Shelach Lecha: Entering the land

…and they [the spies] made their report to them [Moses and Aaron] and to the whole community as they showed them the fruit of the land. This is what they told him [Moses]: “We came to the land to which you sent us; it does indeed flow with milk and honey and this is its fruit. However, the people who inhabit the country are very powerful and the cities are fortified and very large, moreover we saw the Anakites there…” (B’midbar 13:26-28) Thus they spread calumny about the land they had scouted saying, “The country that we traversed and scouted is one that devours its inhabitants. All the people that we saw in it are men of great size…and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves and so we must have looked to them.” (B’midbar 13:32-33).

We journey uncertainly
out in the wilderness,
weak, dispossessed and
daunted by doubts.

In the land, we are told,
the crops are abundant;
the earth yields its fruit;
all is fertile and lush.

But hurdles loom up
before we inherit:
the others are giants –
they perceive us as ants.

Obstacles scare us,
belief has eluded us –
dwarfed by our qualms
we are slaves to our fears.

We don’t deem ourselves worthy,
nor trust God’s design,
yet we’re moved by the dream
of a visionary world.

Can we take that brief taste –
that promise of grace –
of milk and of honey,
and enter once more?

Shelach Lecha recounts the story of the spies who are sent out to reconnoître in the Promised Land before the people are to go up and conquer. They return and report that the land is beautiful but they are overwhelmed by the size and strength of the inhabitants and doubt that the children of Israel will succeed in conquering.
In her weekly blog Torah Journeys,, Rabbi Shefa Gold describes the blessing for which she searches in each parasha. Of Shelach Lecha, she says, “So too, this portion blesses us with a mission: Spy out the Land of our Inheritance, taste the milk and honey that flows from the Land of Promise, and let that taste guide us on your journey. The blessing we receive is a glimpse. What we do with that glimpse becomes the challenge.
Over a lifetime we are given glimpses, flashes, and hints that open our awareness…We glimpse the Promised Land, the place that is flowing with milk and honey, and then must return to the wilderness of our lives. This circuitous journey sets up a tension within us. We know the taste of perfection and yet the urge to reach for it calls us to battle again and again. We know that beneath the mask of suffering, there is grace. We have seen the light that is imprisoned within the shell of the world, the shell whose stubborn opacity shields us from the power of the truth within. The memory of our glimpse fuels our journey and keeps us from succumbing to the illusion and tyranny of this-is-all-there-is physical reality. That memory guides us through the wilderness.”
Rabbi Gold adds, “Shelach Lecha gives me this spiritual challenge: to remember what I have glimpsed and to plant the glimpse, like a seed, in the soil of my life. And Shelach Lecha warns me that if I deny that glimpse – if I doubt its validity – then I will be denied entrance to the Land of Promise – the state of consciousness that witnesses Divine Presence filling the whole world.”
The final verses in Shelach Lecha contain the mitzva of wearing tzitzit – fringes on four-cornered garments, which were to contain a thread of blue – the colour of the sky – a reminder to look up and aim for holiness.


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