Join our weekly Peninim on the Torah list!

[et_bloom_inline optin_id="optin_1"]

שלח לך אנשים ויתרו את ארץ כנען

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

Moshe Rabbeinu relayed to Hashem the nation’s request for spies to reconnoiter Eretz Yisrael. Hashem told Moshe to send them. If the nation insisted on sending spies, it was best that Moshe be involved in the decision concerning whom to send. For if the nation were to act on its own, without direction from its spiritual leadership, it would be tantamount to rebellion. Furthermore, a nation without leadership is more like 600,000 leaders, each with his own opinion, acting independently of the other. Obviously, they were deficient in their emunah, faith, in Hashem. He had promised to lead them into…

Continue Reading

היש בה עץ אם אין

Are there trees in it or not? (13:20)

Was Moshe Rabbeinu interested in the land’s vegetation? Rashi explains that Moshe’s inquiry concerning a tree was an allusion to a tzaddik. He wanted the spies to discern whether a righteous man was in the Land, in whose merit its inhabitants would be spared. The righteous activities of tzaddikim are undisputed. If one were asked to paint a portrait of a tzaddik, he would probably depict a man with a saintly countenance, bent over a pile of sefarim, Torah volumes. Some tzaddikim are ordinary people, but have earned tzaddik status because they are mezakei ha’rabim, bring merit upon many people….

Continue Reading

ונהי בעינינו כחגבים וכן היינו בעיניהם

We were like grasshoppers in our eyes and so were we in their eyes. (13:33)

When the meraglim, spies, returned from their mission, the nation debated their negative report. They ruminated back and forth: Could they triumph over the giant Canaanites or would they be defeated? The meraglim were emphatic that they had no hope for success. The people listened to them, and they began their bechiyah shel chinam, unwarranted weeping – a weeping for which we have been punished with a bechiyah l’doros, weeping for generations. As a consequence, that night, which was the Ninth of Av, became the precursor of our national day of mourning. What did the meraglim fear? What was it…

Continue Reading

בהעלותך את הנרות

When you bring up/kindle the lamps. (8:2)

Rashi cites Chazal who derive from the word b’haalosecha, which is connected to alah, go up, that there was an elevation before the Menorah in the Bais HaMikdash.  The Kohen would ascend those steps in order to kindle the lamps. I once heard a profound homiletic rendering of this Chazal. Not only was it incumbent upon the Kohen to cause the lights of the lamps to rise, but he also had to rise up one step, to elevate himself spiritually as he kindled the lights. Many wonderful people illuminate society by kindling lights, but they do not necessarily elevate themselves…

Continue Reading

לכה אתנו והטבנו לך כי ד' דבר טוב על ישראל

Go with us and we shall treat you well, for Hashem has spoken good for Yisrael. (10:29)

Moshe Rabbeinu asked his father-in-law, Yisro, to join the nation in its journey to Eretz Yisrael. “We will treat you well,” Moshe says. “Because Hashem has spoken good (He will provide us with His beneficence: you, too, will benefit.) The term diber tov, spoken good, is found in only one other place in Tanach. In Megillas Esther (7:9), when Charvonah tells Achashveirosh that the tree which Haman ha’rasha had prepared for Mordechai — asher diber tov al ha’Melech, “who spoke good for the king” — is standing in Haman’s house (and why not put it to good use?). The Agra…

Continue Reading

שטו העם ולקטו וטחנו ברחים... ועשו אתו עגות והיה טעמו כטעם לשד השמן

The people would roam and gather it, and grind it in a mill… or make it into cakes and it tasted like the taste of dough kneaded with oil. (11:8)

Chazal (Yoma 75a) teach that the manna had within it a multiplicity of tastes, allowing the individual to experience any taste he wanted. It had no name until the first Shabbos it descended upon the camp. They called it Manna among themselves, a name which implies hachanah, preparation, for all foods; any taste could be experienced by eating it.  When on the sixth day/Erev Shabbos, however, a double portion fell, they called it Manna/man, because the mem and nun, two letters which comprise the word manna, are spelled out in double letters: mem = mem, mem: nun, nun (Kli Yakar)….

Continue Reading

כי תאמר אלי שאהו בחיקך כאשר ישא האמן את הינק

That You say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a suckling.” (11:12)

Moshe Rabbeinu implied with his words that if he were indeed their (Klal Yisrael’s) father, he would have an obligation to somehow carry on alone. The Chafetz Chaim, zl, derives from here that the buck stops at the parents. No parent may shirk his/her ultimate responsibility and turn from his/her children – regardless of personal difficulties or the (at times) difficult nature of the child. Horav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zl, gleaned from here that Moshe had the capacity to “carry” the entire nation. Obviously, this is a metaphor for his ability to care for and be sensitive to the needs of…

Continue Reading

איש או אשה כי יפליא לנדר נדר נזיר

A man or woman who shall dissociate himself by taking a Nazarite vow of abstinence. (6:2)

Why does the Torah juxtapose the incident/parshah of the nazir upon the incident/parshah of the sotah, wayward wife? One who sees a sotah in her degradation should prohibit wine to himself by taking a Nazarite vow (Rashi). The sotah had opted to follow her sensual passion, allowing her pursuit of pleasure to take precedence over her commitment to G-d. One who falls under the grasp of wine can, likewise, fall victim to temptation. A nazir is prohibited to drink wine. A well-known story tells about a dedicated Jew who refused to eat the non-kosher food that was standard fare in…

Continue Reading

כי נזר אלקיו על ראשו

For the crown of his G-d in upon his head. (6:7)

Because he wears the crown of G-d upon his head, a nazir has specific laws concerning his lifestyle, i.e. where he may go, what areas he may frequent, what he may consume. He is dedicated to Hashem, having chosen to live on an elevated spiritual plane. While some may consider his choice a bit extremist in nature, he is motivated by a profound desire to achieve spiritual ascendency. A nazir is an adult who has made a choice. Children and young adults do not necessarily have the ability or wherewithal to assume such a positive life change, so they often…

Continue Reading

ביום השני הקריב נתנאל בן צוער נשיא יששכר ביום השלישי נשיא לבני זבולון אליאב בן חלן ביום הרביעי נשיא לבני ראובן אליצור בן שדיאור

On the second day, Nesanel ben Tzuar offered the leader of Yissachar (7:18). On the third day, the leader of the children of Zevulun, Eliav ben Cheilon (7:24). On the fourth day, the leader of the children of Reuven, Elitzur ben Shedeiur. (7:30)

Noticeably, the tribe/Nasi/Prince of Yissachar preceded the tribe of Reuven, who was Yaakov Avinu’s bechor, firstborn. Furthermore, Zevulun also preceded Reuven. The Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh explains that Yissachar preceded Reuven because he was the ben Torah, of the tribe that devoted itself to fulltime commitment to Torah study. Since Zevulun was his honorary partner, supporting him while he was engaged in commerce, he was placed near Yissachar in sequence. We see from the Ohr HaChaim that not only does Torah study take primacy over every other endeavor and achievement, one who supports Torah study, albeit himself not actively engaged in…

Continue Reading