Shlah: A Summary of the Parsha

Moses sends scouts to explore the Land of Israel; ten of them convince the people that it will be too difficult to conquer the land; God responds to their lack of confidence by punishing them with 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

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"Therefore, let it be as You once uttered it, God, 'The Lord, slow to anger, abundant in kindness; Forgiver of iniquity and transgression who cleanses, but does not clean completely, recalling the iniquity of parents upon children to the third and fourth generations.' Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to Your great kindness, as You have forgiven this people ever since Egypt."

God said, "I will forgive, but let it be known that all those who have seen My glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness and who have still chosen to spurn me shall not see this Promised Land. But My servants Caleb and Joshua were imbued with a different spirit and remained loyal to Me. I will bring them into the land and their offspring shall hold it as a possession.

"As for the rest of you who scouted the land, I heard your murmuring of revolt against Me. Your corpses will fall in this wilderness and only your children will enter the land. But first your sons shall wander about in this desert for forty years, one year for every day the scouts were exploring. Then everyone shall know what it means to thwart Me."

And so it came to be that the scouts who spread lies about the land died suddenly before God. Only Joshua, son of Nun, and Caleb, son of Yefunneh, survived.

God told Moses to instruct the Israelites that upon entering the land they are to give offerings to God and are to remember, throughout all generations, that strangers who enter their land shall be equal with them before God. There is one standard for everyone.

Moses continued with God's instructions: In this land, you shall make a gift to the Lord from the first yield of your baking.

If you don't heed these commandments, then the whole community must prepare for atonement. If an individual sins, then a personal offering must be made. Acts of inadvertence will be forgiven. But for the citizen or stranger who rebukes God, that person shall be cut off from his people. The person shall be cut off with his guilt.

Once the Israelites were in the wilderness, they came upon a man gathering wood on the Sabbath. When he was brought before Moses, Aaron and the community, God ordered the man to be stoned to death.

Then God said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites to make fringes on the corners of their garments with a cord of sky-blue. Each thread shall remind you of the commandments of the Lord. They shall remind you to remain holy to your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God."

Questions for Discussion

1) Why do you think the people continue to not trust in God after all the miracles God has performed for them? Do you ever lose your trust in God? Why?

2) Why do you think it is important to have one standard before God for citizen and stranger alike? Do you treat people differently if they are strangers or are from a different culture or religion or country?

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Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.