Parashas Shelach

In this week’s parashah, Yehoshua and Calev urge the Jewish People to discount the negative report of the other ten scouts, and to proceed to Eretz Yisrael with confident trust in Hashem. They conclude their speech as follows (Bamidbar 14:9): “But do not rebel against Hashem! Do not be anxious about the people of the land, for they are our bread. Their protection has departed from them, and Hashem is with us. Do not fear them!”
The phrase “our bread” appears in four Biblical verses. The verse quoted above is the first. Below are the other three.
1. Yehoshua 9:12: “This is our bread – it was hot when we took it as provisions from our houses, on the day we departed to go to you, but now, behold, it is dry and has become parched.”
2. Yeshayah 4:1: “And seven women will grasp one man on that day, saying: ‘We will eat our [own] bread and wear our [own] clothes; just let us be called by your name, and end our disgrace.’”
3. Eichah 5:9: “With our souls we bring in our bread, because of the sword of the wilderness.”
The Maggid presents a homiletical commentary that ties these four verses together.
When the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed and we were dispersed among foreign nations, initially we were anguished over our great loss. We felt as if a dagger had been plunged into our bones (Tehillim 42:11). We were, as Yechezkel prophesied (verse 20:43), disgusted with ourselves over having committed the sins that led to this tragedy, and we pleaded to Hashem that Yerushalayim be restored. We lamented both the loss of our glory and the peril we suffered in exile. But now, due to our many sins, there are people among us whose attitude is like that of the Jews who were struck down during the plague of darkness in Egypt – people who are comfortable in their foreign abodes and feel they must stay to maintain their livelihood. They are largely detached from Eretz Yisrael and Yerushalayim, and concern themselves more with the welfare of their foreign hosts.
The Maggid brings out the point with a moving parable. Once there was a prince who misbehaved so brazenly that his father, the king, banished him from the palace to fend for himself. He wandered from place to place for awhile, and eventually settled down as servant in a villager’s home, where he carried out menial jobs for a small wage and a bit of bread. He served the villager loyally, and, in turn, the villager faithfully paid him his wages and rations, day by day. After some time, an evil rumor went out about this villager, and he was arrested and taken for trial. The prince was deeply troubled, and he decided to go to his father the king to plead with him to show mercy to the villager. The king, upon seeing his son making his appeal, burst out in bitter wailing and exclaimed: “My son! My dear son! Why are you going through this effort for this villager?” The prince answered: “Because he is supporting me – I depend on him for my sustenance.” The king responded: “Woe to you, my dear son, that you have to concern yourself with your sustenance! Just remember, if you will, the place you were banished from! Your table was decked out from one end to the other with the finest delicacies. As a prince in the royal palace, you lacked nothing. If you will now just turn your heart toward me, to mend your ways and reconcile with me, you will once again live the life of a prince. I have been saving all my treasures just for you!”
We are like the prince in this story. We pray to Hashem that the nations of the world should have a strong economy, so that a little bit will trickle down to us and enable us to live. We do not seek to return to His palace. How pathetic it is for us to act this way!
The verse from our parashah exhorts us to abandon this attitude. “Do not be anxious about the people of the land” – let us not be anxious about how the nations of the world will fare. Let us not say, “They are are bread” – let us not count on the support of others. It befits us more to plead for the restoration of the Beis HaMikdash, which is meant to be the conduit of blessing from heaven to earth. Let us therefore say, “This is our bread – it was hot when we took it as provisions from our houses” – let us recall the lechem ha-panim (showbread) of the Mikdash, which was as hot when it was taken off the table in our holy House of Hashem after a week as it was when it was first baked (Menachos 29a), and of which a small morsel was enough to make a person satiated (Yoma 29a). Let us also lament over the way we now obtain our sustenence: “With our souls we bring in our bread.” As we work to make a living, we put our souls in peril; we are constantly at risk of sinning in our dealings with others – through encroachment, theft, false declarations, faulty scales, and so on. The bread we eat is “soiled bread” (cf. Malachi 1:7); as Yechezkel 4:13 puts it: “The Children of Israel shall eat their bread defiled.” And thus let us focus our prayers on a plea to Hashem to place us under His shelter and care. We should reach out to Him and seek a bond with him, saying: “We will eat our bread and wear our clothes; just let us be called by Your name, and end our disgrace.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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