This week we turn to the section of the Book of Numbers known as “Shalach L’chah”. You will find it in Numbers 13:1-15:41. The parashah’s name is poorly translated into English as “Send forth”. The Hebrew reader will immediately note the inadequacy of this translation. While “Shlach” does mean: “send” the second word (l’chah) being the indirect object pronoun (dative case) means something such as “to yourself; for yourself”. It will immediately remind the Hebrew reader that this section offers a direct parallel between G-d’s commandment to Abraham (Genesis 12:1, Lech l’chah: also mistranslated as “go forth”) and the current commandment to Moses (Shlach l’chah, mistranslated as “send forth”). In both cases, Israel’s greats are commanded to go/send people into the land. The problem then is what does the text mean by its use of the dative pronoun l’chah after the verbal command.
The medieval commentator Rashi (Rabenu Shlomo ben Yitzach) offers a possible explanation. Rashi postulates that the word l’chah used after the verb indicates that it is the subject’s choice as to whether or not to fulfill the command. In fact, Rashi argues that G-d knew that the Israelites were not yet ready to send spies into the land, but gave Moses the option of making his own choice.
What the text may be saying is that in life G-d gives all of us choices. Sometimes we choose wisely and at other times we can only hope to learn from our mistakes. G-d permits each of us to determine our own path and how we choose has a great deal to say about who we are and what we will do/accomplish in life.
Is the text then telling us that both Abraham and Moses had to enter into the land of Israel, not for G’-d but for themselves? Do we claim that we do things for others when in reality we are doing these actions for ourselves? In a like manner, we need to be cognizant that our actions have both personal and group consequences. This week’s section asks us to think of the consequences before we act and then to choose wisely.
Monthly Philosophy Article:
Here is my monthly philosophy article, published in the June 2nd edition of The Bryan Eagle. Click below or place the URL in your browser.
Youtubes of the week:
Three popular music versions of the traditional hymn: Adon Olam
Adon Olam from Hamilton’s “You’ll be Back”:
Adon Olam to the tune of “Forever”:
Adon Olam to the tune of “Born in the USA”:
An article worth reading: The Ugly Trade in “Palestinian Pain”