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Summary of Parshat Shelach

by the editors    
of Torah from Dixie    

Parshat Shelach (Numbers 13:1-15:40) begins with the pivotal incident of the spies' bad report about the land of Israel. As the Jewish people prepare to enter the land of Israel, they send twelve eminent leaders to survey the Promised Land, ten of whom return and deliver a bad report to the people, claiming that it would be impossible for the Jewish people to conquer the powerful nations living there. Refusing to listen to Caleb and Joshua's good report, the entire nation cries and complains throughout a night of total hysteria. Hashem threatens the Jewish people with extermination, at which point Moses pleas successfully that they not be totally annihilated. Even so, Hashem declares that they would be punished with forty years of wandering in the desert, during which time that entire generation would die out. Realizing their grave error, a group insists on advancing into the land immediately, against Hashem's will, and is wiped out by the notorious nations of Amalek and Canaan. The Torah then shifts gears to describe the wine libations which would accompany many of the korbanot (offerings) brought in the Mishkan (Tabernacle). After teaching the details of challah - not to be confused with the bread we eat on Shabbat, this refers to the portion to be separated from every batch of dough and given to a Kohen (priest) - the Torah mentions several laws dealing with the prohibition of idol worship, and the unfortunate case of the man who received the death penalty for desecrating Shabbat. Parshat Shelach concludes with the third paragraph of the Shema prayer containing the mitzvah to wear tzitzit, the fringes which serve as a constant reminder to us of Hashem and His commandments.

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