Parashat Sh'lah L'kha--Numbers 13:1-15:40
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Questions for Young Children
• Why do you think Moshe sent twelve men to scout the land instead of one or two?
• Do you think God should be angry with the Israelites for being afraid of entering Eretz Yisrael?
• Should God give the Israelites another chance?
• Moshe prays to God. What prayer would you have said to God when the Israelites became afraid that God wouldn’t help them conquer Eretz Yisrael?

Questions for Older Children
• How would you feel if you had been one of the twelve scouts chosen to scout the Land of Israel? Would it be scary?
• If 10 people told you one thing and 2 people disagreed, who would you believe? Is the majority always accurate? How would you decide whom to believe?
• How does God react when the Israelites say they wish they were in Mitzrayim and that they’re scared of the people in Eretz Yisrael? Why?
• After the Israelites learn about their punishment from God, they decide to head to the hill country to conquer it from the Amalekites and Canaanites even though God told them they would not succeed. What’s the outcome?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• Moshe offers a list of questions for the scouts to research. What questions could you add to the list?
• Why do you think there was a public meeting when the scouts made their report rather than a closed door (or closed tent flap) meeting?
• Is God’s decision not to allow this generation (except Caleb and Yehoshua) to enter Israel a good one? Why or why not?

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This parasha includes other fruits besides grapes.  Following the narrative in Numbers 13:23, you can also incorporate figs and pomegranates into your meal.  Neither figs nor pomegranates are in season but pomegranate juice mixed into your salad dressing and dried figs are readily available.

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Sh'lah L'kha -- Moshe sends twelve people to check out the reality.  Who returns with the truth and who returns with "fake news?" Have you ever asked two people about the same event and heard in response two very different impressions of the event? Whose critique do you trust? Moshe sends twelve carefully selected men to scout the land of Israel. God told Moshe that they were headed to a beautiful land—a land of milk and honey. Yet, ten scouts returned with a negative report and only two with a positive assessment. No one could deny the bounty—the grape clusters they carried were proof—but what would be the cost of fulfilling God’s promise? Ten said it would be impossible to overcome the strong nations and breach their fortified cities. Caleb and Yehoshua (Joshua) dissented and were optimistic about settling the land. 

Find the food connection...

וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד-נַחַל אֶשְׁכֹּל, וַיִּכְרְתוּ מִשָּׁם זְמוֹרָה וְאֶשְׁכּוֹל עֲנָבִים אֶחָד, וַיִּשָּׂאֻהוּ בַמּוֹט, בִּשְׁנָיִם; וּמִן-הָרִמֹּנִים, וּמִן-הַתְּאֵנִים
They reached Wadi Eshkol and there they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes—it had to be borne on a carrying frame by two of them—and some pomegranates and figs.
--Numbers 13:23

Grape clusters!

The Side Dish

Life presents us with risks like the twelve scouts encountered when they saw Eretz Yisrael, but it’s up to us to decide how to address risks and problems when they seem to block our goals.

I often think about my grandmother’s attitude to life. She had survived a pogrom before her immigration to the U.S. and everything afterward was good. Even when my grandfather had to keep moving to find a job, she saw it as an opportunity to meet new people. In the sixties she couldn’t be persuaded that the Vietnam War would tear the U.S. apart – it’s too good of a country. All her grandchildren were wonderful even when we weren’t. Not every immigrant had her optimism just as not every spy saw the conquest of Canaan as a possibility. Perhaps your guests want to discuss what they would have concluded had they been on the spy mission and whether or not it’s possible to control our attitudes to challenge and risk. Perhaps you  have your own example of a resilient and optimistic family member.




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A Dash of Branding

What’s the logo for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism? Almost any of us who have traveled to Israel or dreamed of traveling to Israel would recognize the gigantic grape cluster on a pole schlepped by two strong men. But, did you know the image predates Israel and its Ministry of Tourism? It’s an image that appears in European heraldry as well as European painting. With the help of google image, you can troll the internet to search. What do you think of a logo with two spies and oversized grapes? Why do you think it was selected?

 A Dash of Comparative Torah Text Study

Like other sections of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, the account of the spies is repeated in Deuteronomy. Compare the account in this parasha and the one in Deuteronomy 1:22,23,37 and compare them. How do the two differ and how do you reconcile the differences?  

A Dash of Commentary

Why does Joshua have two names? Following the list of the names of the reconnaisance team that lists first the tribe, then the name and the father's name, we read a concluding phrase in Numbers 13:16--" Those were the names of the men whom Moshe sent to scout the land."  That seems like a concluding statement but tagged onto to that summary is the phrase, but Moshe changed the names of Hoshea son of Nun to Yehoshua.  

Yehoshua has already appeared in the Torah before this parasha and there was no mention of his birth name Hoshea until now.  This is what troubled the commentators.  Their response is that Moshe made the name change knowing what was to come. Moshe changes his name to reflect future tense, "God will save you." The rabbis reformulate the name Yehoshua into a prayer.  

And Moses called Hoshea...: He prayed on his behalf, “May God save you from the counsel of the spies.”  - [Sotah 34b]

ויקרא משה להושע וגו': התפלל עליו יה יושיעך מעצת מרגלים

This is a tidy explanation but it begs the question why is Yehoshua called Yehoshua before his name change is mentioned and why Caleb's name isn't changed.  He, too, will face the problem of the other ten spies' divergent report.  Contemporary scholars see this as an example of a text that combines two different versions of the story along with a supplementary text.  This composite text includes several contradictions and the name of Nun's son is one that the redactor explained by attributing Moshe with the name change.

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Gazpacho Blanco with Grape Cluster Garnish
Pareve--serves 6

Ingredientsrsz 04 shlah lkha gazpachi blanco copy copy

  • 3 c. cubed, crustless day old pareve French bread
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups blanched whole almonds
  • 2-1/2 tsp. sherry vinegar
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2-1/2 cups cold water
  • 6 small grape clusters for garnish
  • Marcona almonds for garnish (available in the Twin Cities at Trader Joe’s)


  1. Place bread in cold water to cover and soak for 15 min.
  2. Cover garlic with water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for 3 min. and drain.
  3. Process almonds in a food processor until finely ground.
  4. Squeeze liquid from bread and add the bread to the food processor.
  5. Add garlic, vinegar and 1-1/2 tsp. salt.
  6. Pureé until smooth.
  7. With the machine running, pour in the olive oil in a slow stream alternating with ¼ cup water until emulsified.
  8. Blend in the remaining 21/4 c. water.
  9. If you want a very smooth soup, strain through a sieve and discard the solids.
  10. Season with salt and ground pepper.
  11. Divide the gazpacho among 6 bowls.
  12. Drizzle with more olive oil and garnish with grapes and Marcona almonds before serving.

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