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Mission Oriented - שלח


Mission Oriented 

It was perhaps the most dramatic part of the story. Caleb, one of the two spies who remained loyal to the land of Israel, stood up against the other ten spies and "silenced the Jewish people to Moses."

The twelve spies had just returned to the Jewish people in the desert after scouting the land of Israel and presented their report: 

"We came to the land to which you sent us, and it is flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who inhabit the land are mighty, and the cities are extremely huge and fortified, and there we saw even the offspring of the giant. The Amalekites dwell in the south land, while the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountainous region. The Canaanites dwell on the coast and alongside the Jordan." (Numbers 13:27-29)

At this point, the spies did not yet say anything wrong, in fact, they did precisely as they were instructed by Moses, who dispatched them to determine the fertility of the land and the quality of its produce, as well as the might of its inhabitants and the fortification of its cities. That is precisely what the spies addressed at this point. The spies' sin was only obvious later when they added a conclusion of their own and declared: "We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we." Why then did Caleb interrupt them at the point when they were still offering their factual report? 

Caleb saw that the spies made a subtle but profoundly critical change from Moses' request. Moses first asked them to report about the might of the people and the fortification of the cities, and only then to evaluate the produce and fertility of the land.. The spies, however, changed the order. They first reported about the beauty of the produce ("flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit"), and only then did they talk about the might of the inhabitants ("However, the people who inhabit the land are mighty…")

When Caleb saw the spies making this change of order, he understood that he needed to silence them immediately. 

Evaluating the might of the native people was necessary in order to know how to engage in the battle of conquest and was therefore relevant to the mission of the Jewish people. The produce of the land, by contrast, represented the benefit that the Jewish people would receive for fulfilling their mission. To Moses, the task was primary, and the benefits were secondary. The spies, however, were primarily interested in the benefit, the produce of the land, and their interest in the actual mission was secondary. Caleb silenced them because he understood the danger of their attitude. A person who is focused on the benefit and not adequately committed to the mission is somebody who will look for the easy way out and will ultimately underestimate their own abilities and skills. 

Each of us is on this earth on a mission from G-d to transform the world into a “Holy Land,” a place of goodness and kindness. Like the biblical spies, we too face fears, worries, challenges, and obstacles. We sometimes question our ability and our resolve to fulfill our Divine mission. Caleb teaches us that when we focus on the goal and put our own concerns aside, we will ultimately be successful in completing our mission. The less we focus on “what’s in it for me”, the more we will be able to fulfill our purpose, and the more we will benefit from “the land that flows of milk and honey”, in both the spiritual and material sense. 

(Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Shelach 5710)

The Second Passover, Correct or Complete? - בהעלותך


The Second Passover, Correct or Complete? 

It was the very first anniversary of the exodus from Egypt. The people who could not offer the Passover offering, because they were ritually impure, approached Moses and protested the fact that they would miss the opportunity to offer the Pesach offering. G-d then instructed Moses that there would be a second chance to offer the Passover offering precisely one month later: 

The Lord spoke to Moses saying:

Speak to the children of Israel saying, Any person who becomes unclean from [contact with] the dead, or is on a distant journey, whether among you or in future generations, he shall make a Passover sacrifice for the Lord.

In the second month, on the fourteenth day, in the afternoon, they shall make it; they shall eat it with unleavened cakes and bitter herbs. (Numbers 9:9-11)

The message of this beautiful story is that it is never too late. In our spiritual connection to G-d, there is no such thing as a missed opportunity because one can always correct the mistake and fill in what he missed. 

Upon closer analysis, however, it seems that the definition of the second Passover is a matter of debate.

The Talmud (Pesachim 93a) presents a debate on the precise definition of the second Passover. Whereas some authorities define the holiday as either “a redress for the first {Passover}” or a “repair” for the {failure to offer the Paschal lamb on the} first {Passover}, The opinion of Rebbi is that the second Passover is “an independent festival”.  A ramification of this debate is in the case of a convert who converted to Judaism during the thirty days between the first and second Passover. According to the first two opinions, which state that the second Passover is a redress or a repair for the first one, the convert, who was not obligated to offer the first Passover since he was not yet Jewish, would not be required to offer the second Passover. However, according to the opinion that the second Passover is an independent festival (for those who, for whatever reason, did not celebrate the first Passover), the convert would be required to offer the Passover offering on the second Passover. 

Although the legal ruling follows the opinion that the second Passover is an independent festival, nevertheless, the theme of the holiday is that it is always possible to correct. That is because the Hebrew word for redress, “Tashlumin,” has two meanings: (1) to correct a deficiency. (2) To make something complete. This second definition applies even when something has no blemish or deficiency; even then, it can be improved and made more complete and more perfect. The connection between these two definitions is that, according to Judaism, one has a responsibility to reach their full potential since every person must develop their G-d given gifts to their fullest. It follows then that reaching one’s full potential, making oneself more "complete" (the second meaning of "Tashlumin"), is, in fact, “correcting a deficiency”, (the first definition of “Tashlumin”), since not developing our full potential is in itself a deficiency. 

In the final analysis, the commandment of the second Passover empowers us not only to correct the mistakes we may have made (“correcting a deficiency”), but, just as important, it inspires us and empowers us to reach our full potential (“making something more complete”).  

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Lekutei Sichos Behaaloscha 18 Sicha 4

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