Parashat Shelah Lekha 5783

June 13, 2023

Rabbi Rena H. Kieval ('06)

God is out of patience, ready to give up on the grumbling Israelites. God and Moshe have attempted to transform a group of homeless, freed slaves into a nation, while the people have struggled with dissension, lack of faith and understandable fears about their future. They complain, rebel and grumble. (The Book of Numbers might also be called the Book of Grumblers!) In this week’s parasha, this “generation of the wilderness,”dor ha-midbar, has committed the second of its most egregious acts of rebellion. Earlier, they built and worshipped a golden calf. In Shelah lekha, twelve scouts, a leader from each tribe, report on their mission to check out the promised land. They all agree that the land is fertile and desirable, but ten of the twelve recommend against going forward, stirring fear and doubt and demoralizing the people. The Israelites declare, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we might die in the...

Read more >

Parashat Shelah 5782

June 24, 2022

In this week’s D’var Torah, Rabbi Katy Allen says that Caleb and Joshua teach us not to catastrophize but to seek out the best and maintain a positive outlook even when the future feels fearful.

Read more >

Parashat Shelah 5781

June 4, 2021

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah The Arc of the Covenant A D’var Torah for Parashat Shelah By Rabbi Enid Lader (’10) What does it mean to be holy? What does it mean to be in a covenant with God? It seems to me that the Children of Israel – we – have been on a trajectory of learning about holiness and covenant ever since we were brought out of Egypt, stood at Sinai’s foot and heard these words of God from Moses: וּמֹשֶׁ֥ה עָלָ֖ה אֶל־הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֵלָ֤יו ה’ מִן־הָהָ֣ר לֵאמֹ֔ר כֹּ֤ה תֹאמַר֙ לְבֵ֣ית יַעֲקֹ֔ב וְתַגֵּ֖יד לִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ … and Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel: אַתֶּ֣ם רְאִיתֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשִׂ֖יתִי לְמִצְרָ֑יִם וָאֶשָּׂ֤א אֶתְכֶם֙ עַל־כַּנְפֵ֣י נְשָׁרִ֔ים וָאָבִ֥א אֶתְכֶ֖ם אֵלָֽי׃ ‘You have seen what I did...

Read more >

Parashat Shelah 5780

June 19, 2020

A D’var Torah for Parashat Shelah By Cantor Sandy Horowitz (’14) Leaders tend to behave in one of two ways. Some promote fear, often spreading lies which may be based on fears of their own; other leaders promote trust, offering hope for a future envisioned but not yet realized.  Parashat Shelah tells the story of what can happen when leadership is fear-based. It begins as twelve men are selected by Moses to scout out the promised land. These twelve are all machers in the community, one from each of the twelve tribes, whose names and lineage are listed in the text. Their mission is to gather information about the land and its inhabitants. The Torah reading describes how they find huge clusters of grapes, as well as pomegranates and figs – indications of fertile land and good produce. Then we read, “And they returned from searching the land after forty days” (Num. 13:25). There are...

Read more >

Parashat Korah 5779

July 3, 2019

Korah: Idealist or Demagogue? A D’var Torah for Parashat Korah By Rabbi Len Levin Korah’s words resonate with modern egalitarian sympathies: “For the congregation are all holy, and Adonai is among them; and why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Adonai?” (Numbers 16:3). In a previous Dvar Torah (AJR archive 2014) I explored the challenge that this presents for Jews faithful to the Torah narrative. If we are sincere in our commitment to egalitarian principles, we must at least examine if Korah’s arguments have merit. The biblical narrative does not look on Korah’s protest kindly. In that narrative, Korah’s rebellion against Moses’s authority is punished by his being swallowed up by the earth, together with all his followers and their property. If such punishment was deserved, then Korah’s arguments must have been insincere, crafted with the sole purpose of serving his personal ambition—a classic ploy of demagogues from...

Read more >