This week we read about spies, banishment for forty years, offerings (including Challah), and Tzitzit.
Ten men were sent out to scout the land. They all saw the same thing and confirmed that it was indeed a land of Milk and Honey. Eight of them saw themselves as grasshoppers beneath the feet of giants. What they could not see was that, from the other side, in the eyes of the inhabitants, it was they who were the giants. When Joshua sends spies, Rahab, the innkeeper says:
I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us
This is still a generation of rebellion and lack of trust in God. They would be banned from entering the Land. It would be their children who would inherit. However, that first, rebellious generation would have taught their children the law and the covenant. The question is, would that generation have understood and followed?
We still needed guidance. We received the instructions of the various offerings; fire, meal, burnt, Atonement and bread offerings. These were to be reminders of our faith.
There is a famous saying that:
More than the Jews kept Shabbat it was Shabbat that kept the Jews
The sanctity of Shabbat is reinforced by the story of the man collecting wood on Shabbat who is stoned for his presumption.
At the end of the Sedra is the commandment for Tzitzit; fringes with a thread of blue. (Around 700 CE the specific identity of the species of mollusc that produces the blue dye “tekhelet”, known in rabbinic literature as the “hillazon”, was lost. It was only in the late 19th century it was rediscovered).
That shall be your fringe; look at it and recall all the commandments of the Lord and observe them.
We are also instructed:
רֵאשִׁית֙ עֲרִסֹ֣תֵכֶ֔ם חַלָּ֖ה תָּרִ֣ימוּ
The first portion of your dough, you shall separate a loaf for a gift
This is where the journey of the Challah begins. It reminds us that, like the braids in the loaf, our lives have twists and turns but that as a people and as individuals we hold on to our heritage and move forward.