Illuminations #122, Sivan 5777, Parshat Shlach Lecha

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Illuminations #121, Sivan 5777, Parshat Shelach Lecha


Torah Gems

הארץ אשר עברנו בה לתור אתה ארץ אכלת יושביה הוא “The land that we passed through to spy out, is a land which devours its inhabitants” (BaMidbar, 13:32). When people lack faith, the ensuing fear can cause them to behave in an unacceptable manner.

The Ramban mentions that at first the spies said, in front of Moshe Rabbenu and Aharon HaKohen, ‘a”h, that it was a land flowing with milk and honey. However, they also added that there were many problems, including the fact that the people were strong, implying that that they would not be able to inherit the land. Calev, upon hearing this, stated that if they went up, they would succeed in inheriting the land.

The lack of faith of the spies and their ensuing fear caused them then to speak privately to the people and state that it was a land that devoured its inhabitants. The lack of faith of the people caused them to return with spies and they all murmured against Moshe Rabbenu, ‘a”h, (See Bammidbar, 14:36).

What we see from this is that a small group of people were able to influence an entire congregation. It seems obvious that, even though the ten spies were at fault, they were only able to influence the minds of the others because they, too, were lacking in faith. Let it be a lesson for us to work on our faith. Hot on the heels of Parashath Shelakh Lekha comes the period of the 22 days leading up to Tish’ah BeAv. Let us remember that not only did that generation have to die in the wilderness, but we are still paying the price today. Let us pray that we will soon witness the rebuilding of the Bet HaMikdash, Amen.

Parsha Pearls

ויקרא משה להושע בן נון יהושע “And Moses called Hosheya  Bin Nun, Yehoshua” (Bamidbar 13:16). It says in Barukh Ta’am, quoting the Yerushalmi (Sanhedrin 58b), that when the Holy One Blessed be He changed Sara Immenu’s (‘a”h), name from Sarai to Sara, the letter Yod, which was at the end of her orginal name, came to G-d with its concern that it had been removed from the name of this righteous woman. G-d replied that in Sarai’s name it was at the end of the name, but now G-d would put it at the beginning of the name, tranforming Hosheya into Yehoshua.

Normally, the word “Ben” (the son of) is written with a Segol vowel, which contains three dots. In the case of Yehoshua, it is written “Bin”, with a Hirik vowel ( בִן ), which is only one dot. This is unusual and requires some explanation. When the letter Yod was originally in the name Sarai, it did not have a Hiriq (dot) under it. Now that it was transferred to Yehoshua, the Yod requires a Sheva under it, with two dots, as in all cases where a word starts with a Yod, it requires a vowel.

G-d did not want to take the two dots of the Sheva from another letter, so He took it from Yehoshua’s own name. He took two dots from the Segol in the word “Ben” and placed it under the Yod of Yehoshua. This left only one dot under the word Ben, transforming it into “Bin”.

The Mefarshim explain that everything in the Torah, Tefillot (prayers) and Berakhot (blessings) is accountable. Not even one dot, or one letter, and all the more so, one word, may be missing from the accounting. Hakham Barukh Toledano, ‘a”h, comments that it behooves us when reading the Torah, Tefillot and Berakhot, to ensure that not even one letter is swallowed in our reading.

Glimpses of Greatness

In Yerushalayim over one hundred years ago there was only one etrog in the city. However, to their dismay, a halakhic question arose as to whether it was kosher. They decided to send their question to Rav Moshe Hayim, the father of the Ben Ish Hai. When the letter arrived in Baghdad, the Ben Ish Hai (who at that point was only sixteen years of age) spotted the letter.  Hakham Yosef Hayim (the Ben Ish Hai) decided he would write a response to the question. He stayed up all night and wrote a complex halakhic response. A week later his father also sent a response. The Rabbis of Jerusalem responded that his brilliant son already sent them the answer.

Halacha Weekly

Q. Can one look at a picture of a Rashah (an evil person) ?

A. In Megilah (28a) Rabbi Yochanan says that it is prohibited to stare at the form or picture of an evil person.  Magen Avraham(Orech Chaim, 225-20, R. Avraham Avli Gobiner, Z”L) however, raises a difficulty. What if one sees an evil person who is beautiful, for example an idolator who happens to have a beautiful appearance? One is obligated to say a blessing over seeing beautiful people: “Blessed are You, etc….Who Has such in His Universe.” On the one hand we find the ruling in the Shulchan Aruch that one who sees an idolator who is of beautiful appearance must say this blessing over seeing beautiful creations. However, doesn’t it say that it is prohibited to stare at the image of an evil person? He answers this difficulty saying that here, where we are talking about actually seeing him directly, one must say a blessing if the person has a beautiful appearance. He writes further that in any case it appears that specifically to stare at him excessively and meditate on his form and likeness is prohibited, but to simply see his image is permitted.

Paat Sadechah (Yoreh Deah -54, R. Shmuel David Munk) asks who exactly is considered an evil person as regards this issue [of staring at the form of an evil person]? It appears the Gemarah in Megilah learns this from Yehoram who was very great in his evil [that it only applies to an evil person who is widely known for being evil]. We do not have in hand a basis to be more stringent than this, however one who decides to be stringent to a greater extent than what is explicitly mentioned in the Gemarah will bring upon himself a blessing.

 In Loving Memory of

Reina bat Messodi, ע”ה

By Jacques and Amy Elfersy