Weekly Reading Insights: 



From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


"Their shadow (tzilam) is removed from them" [14:9]

"Their shadow is removed from them - that is, their shield and their strength [are departed from them]. The worthy ones among them have died. Another interpretation: the shade (protection) of G-d is departed from them." - Rashi

It is possible that Scripture is alluding to the well-known fact that there will be no shadow over the head of a person who is [destined] to die that year, on "the night of the seal." [This is a term signifying the night of Hoshana Rabbah when the "Heavenly seal" is put upon the judgment, which was decided on the New Year and Day of Atonement for each individual and his fate in the coming year.] Therefore it says: "their 'shade' is already removed from them, meaning that death has been decreed upon them, and the Eternal is with us, for it is He Who dwells in our midst and does miracles and wonders for us in the eyes of all who behold us; therefore, fear them not."

Or it is possible that the verse alludes to the princes above [in heaven], for no nation falls unless its prince falls first, as it is written, The Eternal will punish the host of the high heaven on high etc., and afterwards, on the kings of the earth upon the earth, and as is explained in the Book of Daniel. Thus the verse is saying: "the power under whose protection the nations [in the land of Canaan] live is already removed, and the Eternal Who lowered them is with us, therefore fear them not." And thus the Rabbis said in Midrash Shir Hashirim: "And the shadows flee away. These are the princes of the nations and their angels," for they are the protection over the nations. I have already mentioned this is other places.


Rabbeinu Bachya

"..and now may the strength of My Lord by magnified, etc" [14:17]

A kabbalistic approach: The words 'the strength of My Lord be magnified' mean that the latent power reposing in the attribute of Mercy should be reinforced so that it will not escape into the highest regions of the heavens [a withdrawal from mankind or the people of Israel of that attribute. Ed]. The whole matter may be understood thus: when the Jewish people perform the commandments and therefore the will of the Lord, G-d will "ride the heavens," as Moses said in Deut. 33:27 "He rides the heavens with your (Israel's) help." Israel's conduct exerts influence on the manifestation of G-d's powers. This is the meaning of Psalms 60:14 "we will perform valiantly for the sake of the Lord." On the other hand, when the Jewish people do not observe the commandments He distances Himself from those of His attributes which are invoked often on behalf of Israel. This is the meaning of Deut. 33:29: "He will adopt a haughty attitude by withdrawing to the level of the celestial domains known as Shechakim." In other words, Israel's sinful conduct causes the manifestation of G-d's power to wane. The meaning of the word magnified in our verse then is that G-d's powers should become manifest in ever greater measure.



"These are the names of the men Moses sent....Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua (Yehoshua)" [13:16]

The two first consonants of the name Ye-ho-shua are the ones G-d applied to Himself when He declared His ongoing war against Amalek. (Ex. 17:16) For this reason the Torah may have emphasized that the route of the spies took them through territory held by Amelek. This part of G-d's name appended to the name of Joshua was therefore singularly suited to protect him against Amalek.



"…from the first part of your doughs" [15:21]

Both the commandment of tzitzit and that of challah are included in this parasha and both are described as "heads". In the case of challah, the Torah says that it is to be taken "…from the first part of your doughs" [in Hebrew, "mireishit arisoteichem"]. (Num. 15:21) Bereishit Rabba explains that the word "reishit" means "on account of the challah".

The Rekanati describes the mystical dimension of this commandment as being the fact that the nation of Israel is called "first" [in Hebrew, "reishit"] relative to other nations. This does not only mean that Israel is first, but also that Israel is separate from other nations. Similarly, it is necessary when putting the dough inside the oven to separate the challah from the rest of the dough and burn it in the flames of the oven so as not to confront the attribute of justice/din in its greatest intensity.

This is the reason that this challah is referred to as "to Havayah a terumah", (Num. 15:21) i.e. a gift elevated to the attribute of Mercy. This is the deeper meaning of the statement in the Midrash that the word "Bereishit" means "on account of that gift which is called "reishit"(i.e. "challah"); blessing devolves upon the world because of the fulfillment of this commandment. The reason the challah is given to the priest is so that the blessing will come to rest on your houses. Thus far the Rekanati.

The commandment to make tzitzit also alludes to reishit. Tzitzit are made up of 32 strings, symbolizing the 32 "paths" which G-d employed in bringing this universe into being, as we know from the first Mishna in the Sefer Yetzira, namely that "The beginning ("reishit") of all wisdom is a measure of reverence for G-d". (Psalms 111:10) The word "bereishit" itself contains an allusion to chochma; the Targum Yerushalmi translates that word as "with wisdom".

Broadly speaking, the use of these terms is an allusion to He who is the beginning of all existence, prior to whom there is no other reishit. When G-d "considered" revealing His being by creating the universe, the very beginning of such thoughts was synonymous with the final completion of the execution of His plan. In relation to the sefirot, these two stages are distinguished by two different terms: the primal thought (reishit hamachshava) is described as the chochma, or chochma elyona, whereas the completion of the state of execution (sof ma'aseh) is called malchut, or chochma tata'h - "lower wisdom". (The wisdom of King Solomon was described as being equivalent to this "lower wisdom".) It is also written "How great are Your works, G-d, You have executed them all with wisdom." (Psalms 104:24) The 32 strings of the tzitzit allude to "higher wisdom". The beginning of "lower wisdom" is the domain of Knesset Yisrael, the concept of the united community of the Jewish People.


Ohr HaChayim

"….for they are our bread." [14:9]

The reason Joshua and Caleb compared the Canaanites to bread is explained by the kabbalists. The latter have researched the kind of foods animals exist on and have tried to gain an insight into the significance of the respective animal' food supply.
After all, had He but wanted to, G-d could have created the animals in such a way that they did not have to depend on food at all.
We know that there are species that feed merely on air, which serves such creatures as food. Seeing this is possible, why did G-d not make the Israelites independent of food and all that its preparation entails so that they could devote their entire lives to Torah study and the performance of the commandments? Not only that, but had we been created as independent of a food supply, we would not have been exposed to many of the potential pitfalls different kinds of food represent for us.
I would have answered that if we had not been created in such a way that we are dependent of food for our existence, we would not have been able to fulfill all the commandments in the Torah that deal with certain foods. Our dependence on certain foods enables us to perform the various commandments in the Torah that are related to food.
The Kabbalists (Shaar Hagilgulin chapter 4 by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria) did not answer our question in this vein. They have added an additional dimension that makes us perceive the lives of all creatures as more meaningful. All living creatures are perceived as achieving a higher level of sanctity by means of the food they consume.
They very act of consuming the food helps the inherent level of sanctity they poses to become more manifest through being crystallized.
This concept applies even to the "unclean" animals. None of the wicked people, not even Satan himself, is totally devoid of a certain degree of sanctity. In fact, the only reason a wicked person or Samael can continue to exist is this element of sanctity that he contains. The moment this element of sanctity is lost, the entire creature is lost, disintegrates.
Keeping these concepts in mind, Joshua and Caleb considered the Canaanites as food for the Jewish people seeing that they had already lost whatever spark of sanctity they used to possess. They elaborated in this theme when they said that the Canaanites' shadow had departed from them, i.e. the spark of sanctity, which alone had kept them alive thus far, was already in the process of leaving them.
The fact that "G-d-d is with us," makes us like the magnet which draws unto it these sparks of sanctity which were still within the bodies of the Canaanites. As a result, there was absolutely no reason to fear these people.



Ramban - credits
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel

Bachya - credits
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rabbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

Alsheich - credits
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

Shelah - credits
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

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