Parshat Shelach

How to Buy a House
by Rabbi Joel Grossman

In this week's Parsha, we find the famous commandment of Velo Taturu Acharei Levavchem Veacharei Eineichem, "And do not stray after your heart and after your eyes" (15:39). The Alshich poses a question: "Usually, a person first sees something with his eyes and only then desires it with his heart. Why, then, does the Torah first mention the heart and then the eyes?" He answers that there is a difference between seeing and looking. If someone sees something without intending to, he is not held responsible for seeing it. He is held accountable only if he subsequently goes back for a second look. Therefore, the Pasuk speaks first of the heart and then of the eyes.

There is a story that illustrates this point, which is quoted by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser in his Sefer Something to Say. A Jew went to the Gerer Rebbe to ask the Rebbe's advice about the purchase of a new home. The Rebbe said, "Tell me, please, about the windows." "The windows?" the man responded. "Yes. Where do the windows face? What will the children see when they look out the windows? Will they see the sight of holiness or, Chas Veshalom, will they see negative sights that can drag them down? If the sights they will see are less than reputable I would not buy the house."

We should live our lives with this in mind when we make choices regarding camps and vacations. If they will lead to Kedusha, holiness, then we know our decision is correct, but if they will lead to seeing or doing the wrong thing, then we should not take the chance. The most important thing for a parent to watch is our children's friends and influences.

There is a famous story quoted about Yeravam ben Nevat. Hashem told him that Hashem, King David, and Yeravam would walk together in Olam Habah. Yeravam, who was a sinner and one who caused others to sin, asked Hashem, "Who will go first?" Hashem repeated the same line again. Many commentaries explain that Yeravam's answer, "If I cannot go first, then I do not want to go," showed his true colors. I once heard from Rabbi Leib Tropper that Yeravam's sin was being too haughty. He heard who was going to go but only wanted to hear again that he would be one of the two who would be able to walk with Hashem. Someone who constantly needs to hear something over and over again is a sinner and someone we should stay away from.

At the conclusion of the Parsha we have the section about Tzitzit. In 15:38, the Torah writes that we must put a thread of Tichelet, blue wool, in our Tzitzit. The Gemara in Masechet Chullin explains that this color was chosen because it will remind us of the blue water, which will remind us of the heaven, which eventually will remind us of the throne of glory. Rav Moshe Feinstein asks why Hashem did it this way rather than picking a color that is closer to the color of the throne of glory. He answers that the Gemara is trying to teach us that in order to advance in Judaism we must do so in levels, little by little, until we reach our proper level. This is done through tremendous effort that one must exerted, because without work, one will not be able to attain the level that he wants to reach.

We must take these messages to heart: proper and continuous effort must be done in order to progress, and we must also realize that we should not look at the wrong things. With this in mind, we can help ourselves and our families do the correct things and make the proper choices in life.

Judge Positively
by Yonasan Shapiro

When it was time to let Bnai Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael, Bnai Yisrael asked to send spies to see what the land was like. Moshe picked twelve people, one from each tribe, to explore the land. Unfortunately, ten of them gave a bad report about the land.

These spies had a choice to give either a positive report or negative report. They chose the latter, and Bnai Yisrael unfortunately believed them. The Chachamim say that Bnai Yisrael wept that night for no purpose, so Hashem gave them something to cry about. He eventually destroyed both Batei Mikdash on that day of the year.

We can learn from this episode that we should look at everything in a positive way. We should learn from the mistake of the Meraglim to give the benefit of the doubt and look at things in a positive light. With this Zechut, we will hopefully dance in the streets of Jerusalem on this Tisha B'av.

Patience Toward the Wicked
by Daniel Wenger

When Moshe ascended Har Sinai to receive the Luchot, Hashem was writing the words Erech Apayim, "slow to anger." Moshe asked Him if this was referring to patience and mercy regarding a Tzaddik when he sins. Hashem responded that not only did it refer to patience with the Tzaddikim but with Reshaim as well. At the time, Moshe did not see the wisdom in being forbearing with Reshaim, but Hashem assured him that one day this trait would be helpful to Bnai Yisrael.

When Bnai Yisrael sinned by listening to and believing the spies' evil report, they fell into the category of Reshaim due to their constant sinning and complaining. Upon hearing that the nation was to be annihilated, Moshe pleaded with Hashem for their salvation. Recalling the above conversation, Hashem said that he would act according to Moshe's words and be patient only with Tzaddikim. Moshe then reminded Hashem that He promised to be calmer with Reshaim as well and backed up this claim by using a line from Pirkei Avot that the mighty people are those who control their emotions. Moshe's appeal worked, and the punishment that was to be handed to Bnai Yisrael was dissipated and meted out to last through the years in the desert and for future generations as well.

As this dialogue supports, the attribute of being "slow to anger" is an important one. Although people may seem to be Reshaim now, there is always a chance for them to repent and return to the path of righteousness. By being patient when they sin and by calmingly offering them advice on how they can improve themselves, we give them a new hope that they can eventually become Tzaddikim, ones who can merit the building of the Bait Hamikdash, just like the Bnai Yisrael did even after they sinned so grievously.

Food for Thought
by Dani Gross

1) Sefer Bemidbar Sinai starts with a list of the Nesiim of the Shevatim. In Parshat Shelach, there is another list of Nesiim, but all the Nesiim are different than on the original list. What happened to the original Nesiim?

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