Shelakh-lecha (Num. 13:1 – 15:41)

This week, we reach the low point in the story of the Israelites who escaped from Egypt.  The Lord commands Moses to send 12 leaders, one per landed tribeas scouts to spy out the land of Canaan.  Moses does so, quite publicly, with a carefully designed set of questions they are to answer (13:18-20): “18…Are the people who dwell in it strong or weak, few or many? 19 Is the country in which they dwell good or bad? Are the towns they live in open or fortified? 20 Is the soil rich or poor? Is it wooded or not? And take pains to bring back some of the fruit of the land.”  They come back after 40 days with some giant fruit (remember that iconic picture of two men carrying one bunch of grapes on a pole?), and 10 say, yes, it’s flowing with milk and honey, but there’s no way we conquer it; we felt like grasshoppers next to those giants.  Caleb and Joshua say conquering it will be a piece of cake with the Lord on their side.  The people panic, wail, and, horror of horrors, suggest appointing a new leader to take them back to Egypt.  They’re literally on the edge of the Promised Land and they are seriously thinking of going back to slavery in Egypt.

That is just too much for the Lord to accept, even after Moses intercedes yet again.  Moses prevents utter destruction, but punishment is still swift and final: The adults (aged 20 and up) who came out of Egypt will wander a total of 40 years in the wilderness, 1 year per day of the spies’ trip (They should have worked more quickly.) until all of them except Caleb and Joshua die off, or, as the Lord more colorfully puts it, “your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.”  And the 10 faithless spies are killed by a plague.  Then group then tries to conquer the Land anyway, not having understood the point that they could only do that with the Lord on their side.  Since that is no longer the case, they are beaten back.

Some questions to consider:  Why were the spies sent?  In Deuteronomy, Moses will blame the people for asking for them. Or maybe the Lord and Moses hoped that, given permission to send spies, the people would be reassured and not bother.  Were the 10 spies determined to give a biased report from the start?   Why did they even offer an opinion as to feasibility, which was outside their assignment and should have been considered a settled issue?  Were they simply too timid?  Was it really unexpected that the people would panic on learning that their experiences of the last 1+ year had been for naught and consider any and all options, including returning to Egypt?  Did the Lord over-react?  We read in the haftarah ( Joshua 2:1-24 ) about a much more successful spy mission under Joshua, but is it really fair to say Moses blew it and Joshua got it right, or were the situations and cast of characters too different to compare?

In Chapter 15, we seem to get back to normal, with laws concerning various offerings they will offer when (not if) they enter the Promised Land, an incident of working in defiance of the Sabbath restrictions which results a stoning, and implementation of wearing tzitzit (ritual fringes), which is supposed to remind the wearer to stay on the straight and narrow.  These verses, 15:37-41 form the last paragraph of the Shema. 

Next week, we’ll see that the Israelites have not come to terms with their fate – 38+ years to go – and what happens when a demagogue takes advantage of that.

Shabbat shalom,


John Oliver-Inspired #BetterCIATweets Could Teach The CIA A Thing Or Two [selections]

Alicia Lu, 7/14/2014

Right now, the Central Intelligence Agency is learning an important life lesson: People never forget. After the CIA made headlines for posting tweets that smack of an old white guy trying to sound hip in front of his teenage nephews, Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver encouraged the Twitterverse to offer the CIA tweet suggestions with the hashtag #BetterCIATweets. Obviously, there isn’t an ounce of earnestness here (it’s John Oliver, after all).

A Brit and a German walk into a bar. We’ll post the rest of the joke as soon as we download their phones.
11:53 PM – 13 Jul 2014  Lauren Baldwin

Knock-knock jokes just aren’t funny for us, we already know who’s there. @LastWeekTonight #BetterCIATweets
11:49 PM – 13 Jul 2014  Will

Stop asking us to follow you! We already do, just not on here.
10:40 AM – 14 Jul 2014  Drew Fridley

Q: how many @CIA agents does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: we do not comment on operational matters 
KatherineHawkins (@Krhawkins5) July 14, 2014

And a tweeter posing as a fake CIA social media intern had a message for John Oliver himself (which the CIA is probably considering in real life):
@iamjohnoliver welcome to the no fly list.
12:27 AM – 14 Jul 2014

Pizza Spy [sent out in 2006]

[This really happened! Go to  ]

FBI agents conducted a “search and seizure” at the Southwood Psychiatric Hospital in San Diego, which was under investigation for medical insurance fraud. After hours of poring over many rooms of financial records, some sixty FBI agents worked up quite an appetite. The case agent in charge of the investigation called a local pizza parlor with delivery service to order a quick dinner for his colleagues.

The following telephone conversation took place:

Agent: Hello. I would like to order nineteen large pizzas and sixty-seven cans of soda.

Pizza man: And where would you like them delivered?

Agent: To the Southwood Psychiatric Hospital.

Pizza man: To the psychiatric hospital?

Agent: That’s right. I’m an FBI agent.

Pizza man: You’re an FBI agent?

Agent: That’s correct. Just about everybody here is.

Pizza man: And you’re at the psychiatric hospital?

Agent: That’s correct. And make sure you don’t go through the front doors. We have them locked. You’ll have to go around to the back to the service entrance to deliver the pizzas.

Pizza man: And you say you’re all FBI agents?

Agent: That’s right. How soon can you have them here?

Pizza man: And you’re over at Southwood?

Agent: That’s right. How soon can you have them here?

Pizza man: And everyone at Southwood is an FBI agent?

Agent: That’s right. We’ve been here all day and we’re starving.

Pizza man: How are you going to pay for this?

Agent: I have my check book right here.

Pizza man: And you are all FBI agents?

Agent: That’s right, everyone here is an FBI agent. Can you remember to bring the pizzas and sodas to the service   entrance in the rear? We have the front doors locked.

Pizza man: I don’t think so.


[They did eventually get their pizzas – take-out, not delivery.]


Media Bias: This May Be the Best Joke I’ve Heard All Year…

by RAHEEM KASSAM7 Sep 2014

Most level-headed people realise that on issues like ISIS and Hamas, the mainstream media is perhaps less than forthright and unbiased in its coverage.

For instance, we are supposed to believe that Islamist terrorists are either ‘insurgents’ or ‘militants’ or some other watered down phrase – because what a dreadful breach of integrity it would be if the BBC called a spade a spade, right?

The fact that we are even at that point with moral relativism is enough cause for laughter, but instead I wanted to share with you all a fantastic joke I just heard. I’m not a big ‘joke’ guy – but this one particularly tickled me.

Share it along, and enjoy:

A CNN Reporter, BBC Reporter, and an Israeli commando were captured by terrorists in Iraq. The leader of the terrorists told them that he would grant them each one last request before they were beheaded.

The CNN Reporter said, ‘Well, I’m an American, so I’d like one last hamburger with French fries.” The leader nodded to an underling who left and returned with the burger & fries. The reporter ate it and said “Now, I can die.”

The BBC Reporter said, ‘I’m a reporter to the end. I want to take out my tape recorder and describe the scene here and what’s about to happen. Maybe someday someone will hear it and know that I was on the job till the end.” The terror leader directed an aide to hand over the tape recorder and dictated some comments. The reporter then said, ‘Now I can die knowing I stayed true until the end.”

The leader turned and said, “And now, Mr. Israeli tough guy, what is your final wish?”

“Kick me in the ass,” said the soldier.

“What?’ asked the leader, “Will you mock us in your last hour?”

“No, I’m not kidding. I want you to kick me in the ass,” insisted the Israeli. So the leader shoved him into the open and kicked him in the ass.

The soldier went sprawling, but rolled to his knees, pulled a 9 mm pistol from under his flak jacket, and shot the leader dead. In the resulting confusion, he jumped to his knapsack, pulled out his carbine and sprayed the terrorists with gunfire. In a flash, all terrorists were either dead or fleeing for their lives.

As the soldier was untying the reporters, they asked him, “Why didn’t you just shoot them in the beginning? Why did you ask them to kick you in the ass first?”

“What?” replied the Israeli, “and have you report that I was the aggressor?”


tph wilderness-wandering1


Magen Tzitzit – Fringe Guard Laundry Protector 



tph tzitzit laundry guardtph tzitzit laundry guard box







This revolutionary gadget has solved the problem of washing Tzitzit in the laundry. You can safely put your Tallit Katan in the washing machine with the tzitzit from four corners snugly protected in this spiral plastic holder, with a protective cover which stays firmly on during the wash cycle. Suitable for long term usage.

-Designed for multiple, long-term use

-Simple and easy to use

-Produced in a Shabbat-Observing factory in Israel

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