Thoughts on Sh’lach

This week’s Torah reading in Israel is Sh’lach, Numbers 13:1 – 15:41.*The haftarah, the reading from the prophets, is Joshua 2:1-24 and the reading from the Apostolic Writings is John 14:1-24.

The parasha starts with the episode of leaders from the twelve tribes being sent into the land of Canaan to investigate the territory, which did not end well and eventually led to Israel’s extended journey in the wilderness instead of their immediate entrance into the land of promise. The parasha ends with HaShem telling Moshe to command Bnei Yisrael

…that they are to make for themselves tzitzit on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and they are to put a blue cord on each tzitzit.It will be your own tzitzit—so whenever you look at them, you will remember all the mitzvot of Adonai and do them and not go spying out after your own hearts and your own eyes, prostituting yourselves. This way you will remember and obey all My mitzvot and you will be holy to your God.

Numbers 15:38-40

Concerning the phrase “your own hearts and your own eyes” Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, ז״ל, comments,“…the eyes mentioned in the verse here are not the eyes one uses for physical vision, but are spiritual eyes, the eyes which understand and recognize things. Nor is the heart the anatomic heart, but it is our drives, the mental factors, which are present within man.” (Accepting the Yoke of Heaven, Urim Publications, 2002, p. 139.)

Rashi also commenting on verse 39, stresses “and not go spying out (וְלֹא תָתוּרו)”. He points out that a different form of the same Hebrew word (מִּתּוּר) is used in Numbers 13:25 when the spies return from investigation or scouting out the land. He goes on to note that “the heart and eyes are the spies for the body. They act as its agents for sinning: the eye sees, the heart covets, and the body commits the sin (Midrash Tanchuma, Sh’lach 15).” (See: https://www.sefaria.org.il/Numbers.15.39?lang=bi&aliyot=0&p2=Rashi_on_Numbers.15.41&lang2=bi)

In other words, as the eyes and the heart as the spies of the body prepare the way for the body to transgress. In Matthew, Yeshua teaches his followers similarly,

…the things that proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart, and those things make the man unholy.For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander.

Matthew 15:18019

Years ago, when I was on active duty in the Marine Corp, for a season I was a Data Systems Analyst. I worked with maintenance and supply statistics in order to determine manpower and material usage as well as to determine the reasons for aircraft being out of service. One of the first things we learned in school, which became quite obvious in the field, was the term GIGO or “garbage in, garbage out.” GIGO is used to express the idea that in computing and other spheres, incorrect or poor-quality input will always produce faulty output. If I put in the wrong data, if I misplaced a decimal point one direction or the other, the result could have been not only false but also very costly. Attention to detail was an absolute must.

Returning to the scriptures for today, we must guard what our eyes see and what our heart dwells upon. GIGO is active in our spiritual lives as well. This concept is reflected Yeshua’s words when he told his disciples, “The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore, if your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your body will be full of darkness” (Matthew 6:22-23). Similar to Prof. Leibowitz’s interpretation of heart and eyes noted above, Yeshua was probably not speaking about the physical eye, but the spiritual eye, which is the gateway to the inner self that has the potential to corrupt not only the soul but every aspect of one’s life. 

Social media is one area that we must guard not only our eyes and our hearts but also our time. I am not saying all of social media is wrong or bad, but it is an area that must be guarded. This morning when I opened Facebook, I saw a cartoon posted by Rabbi Michael Schiffman. It was the picture of a stereotypical scraggly prophet, walking down a busy street, carrying a sign that read, “The END of the WORLD came & went while you were on Facebook.” Yeshua said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). There is nothing wrong with Facebook or social media in general, unless it consumes us and becomes a “treasure” that moves our focus from HaShem and His Messiah to the things of the world. 

One verse from this week’s reading from the Apostolic Writings that is appropriate. “Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me” (John 14:1). When we focus on trusting God and trusting Yeshua, we will live in the reality the words from Proverbs 4:23, “Guard your heart diligently, for from it flow the springs of life”. Let’s purpose this week and throughout the rest of our lives to carefully choose what our heart and eyes dwell, guarding them and focusing them on these living waters that admonish us to trust in God and Yeshua.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from theTree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

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