Moshe sends twelvespies to the land of Canaan. Forty days later they return, carrying a hugecluster of grapes, a pomegranate and a fig, to report on a lush and bountiful land. But ten of the spies warn that the inhabitants of the land aregiants and warriors “more
powerful than we”; only Colev andYehoshua insist that the land can be conquered, as Hashem has commanded.
The people weep that they’d rather return to Egypt. Hashem decrees that Israel’s entry into the Land shall be delayedforty years, during which time that entire generation will die out in the desert. A group of remorseful Jews storm the mountain on the border of
the Land, and are routed by the Amaleks and Canaanites.
The laws of the Menachos (meal,wine andoil offerings) are given, as well as the Mitzvah to consecrate a portion of the dough (challah) to Hashem when making bread.
A man violates the Shabbas bygathering sticks, and is put to death. Hashem instructs to place Tzitzis on the four corners of our garments, so that we shouldremember to fulfill the mitzvos.
The Parsha is divided into two sections. The first, which spans chapters 13 and 14, is a detailed narrative of the sin of the spies. In the following section, chapter 15, the subject matter changes completely, as the Torah turns to discuss a number of different mitzvos: meal-offerings and libations, challah, atonement sacrifices, Shabbos and tzitzis. Nevertheless, the entire Parsha is known simply as “Shelach,” which means “send, “referring to the sending of the spies.
This begs the question: The sending of the spies is, at first glance, history, where-as the mitzvos at the end of the Parsha are eternally relevant. So why was the Parsha named after the sin of the spies, which happened in the past, rather than its mitzvos, which are relevant eternally?
Of course, the simple answer to this question is that the Parsha acquired its name from its opening passage. But since an entity’s name is a reflection of its essence, there must be a more meaningful explanation why the entire Parsha, including its important laws, was named Shelach.
The sin of the spies was not, as it may first seem, their report that the Land of Israel harboured a formidable enemy – “the people who live in the Land are (extraordinarily) powerful. The cities are huge and well-fortified”. For they were sent by Moshe to collect information, and what they reported was true. Rather, their sin was the conclusion that they added, that Hashem’s command to conquer the Land was, in their opinion, not possible: “We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than us”.
Clearly, Hashem’s promise to enter the Land was going to come true, regardless of whether the Jewish people were going to enjoy a natural or supernatural victory. The spies’ mistake was that the fulfillment of G-d’s command is not dependent on finding a practical solution.
This is a fundamental premise upon which our approach to observing all the mitzvos should be based: God’s command to a person logically includes a promise that it will be possible for the person to carry out that command. Thus, the whole Parsha (including its eternal mitzvos) is named after the incident of the spies, to remind us that G-d gives us the ability to fulfill all His mitzvos – something we should bear in mind constantly.