By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
Because they lost hope in themselves and in Hashem, the
Israelites are informed that they would not enter the land of Israel. They
listened to the disheartening report of the Scouts (Meraglim) when they said
that conquest of the land is impossible. As a result, all those who came out
of Egypt – except for Calev and Yehoshua – would die in the desert.
The only hope in this sad decree is the assurance that the next generation
would enter the land:
But your little ones, of whom you said they would become prey, them will I
bring in, and they will know the land that you have despised (Bamidbar 14:31).
But this is immediately followed by:
But you, your corpses shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall
wander in the wilderness forty years and bear your backsliding, until the last
of your corpses fall in the wilderness (verses 32-33).
Is this meant to console them?
The true comfort follows in Chapter 15, in the form of two mitzvot that are
intimately connected to the land of Israel:
1. Grain offerings and their wine libations (1-16).
2. Challah (17-21).
Each of these is introduced by a prologue emphasizing that the Children of
Israel will ultimately claim their land. Therefore, these are words of
consolation, as Rashi says:
“He gives them the tidings that they will enter the land” (15:2).
Ramban explains further:
“Perhaps this comes now to comfort them and to assure them, because they were
despondent, saying, ‘Who knows what will be in the fullness of time, after
forty years? Perhaps the children too will sin.’ Therefore, the Holy One,
blessed be He saw fit to console them. Because by commanding them regarding
commandments of the land He assured them that it is revealed before Him that
they will come to possess it.”
Their generation will pass, but the eternal mitzvot of the Torah guarantee
that the eternal people of Israel will enter their land.
Of course, there are many mitzvot that are binding in the land of Israel. Yet,
the Torah chose to place these two specifically after the sin of the Scouts.
The discussion about the grain and wine-offerings might have been chosen to
suggest a message of atonement, as is appropriate for sacrifices. Nonetheless,
this one mitzvah does not seem sufficient; besides, they were discussed
earlier (Shemot 29:40). Apparently, the full message of consolation required
the placement of the never-before-heard mitzvah of Challah as a “second
What is the commandment of Challah?
And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying, “Speak to the Children of Israel and say to
them, ‘When you come (B’VOACHEM) to the land to which I bring you, and it
shall be, when you will eat from the bread of the land, you shall raise up an
offering (TERUMAH) to Hashem. The first (REISHIT) of your kneading you shall
raise up a loaf as an offering; like the offering of the threshing-floor, so
shall you raise it up-From the first of your kneading shall you give to Hashem
an offering, for your generations (Bamidbar 15:17-21).
The basics of this mitzvah are as follows: If one makes a batch of dough from
one of the five grains (wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt) that is equal to the
omer of manna each person received in the desert (43.2 eggs in volume), then
he must separate a small portion (Challah). The remainder of the then dough
becomes fit for use, and the separated Challah is given to the Kohen. Like
other forms of Terumah, the Torah does not set any minimum size for the
Challah. (The Rabbis, however, obligated a private individual to take one
twenty-fourth of the dough as a suitable gift to the Kohen, but a professional
baker need take only one forty- eighth.) If one forgets to “take Challah” from
the dough, it must be taken from the baked bread.
Clearly, the Torah obligates one to “take Challah” only in the land of Israel:
When you come to the land (B’VOACHEM) to which I bring you (v.18).
(The Rabbis decreed that Challah be observed in the Diaspora. However, the
Torah command is only in the land of Israel.) Rashi (quoting Sifri, Yevamot
81a, Ketubot 25a) points out, however, that the mitzvah of Challah takes
effect at a different stage than all other commandments of the land.
Commandments such as Terumah, Ma’aser and Shemittah become obligatory only
after the land is conquered and divided among the tribes. This is so because
only after this point is sanctity conferred on the land, which, in turn,
obligates the produce of the land.
Challah, however is introduced with the word B’VOACHEM, meaning that
immediately, upon entry of the Jewish People into the land, the mitzvah of
Challah goes into effect. The Jerusalem Talmud (Challah 2:1) says, for
example, that if when Yehoshua led the people into the land they discovered
flour abandoned by the fleeing Canaanites, and then combined some with water
to make a dough, this batter would require that Challah be taken from it.
Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik (1903-1993) explains the distinction: All other
“mitzvot dependent on the land” require the “sanctity of Eretz Yisrael”;
Challah merely requires the “name of Eretz Yisrael.” This refers to the
geographic location which the land has had from the time that Hashem said to
To your descendants have I given this land (Bereishit 15:18).
This “name of Eretz Yisrael” is always stated in terms of the people of
Israel. It is insufficient if a portion of the people live there for the
mitzvah of Challah to come into being; the corpus of the nation is
Challah, as conceived by the Torah is thus a mitzvah of beginnings, as
indicated by the word REISHIT. It applies to the most basic form of food,
bread, and only from its inception as dough, when it is no longer “G-d’s
work,” but man’s. It begins at the first moment when the people find
themselves within the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael,
And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after Pesach, matzot and
parched grain, on that same day (Yehoshua 5:11; see Yerushalmi Challah 2:1).
Yet, even this mitzvah of rudiments requires the people of Israel in its
totality to have entered the land.
Thus, when Hashem sought to thoroughly reassure the punished people, He taught
them the mitzvah of Challah. This would be their first “mitzvah of the land,”
but only because the united people would be there.
Torah K'Torat Eretz Yisrael!"- Torah from Aloh Na'aleh*
This week's Sidrah opens with the incident of the meraglim, the spies or
scouts sent to investigate the land of Israel, and closes with the mitzvah
of tzitzit. The fact that the Sidrah is framed by these two parshiyot
suggests that there may be some relationship between them. And indeed,
when we examine the two parshiyot, we find a verbal similarity. The
meraglim were sent "latur (13:16)" - to scout or traverse the land
(nowhere is the idea of spying mentioned in the Torah). The parshah of
tzitzit instructs us: "Do not follow after (taturu 15:39) your heart and
your eyes after which you go astray (zonim)." Here we learn the literal
meaning of latur, for Targum Onkelos renders both taturu and zonim with a
word derived from the same root - ta'ah - "to go astray."
Rashi (ibid) refers to the heart and the eyes as spies for the body: "The
eye sees, the heart desires, and the body commits the sins." The Torah,
however, places the heart (i.e., the mind) first and then mentions the
eye. This seems to reveal a profound psychological truth. We see what our
minds condition us to see, or simply, we see what our thoughts make us
see. The Rorschach test used by psychologists is based on this insight.
Some nebulous shape attains a certain configuration because of the way we
think. Our thoughts shape our observations.
Unfortunately, when considering Aliyah, our thoughts are often focused on
the negative aspects, no differently than in the days of the meraglim. We
see only the economic situation, intifada, adjustment difficulties etc. We
must learn to emulate Calev who reported regarding Israel (13:30) - "Aloh
na'aleh veyarashnu Otah, we should surely go up to the land and we will
possess it!" For with the help of the Almighty - "yachol nuchal," WE CAN
Rabbi James I. Gordon
*D’var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh:
an initiative of former North American Rabbis and laymen who successfully
made Aliyah, aimed at highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting
Aliyah. They send emissaries – Rabbis, academicians, and others – on
speaking-tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Tel: 972-2-566-1181 ext. 320