western languages, but we might render it as “we made ourselves (we chose to see ourselves) as grasshoppers (insignificant pests) and they saw us in the same way. Here pessimism abounds. Police are to be made on the basis of feelings rather than facts.
Perhaps the text is stating: do not assume, G-d has demonstrated numerous reasons for you to trust Him, but once again, there is a return to negativity and the “sky is falling” mentality. How directly is this week’s parashah speaking to us today? How many of us assume the worst, and live in a world of doomsday?
Shalach l’chah then is more than a command given by G-d to Moses, it is also a question and a challenge. The Hebrew is stating: send yourself out, dare to explore, and remember that negative thoughts often result in negative actions.
Perhaps the difference between Abaham’s Lech l’chah and the spies’ Shalach l’chah is that Abraham was a man who trusted G-d; the spies, on the other hand, were pessimists who chose to react rather than act. Are you a person who trusts G-d or is a slave to fear?
Youtubes of the week:
A land of Milk and Honey: Two aonfa