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Regarding challah, tzitzit, and us

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

This week's Torah portion describes a tragedy: The group of twelve spies sent to scout the Land of Israel returns to the people with a pessimistic report. Most of the group returns from their holy mission in complete despair. A land flowing with milk and honey has been promised, yet all they see are obstacles. The punishment the people suffer is to continue to wander forty years in the desert because the nation is not yet ready or mature enough to enter the Land. Rav Kook wrote that until today "impurity of the spies" accompanies us; it is the sin of little faith that needs to be rectified.

And then, towards the end of the parashah, two mitzvot appear for the first time. The first is decidedly feminine: separation of challah (a portion of bread dough). It is amazing to see that this mitzvah is highly popular until today in many different sectors of the population. There is something special about baking challah, especially before Shabbat, and in saying prayers associated with the mitzvah of challah before the unique fragrance of baking bread fills the home.

The second mitzvah is masculine: tzitzit. If previously we were concerned with baking bread, now we are concerned with wearing clothes. The tzitzit are fringes on a garment which, when gazing upon them, are a reminder of our phenomenal story.

In other words, the cure for weakness, for the confusion and the despair of the spies, is in small daily acts. In order to rectify the spies' mistaken appraisal of the Land of Israel, the Torah presents mitzvot that will accompany us throughout our lives and will educate us, little by little, regarding the holy path we are to take.

The above is dedicated to the ascent of the the soul of Sapir Nahum, whose body was discovered yesterday after a long search. May we merit to rectify all our misdeeds, whether in the story of the spies or in our own lives, and to live in the land flowing with milk and honey in security and in peace.


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