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Shlach (Behaalotcha) |  19 Sivan 5776  |  June 25th, 2016  |  Issue 656

Mazal Tov to Gitit Rehavi (Munich 2014-2015) on her marriage to Nachum Shai!
Mazal Tov to Tova and David Cooper (President of TMT Memphis)
on the marriage of their son, Ariel!
For our overseas readers: Behaalotcha Dvar Torah appears below

   Rav Ronen Neuwirth

Former Central Shaliach of Bnei Akiva North America
Currently Rav of Kehillat Ohel Ari in Raanana, Member of Beit Hillel 

Understanding the Sin of the Spies

The main theme of our Parsha is obviously the sin of the Meraglim (spies). Nevertheless, there are a few other Mitzvot that we encounter in our Parsha, which are seemingly not related to this event. The Parsha brings up certain commandments such as the Nesachim (Drink-offerings), Hafrashat Chalah and Tzitzit , Mitzvot which might have been placed in a better place like Sefer Vayikra for instance, a book which deals with Korbanot (offerings) and Kodshim (sanctity).

To understand this, we must understand the puzzling sin of the Meraglim. The Meraglim were surely “The heads of Bnei Yisra’el”, as the Torah says. The people listed here are those distinguished from the rest of the nation, because of their special status and standing in Torah – two of the most famous among them serving as examples for this fact: Kalev ben Y’funeh, and Yehoshua bin Nun. It is a collection of great individuals, who we would describe as “G’dolei ha’Dor – The Giants of the Generation.” How did it happen that those Gedolim made this huge error? Why didn’t those spiritual leaders want to enter Eretz Yisrael? After witnessing all of the miraculous redemption from Egypt, after Pharaoh, “the king of the world”, was defeated, the least that one would expect of those leaders would be for them to believe in the power of Hashem and to trust Him to fulfill His promise of Eretz Yisrael!? 

The Sfat Emet (Admor of Gur) had a tremendous insight on this matter. He points out on the commentary of the Zohar, as follows:

“The Zohar states that the spies thought: ‘Here, (in the desert,) we are the leaders (of Bnei Yisrael) in the Land (of Israel) we will not merit to be the leaders.’”. According to the Zohar, they were concerned about losing their spiritual influence by entering Eretz Yisrael, and therefore decided that for the sake of the Torah, it is better to dwell in the Galut. But that is not the root of the problem, it is just the symptom. This would seem to explain that, indeed, the generation of the desert, in general, were identified through the aspect of the ‘Head.’ For the generation which left Egypt, and heard the (Ten) Commandments at Sinai, was the ‘Head’ of all the other generations. The generations then continue as ‘Avot’ (‘Archetypes’) and ‘Toladot’ (‘Derivatives’) from the ‘Heads’ to the ‘Feet,’ as it is stated about our generations (being) ‘Ikvata d’Mashicha’ – ‘the heels of Mashi’ach.’. And this was certainly true, for the entry in the Land of Eretz Yisrael was a level subsequent to that level, and they did not want to descend from the level of ‘Heads.’”
(Sfat Emet Ibid.)

The spies were indeed Gedolim. They had very good intentions. They were very comfortable with the spiritual life in the desert. Having heavenly bread – manna, each and every day, revealing the Shechina clearly, following the fire and the cloud pillars, those are benefits, which are not easy to give up. The spies were sure that for Am Yisrael, which was totally immersed in a spiritual environment at the time, entering Eretz Yisrael would be a disaster.  Surely, they believed that they would defeat the enemies in Eretz Yisrael with the help of Hashem, but for that there is a need to establish an army. Also, there is a necessity to establish political and economical systems, as well as expectations to settle Eretz Yisrael - the land that is flowing milk and honey. If Am Yisrael will have to deal with all those tasks- who will sit and study Torah? We will lose our spiritual level!!! Therefore, the spies decided to do Hashem a “favor” – let’s stay here in the Galut where we can serve you much better than from Eretz Yisrael - it is for the sake of the Torah!!!  

The root of this sin was the lack of ability to integrate heaven and earth. The Torah of Eretz Yisrael is the Torah that provides us with the skills to spiritually uplift matters which are mundane. In Eretz Yisrael the Avoda (labor) is integral part of Torah fulfillment. The letter and the spirit of the Torah cannot be achieved at its optimal level without the Avoda component. Hashem prefers for us to elevate the bread that comes from the ground – המוציא לחם מן הארץ – to our eating heavenly bread – the manna. 

Thus it was so important to receive the new Mitzvot right after the sin. Hashem wanted to comfort Bnei Yisrael for losing the heavenly virtues, and therefore provided them with substitutes. The Hafrashat Chalah enables as to take earthly bread and transform it into a heavenly one. The Nesachim are the substitute for the heavenly well, and the Tzitzit is the compensation for the heavenly clouds of glory (ענני הכבוד). The ultimate way of Avodat Hashem is indeed to live in a heavenly manner but while been grounded and attached to earth – by the virtue of Eretz Yisrael, the land of Torah V’Avodah. 

   Arik Speaker

Director of LILMOD Program, Head of European Desk

Good Trumpet, Bad Trumpet

There is a well-known rule: the greater the expectations – the greater the disappointment. Some people prefer to lower their expectations, while others strive for greatness, even if they will sometimes suffer from bitter disappointment.

It is hard to imagine a situation with greater expectations than in our parsha. Ever since Parashat Yitro, way back in Sefer Shemot (Exodus), Am Yisrael has been waiting expectantly. While we may be tempted to view our arrival at Har Sinai and receiving the Torah as the end point of our journey, in actuality the final destination was and always has been Eretz Yisrael. From that point of view Am Yisrael has been detained for a long time. The very first Shavuot, in which we received the Torah, took place merely 7 weeks after leaving Egypt. Our parsha, in which we finally depart from Har Sinai, takes place in the second month (i.e. Iyar) of the second year, a full 11 months since we arrived.

During that time many momentous events took place; receiving the Torah (Shavuot) , waiting 40 days for Moshe, The Sin of the Golden Calf (17 of Tamuz), Moshe returning to the mountain for another 80 days, being forgiven and getting the second tablets (Yom Kippur), building the Mishkan, learning all the details of the korbanot in the book of Vayikra, the inauguration of the Mishkan, counting the tribes and the Levi'im and finally organizing the camps in their marching order.   

Finally, after that long string of events, Am Yisrael began advancing once again towards Israel. No longer a group of freed slaves, they are now an organized nation, centered around the divine presence in their midst.

Imagine the great expectations you would have had being there. After dreaming of freedom all your life, you are now finally on your way to the land of your forefathers, which is so close you can practically see it.

And now we can imagine the even greater disappointment when we read about the first event after leaving Har Sinai:

"The people were looking to complain, and it was evil in the ears of the Lord. The Lord heard and His anger flared, and a fire from the Lord burned among them, consuming the extremes of the camp".

From here on we will witness an unbelievable chain of sins; the nation as a whole (the Mit'onenim, complainers and The Sin of the Spies), the Asafsuf and the tribal leadership (spies, Korah, Datan and Aviram) and even Moshe, Aharon and Miriam all make mistakes. Parsha after parsha our disappointment from this stiff necked nation grows.

How can we explain where this behavior comes from?

If we backtrack a bit to the commandment we received just before we began the next leg of our journey, we will see that Hashem already prepared the nation and the future generations for such sudden and extreme shifts from good to bad: "Make yourself two silver trumpets; you shall make them [from a] beaten [form]; they shall be used by you to summon the congregation and to announce the departure of the camps".

At first the trumpets seem to be a technical detail, a practical tool to help mobilize the nation while traveling in the desert. But the trumpets also have a perennial purpose:
"If you go to war in your land against an adversary that oppresses you, you shall blow a teruah with the trumpets and be remembered before the Lord your God, and thus be saved from your enemies. On the days of your rejoicing, on your festivals and on your new-moon celebrations, you shall blow on the trumpets for your ascent-offerings and your peace sacrifices, and it shall be a remembrance before your God; I am the Lord your God".

It always surprised me that the same tool can be used for such diametrically opposed purposes – war and adversaries on one hand, and times of joy, holidays and sacrifices on the other. We usually differentiate between times of happiness and sorrow; Different clothes, locations, tunes… Here the Torah does the opposite. The same trumpets will be used to signify our uplifting moments as well as our crises.

In my opinion there is a deep underlying message here. Many religions view The Creator as "The Good Lord", a terminology which exists in English, German, French and many other languages. As these cultures see god as only good, they created the concept of the Satan as a separate entity which is the source of all evil in the world.  

On the other hand there are philosophical approaches that negate the inherent difference between good and bad. In their minds everything is relative, and dependent on context, with nothing being objectively good or objectively bad.

The Torah objects to both of those viewpoints. There are, without a doubt, objective truths in the world, things that are either good or bad. But both of the ultimately stem from the same, one G-d.

The trumpets symbolize exactly that – one the one hand, there are distinct sound we make for different events – the Tekia for happy events and the Teru'a for negative ones. We cannot forget that distinction and simply accept everything with the same stoic façade. But at the same time, we still use the same tool to create the different sounds, because the source of everything is always one.

As Yeshayahu describes Hashem: "Who forms light and creates darkness, Who makes peace and creates evil; I am the Lord, Who makes all these".

Now we can return to our opening question. The same theological dualism regarding the essence of good and evil can and is translated to social and psychological spheres as well. We tend to see people, groups and nations as either 'good' or 'bad', often ignoring whatever elements don't match the mold we created in our minds. It is far more difficult to grasp the more complex and multifaceted picture, in which a group or an individual can do wonderful things one moment and the next commit the most horrible crimes.

The generation in the desert (like every generation) is complex. On the one hand they can serve as role models of faith and spirituality, but on the other hand they also serve as a warning not to repeat their sins and mistakes.

We are challenged to remember that the same generation could both accept the Torah and demand to return to Egypt, to realize that the same trumpet can signify good or bad. By doing that we can learn lessons for ourselves, for we too are a complex mixture of good and bad.

TMT Spotlight:
Shabbaton in Maaleh Adumim
This Shabbat, Torah MiTzion had a special training program for next year's Shlichim in the Mitzpe Nevo community of Maaleh Adumim. Each year, the new Shlichim spend a Shabbat in a community comprised predominately of Olim. The experience allows us to expose the shlichim to the feeling of a "Chutz La'aretz" Kehilla. They are hosted for one meal by Olim and have the opportunity to hear their insights on where they grew up, why they made aliyah and the impact of Shlichut in general and Torah MiTzion in particular.  

Mitzpe Nevo has a wide range of Olim and former Shlichim, which created an ideal setting for their preparation.
Over the course of Shabbat, there were two effective panel discussions. The first was with three former Shlichim; Rav Noam Balzem (Rosh Kollel in Chicago 2005-2008), Rav Baruch Plaskow (Rosh Kollel in Montreal 2002-2007) and Eitan Grosman (Shaliach in Chicago 1998-1999 and former Shlichim Recruiter for TMT). The second was a panel open to the community which was titled "Shlichim - strengthening kehillot or Aliya?" with representatives from different countries.

Zeev Schwartz, Executive Director of Torah MiTzion, Yoav Cohen-Hadad, Head of the Shlichut Department, and Arik Speaker, Head of the European Desk, all came to Maaleh Adumim to run the programming. Hasida Pinchuk, Advisor for the Shlichim and Coordinator of Midreshet Tzion, also joined the staff with her husband Rav Moshe. The Pinchuks' drew from their experiences on Shlichut (Rosh Kollel in Melbourne 1998-2001) to give informative and thought-provoking sessions to our future Shlichim.

Next up is our Summer Seminar in Migdal Oz, after which our Shlichim will be ready to begin their Shlichut around the world!
Around The World
YU TMT Toronto receiving a 2016 Fire Safety Award for their program on Fire Safety and Halachah
Torah MiTzion Munich's Bat Mitzvah Seminar session on
'Torah and continuity'

     Arik Speaker                                   In cooperation with:

'Lilmod' Coordinator and Head of  European Desk in Torah MiTzion

A little more than 15 years ago, on the 24th of May 2001, the dance floor with hundreds of people celebrating collapsed during the wedding of Keren and Assaf Dror at the Versailles wedding hall in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood. 23 people were killed and hundreds injured.

Last week's image is of the memorial commemorating the victims which was built at the location where the hall once stood.

As published by the Commission of Inquiry set up by the government after the event, and as many of you may remember, a large part of the blame for this needless tragedy was the construction of the floor using the infamous "Pal-Kal" method. This method was invented by an Israeli engineer who allegedly allowed the construction of ceilings using a simplified method which obviously would be much cheaper than the conventional method. But beyond the use of this method, there were additional mistakes made mainly by the owners of the hall. For several weeks before the disaster the sinking of the floor was clearly visible and therefore it was decided to "straighten" the floor by adding more sand and pavement, which only made it worse by adding even more weight onto the weakened floor.

The IDF's Home Front Command took the responsibility for rescue operations, which was the largest in Israeli civil history. About 40 hours of work of 500 soldiers brought to the extraction of 300 person.

In October 2004 the three owners of the Versailles Halls were convicted with involuntary manslaughter and negligence and were each sentenced to two and half years in prison.

The inventor of the Pal-Kal method, the engineer Eli Ron, was convicted in December 2006 of causing death by negligence, along with three other engineers. The engineers were sentenced to 22 months in prison and Ron to four years in prison.

The amazing thing is that until now the court has not yet ruled on the compensation for the victims of the disaster.

No Winner this week

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Torah MiTzion was established in 1995 with the goal of strengthening Jewish communities around the globe and infusing them with love for Torah, the Jewish People and the State of Israel.

Over the past twenty years, Torah MiTzion's shlichim have inspired and enriched their host communities through high impactful formal and informal educational programs.

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Our friend Benjy Singer has a very useful website,, which contains accurate and fresh information of what's going on in the Religious Anglo Community in Israel.