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Shelach 5771

By: Rav Ari Shames

The Real Thing - Rav Ari Shames In the aftermath of one of the most tragic events in the Torah, the incident with the spies, we are informed of a few mitzvoth. At first glance it is not obvious what they are all doing here. We read about the Nesachim (libations, the wine and flour elements that are added to korbanot that one brings to the mishkan/mikdash), and the mitzvah of taking Challah (separating a portion of the dough and giving it to the Kohen). Many of the commentaries have tried to understand the common denominator between these mitzvoth and how they relate to the previous part of the parsha. I would like to suggest at least a partial solution to these questions. Rashi and the Ramban see the introduction to the Nesachim as hinting to the connection. The passuk says "when you will come to the land". These mitzvoth were given as a consolation to the people after having heard the terrible decree that they themselves would never enter the land. They were concerned that no one ever would, and that the entire "Am Yisrael Project" would end in the desert. In order to bolster the mood, God tells them that, despite the fact that they would not gain entrance, their children would indeed enter the land, and to prove he lists mitzvoth that they will be able to fulfill there and only there. This idea fits in nicely with the introduction to both the Nesachim (as quoted above from Passuk 15:2) and Challah (15:18) - "when you come to the land that I am leading you to". I would like to suggest a different view of the same pessukim. I am not sure that the clear reference to entering the land right after the spies is a consolation as much as it was a continuation of the lessons to be learned. I think the central message of the story of the spies is that Eretz Yisrael is not simply one of the possible answers on a multiple choice test; it is not a matter of wanting it or not wanting it but rather it is ours, given to us by Hashem and we need to figure out how to get it and deal with it. This may be easy at times, but more often it is challenging and sometimes extremely challenging. The level of the difficulty has nothing to do with the ability to opt out. Breathing is an essential human activity, and while at times people may have a hard time of it, no one would suggest that they just forget about it. The stress on the two mitzvoth, Nesachim and Challah, comes to refute the mistaken idea that Judaism works just as well outside of Eretz Yisrael. The Nesachim seem to be a bit of an afterthought. After all, we have read all about the korbanot in Sefer Vayikra and it is clear to all of us exactly what must be brought and when. In fact, up to this stage (and for the rest of the sojourn in the desert) they brought korbanot but no one brought the Nesachim. One could conclude that Nesachim are a nice idea but not really necessary; the "real halacha" is as we are keeping it outside of Eretz Yisrael (indeed, as we have been doing it since the Torah was given at Sinai). Hashem sends a clear message- "What you have done so far is very good, however the real thing lies ahead. It is only in Eretz Yisrael that you are able to completely fulfill the mitzvah, by adding Nesachim". There is a fascinating Gemara in Brachot 14b that states "Whoever says Kriat Shema without Teffilin is as if he brought an Olah without the flour and a Zevach with out the Nesachim". When we close our eyes and devoutly recite the Shema we declare our most sincere devotion to God and His mitzvoth. How hypocritical to read about the requirement of Teffilin with a bare head and arm. Of course one could argue that we have at least fulfilled a part of our obligation by saying the Shema (and indeed this is true) however it should be clear to us that we are lacking, and that we should not be satisfied with a partial display of dedication. A korban without Nesachim is a nice idea however it is blatantly lacking and screams of negligence. Judaism without Eretz Yisreal makes similar noises. The mitzvah of Challah is a unique mitzvah as well. If we had to classify it as a mitzvah defined by Eretz Yisrael or a mitzvah that is independent of the land I think we would naturally say that it is not related to Eretz Yisrael. Challah is very different than other gifts that we give to the Kohanim such as Terumah. The ingredients (the wheat) are not bound by many of the issues that come up for Terumah. (See the Sifri on our pessukim where we find out that we take challah from wheat even if it is during shmitah or even if it was leket, shikcha or peah and did not grow the requisite amount. In addition, the halachic status of Eretz Yisrael is even relaxed on this particular mitzvah and applied immediately upon entrance, and not after the wars and settling were finished. See also the discussion of wheat from Eretz Yisrael that is made outside and visa versa). In addition to the halachic distinctions listed above I think that intuitively we all can identify with this as well. Many of those reading the shiur right now know what the mitzvah of Challah is and how to do it, while the mitzvah of Terumah is more esoteric - the difference being that Challah we do in Chutz Laaretz and Terumah we do not. In short we could feel very fulfilled and spiritual in our fulfilling of the mitzvah of Challah in Chutz Laaretz. In fact this is not the case at all! The real mitzvah of challah can only be fulfilled in Eretz Yisrael. Whatever we do outside is simply to remind us of the authentic version that is done exclusively in the Land. The Torah tells us not to make the same mistake as the spies. Judaism works in Eretz Yisrael. It looks very similar on the other side but it really is not the same thing. The message of these two mitzvoth at this time is that the people need to know that they made a very grave error. They need to make the best of the situation that they are in for the next forty years, but they must be careful not to confuse making the best of a bad situation with making a bad situation best. Shabbat Shalom


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