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וימצאו איש מקשש עצים ביום השבת ... מות יומת האיש רגום אתו באבנים כל העדה

And they found a man gathering wood on the Shabbos day … The man shall be put to death; the entire assembly shall pelt him with stones. (15: 32,35)

Someone who is, for the first time, being introduced to the institution of Shabbos Kodesh can find it to be overwhelming. No other prohibitive mitzvah in the Torah exists whereby what appears to be one simple, although forbidden, act will incur such stringent punishment as execution by stoning, which is the most strict of the four modes of bais din mandated executions. If one were to chas v’shalom burn a Sefer Torah with all of its sacred names; if one were to eat a non-kosher animal, an act which is mitamtem es ha’lev, stuffs/occludes the heart (one who consumes non-kosher…

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ארץ אוכלת יושביה היא וכל העם אשר ראינו בתוכה אנשי מדות

It is a land that consumes its inhabitants and all the people that we saw in it were men of great stature. (13:32)

It is a land that exhausts its inhabitants. It is a land not designed for people of ordinary size. Unless one has the constitution of a giant, he will become moribund there. Small and weak people do not survive there. Veritably, the meraglim encountered funerals wherever they went. Their error was a lack of faith in Hashem. They never asked themselves: Could Hashem be doing this for a reason? He was. The people were too preoccupied with visiting the cemeteries to notice a team of Jews wandering through the countryside. The report the spies brought back was based upon their…

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כי כל האנשים הראים את כבדי ... ולא שמעו בקולי ... אם יראו את הארץ ... וכל מנאצי לא יראוה

All the men who have seen My Glory… and they have not listened to My voice… They shall not see the land … all those that spurn Me shall not see it. (14:22,23)

The terms, Ha’ro’im, “Who have seen (My Glory),” and Im yiru, ‘They shall not see,” appear to be closely related. This, explains Horav S.R. Hirsch, zl, is why the Torah, in issuing the decree that this generation would not enter the Land, uses the expression, re’iyah, seeing, rather than im ya’vo’u, they will not come. He explains the rationale for the altered text. The Holy Land, the Eretz zovas cholov u’devash, flowing with milk and honey, the Land in which Divine intervention is to be seen on a national basis can only attain its destiny if the people “see,” acknowledge…

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ועשו להם ציצית על כנפי בגדיהם לדרתם ... וראיתם אותו וזכרתם את כל מצות ד' ועשיתם אתם

They shall make for themselves Tzitzis on the corners of their garments … that you may see it and remember all the mitzvos of Hashem. (15:38,39)

The mitzvah of Tzitzis is of such primary significance that it enables the Jew to remember all the Torah’s precepts. The corners of a garment are seen and accessible; otherwise, they cannot serve as much of a reminder of the mitzvos. Why is the reminder specifically on one’s garments? Horav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, zl (Michtav MeiEliyahu), explains that clothing is a person’s vehicle for presenting himself to the world, highlighting the role that he wants to play and the manner in which he wishes to be perceived. Thus, it is important that the garments be sanctified with reminders about Hashem,…

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ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם אשר אתם זנים אחריהם

And not explore after your heart and after your eyes after which you stray. (15:39)

Rashi explains that the heart and eyes are like the body’s spies, catalyzing a gravitation toward satisfying his animal nature. Human cognition is selective. As a result, it is influenced by improper thoughts. When one wants something, it suddenly becomes permissible. Desire has a way of limiting one’s ability to think properly. The heart and the mind procure for the body. The eye sees, the heart desires, the body follows through when it commits the sin. Having said this, we wonder why the heart’s desires precede the eye’s perception. The pasuk should have instructed us not to explore/probe after the…

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ויציאו אותו כל העדה אל מחוץ למחנה וירגמו אתו באבנים

The entire assembly removed him to the outside of the camp, they pelted him with stones. (15:36)

The Torah uses the plural of stone, avanim, which implies that a group participated in the execution of the mekoshesh eitzim, wood-gatherer. He was not the only one incarcerated at the time. The megadef, blasphemer, was also awaiting execution. Concerning his punishment, the Torah writes, Vayirgemu oso even, “They stoned him to death,” with the word even written in its singular form (Vayikra 24:23). Apparently, a difference existed between the manners of their individual executions. The Maharam Lublin, zl, was asked this question when he was a young child. He replied that, concerning the mekoshesh, some contended in his favor…

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ויהי בני ישראל במדבר וימצאו איש מקושש עצים ביום השבת ... ויניחו אתו במשמר כי לא פרש מה יעשה לו

Bnei Yisrael were in the wilderness and they found a man gathering wood on Shabbos day…They placed him in custody because what should be done with him had not been clarified. (15:32,34)

Rashi explains that, in fact, they knew that one who desecrates Shabbos is liable for the death penalty. They did not know, however, which one of the four punishments should be meted out for chillul Shabbos. While they waited for Moshe Rabbeinu to issue his ruling, the perpetrator was remanded into custody. Horav Gamliel Rabinowitz, Shlita, quotes Horav Aharon Katzenelbogen, zl, who presents an insightful exposition concerning the mekoshesh’s lockup. Earlier in the parshah, the Torah relates the nation’s reaction to Yehoshua and Calev’s support of Eretz Yisrael. They disputed the other ten meraglim, spies, and contended that Eretz Yisrael…

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שלח לך אנשים ויתרו את ארץ כנען

Send forth men, if you please, and let them spy out the land of Canaan. (13:2)

The chet ha’meraglim, sin of the spies, is one of the most difficult passages in the Torah to grasp. These were men of distinction, princes of their individual tribes who had earned their eminence. It was not just arbitrarily accorded to them. How did such great leaders fail? As an aside, I think that one powerful lesson may be derived: no one is immune to failure; no one is perfect, with no sign of weakness. People have flaws which they gloss over or address and overcome. Those who are unable to ferret out their individual issues are, for the most…

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והאנשים אשר שלח משה לתור את הארץ וישבו וילנו עליו את כל העדה להוציא דבה על הארץ...וימתו האנשים מוצאי דבת הארץ רעה במגפה לפני ד'

But as for the men whom Moshe sent to spy out the Land, and who returned and provoked the entire assembly to complain against him by spreading a report against the Land. (14:36)…The men, the ones spreading an evil report about the Land died in a plague before Hashem. (14:37)

The preceding pasuk already mentioned that the spies had spread an evil report about the Land. Why does the next pasuk, which relates their punishment, reiterate their slander of the Land? The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh attributes this to their slandering Eretz Yisrael. “How can one declare a completely beautiful Land to be bad?  How can a human being be so brazen?… As a result of this insurrection, Hashem’s anger flared against them, and He killed them immediately.” We derive from here that speaking negatively of Eretz Yisrael is a grave sin. It is unnatural because it is contrary to the…

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ויקרא משה להושע בן נון יהושע

Moshe called Hoshea Bin Nun Yehoshua. (13:16)

Moshe Rabbeinu added the letter yud to Yehoshua’s name, so that his name would begin with the letters of Hashem’s Name (Yud, Kay). The Hebrew name Yehoshua means Hashem saves or Hashem will save, which conveys that Moshe prayed for Yehoshua. Kah yoshiacha mei’atzas meraglim; “May Hashem save you from the conspiracy/counsel of the spies.” Why did Moshe pray for Yehoshua and not for Calev? Moshe had greater reason to be concerned for Yehoshua, for he feared that Yehoshua’s yetzer hora l’shem Shomayim, evil inclination would convince him to act egregiously because, ultimately, it would be for the sake of…

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