Mitzvas Challah: Seeing the Good

IMG_2874In this week’s parsha, Parshas Shelach, we read of the Twelve Scouts who went to investigate the holy land of Eretz Yisrael, prior to the ascent of the Israelites into the Land.  They walked the land for forty days, scouting out her length and width… And when they came back to the Israelite encampment in the desert wilderness, ten of the scouts bore enormous fruits and slanderous, fearful, terrible reports of the Land of Milk and Honey.  Giants live there!  The Land consumes its inhabitants!  Would that we have died in Egypt!  We cannot possible ascend!  (Bamidbar Chapter 13)

The infamous ending we know all too well… And the people sat and cried that night… You cried for no reason, said the Almighty, I will establish for you a crying for generations… And since that very first Tishaa B’Av, we are still crying on the mournful day of Tishaa B’Av, as we recall the destruction of Zion and Yerushalayim with the fall of both Batei Mikdash and the exile of our nation from upon its Land. 

Later in the parsha, we are commanded regarding a mitzvah dependent upon our entry into Eretz Yisrael: “Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When you come into the Land to which I am bringing you; It shall be when you eat of the bread of the Land, you shall lift out an uplifted donation (portion) for Hashem; רֵאשִׁית, עֲרִסֹתֵכֶם–חַלָּה, תָּרִימוּ תְרוּמָה – As the first portion from your kneading bowls, you shall lift out a challah as an uplifted donation…” (Bamidbar 15:17-20)

D’Oraisa – according to Torah law – this mitzvah applies only in Eretz Yisrael, with the bountiful blessings of the Land, when the majority of the nation is living in the Holy Land.  R’ Samson Rafael Hirsch writes that, “Our challah, outside of Eretz Yisrael, (which is a mitzvah d’Rabbanan) is only a reminder of the duty that applied in our ancient homeland.”

It is interesting to ponder that this mitzvah is commanded to us in Parshas Shelach, following the disaster of the scouts who slandered the Land.  They saw and spoke negatively about the Land; we are to take the bounty of the Land, appreciate it and elevate it through this special mitzvah… 

Perhaps the mitzvah of challah is a tikun – a rectification and repair – for the sin of not seeing the good of the Promised Land.  The scouts saw negative and slandered the Land.  Challah is taken specifically in E”Y – בְּבֹאֲכֶם, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ – so that we may recognize the bounty, beauty and blessings of the Land, and offer thanks – and a portion – of its goodness to Hashem, to be metaken the sin of the spies.

We rectify their misdeed and wrongdoing by seeing, perceiving and recognizing the good of the Land, and for that, we give thanks, as we set aside a portion for Hashem. 

In the summer of 5669 (1909) R’ Avraham Yitzchak ha’Kohen Kook zt’l spent some time in Rechovot.  On the 19th of Tammuz, he wrote a letter to his brother, R’ Dov Bear, describing the colony and its orchards:

“Blessed is He Who establishes the boundary of the widow (Eretz Yisrael).  The air! How can I describe to you its purity and pleasantness?  It is truly a breath of life for our souls.  A western wind – which passes through the Sharon, with all of its orange groves, countless almond tress, and lovely vineyards – rolls over the Judean hills, which surround us as far as the eye can see.  As we stand in this divinely-blessed place, in the ethereal rays of light, the sight that we see brings news of salvation and consolation to the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem, giving strength and courage to the nation.  Who can evaluate the grace and delight of this wind, which carries us to the glorious heights of Hashem!”

May we always be wise enough, discerning enough, loving enough, and faithful enough, to see the good in the bountiful, beautiful Land, as we repair the sin of the slanderous spies, who doubted the goodness of the Land, and thereby showed a lack on faith in the Almighty.

יברכך ה׳ מציון וראה בטוב ירושלים כל ימי חייך  May Hashem bless you from Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life (Ps.128:5).

And, perhaps, when we are able to truly appreciate the blessing of the Land flowing with milk and honey, we will merit to see her ruins rebuilt, may it be speedily and in our days, amen v’amen

הָלוֹךְ יֵלֵךְ וּבָכֹה נֹשֵׂא מֶשֶׁךְ הַזָּרַע בֹּא יָבֹא בְרִנָּה נֹשֵׂא אֲלֻמֹּתָיו – Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with song, carrying his sheaves (Ps.126:6).

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


1 Comment
  • Shani Gerlitz
    Posted at 15:13h, 30 June

    Again, the lesson of perspective…a lesson we can incorporate into every aspect of our lives. We can cry over nothing- it’s a matter of how we see something. As we cry every Tisha b’av, we can remind ourselves to actively seek the good in the parts of our lives that we find so disappointing.