Textures in Time 5782 – Sh’lah 


by Barbara Mendes

Adapted from Meta Parshyot 5755 by R David Wolfe-Blank z”l and The Living Torah by R Aryeh Kaplan z”l



This Torah portion tells the story of the Yisrael people in their second year after leaving Mitzrayim. Spies were chosen and sent to survey the land of Canaan in preparation for its conquest. For 40 days, the spies wandered the Canaanite territory and then returned to the Israelite camp at Kadesh in the wild country. They returned with a mixed message. The land was agriculturally excellent, but they claimed that it was strongly fortified and could not possibly be conquered. Moshe was bitterly disappointed with their lack of faith and rejection of the land.  These people had slave consciousness patterned into their mindset and actions. They would never be ready to enter the promised land. It was decided to wait for one generation, 40 years, before approaching and entering the land.


Upon hearing that they would have to wait so long, a small group broke away and attempted to comply with the earlier plan of entering the land immediately. They began climbing the mountain that stood before them in the direction of the land of Yisrael. Moshe warned them that they were acting dangerously. He and the ark stayed put with the bulk of the people. This breakaway group was sadly, swiftly, and tragically defeated by the mountain dwellers.


Next are laws about communal sin offerings and individual sin offerings. The people are no longer about to enter the land, it’s time to go back to school, instead – remedial Ed. Desert civilization, 101.


The Torah portion draws to a close with the story of the man who made a racket on Shabbat, gathering sticks and disturbing Shabbat for everyone in the camp. This was not the way to cultivate peaceful coexistence for 40 years of living together in a camping environment. An example was made of this person.


The Torah portion ends with the instruction to wear a tzitzit uniform with tassels. They are reminders to behave appropriately.



We learn that the spy’s sin was that 10/12 of them spoke about the land in such a way that the people felt disempowered. The people lost faith. They did not believe they conquer and take the land which had been promised to them. The cost for this was high, the generation of slaves had to die out before the Yisrael community would enter the promised land.

Speech creates realities.  The daily liturgy declares, “Bless the One who spoke, and (made) the world be” (Barukh Sh’amar v’hayah haOlam).  When humans speak, we re-create realities.  New realities manifest and root when shared. The human mind is quick and perceptions can shift quickly, especially if it is couched in humor. Even a kind word can be Lashon Hara if a person who feels unrecognized hears it and experiences pain as a result. 


Another damaging level of Lashon Hara is Hate Speech.


Missive sweeping statements about ethnic groups serve to dehumanize them. This invites dismissiveness, divisiveness, and damage.  Sweeping general statements about any group of people will cause damage.

Yet, each time it is heard, it layers into the mindset of those speaking and listening. This builds potent hatred that can manifest at a later time. Good people hear negative things that often make them feel superior over and over. Eventually, the notion becomes ingrained in their reality map.

Sadly, hate speech is too often embedded deeply into the subconscious mind. Unchallenged, it usually remains unrecognized when heard or spoken. It is our responsibility to one another to (gently) call out and deflect hate speech when encountered, though not always easy or welcome to do.

If we do not act on behalf of others, then we have no right to expect someone to act on behalf of us.

An aspect of” V’Ahavta L’reyekha Kamokha (Love your friend as you do yourself) is, “What I do not like for myself, I do not do (or allow) to others. “


The Nazis created massive, focused propaganda programs depicting Jewish people as masses of cheating, greedy, dirty, slimy, criminal scum.  The images are disgusting and unnerving.  It is true that when a person hears something over and over, again and again, we tend to believe what we have heard. The propaganda was ongoing.

Those who came up with those nasty images and slogans (and many of those who read them) demonstrated that it was appropriate to abuse Jews – they are meant to be worked harshly, given minimal provisions, punished severely for any error, be subjected to medical experiments like lab rats (they deserve better too). They modeled that Jews are wretched and deserve to be wiped off the planet’s face to prevent more damage.   People acted on those orders.  This is triumphalism. It does not look good on anyone.


I am the daughter of two Shoah survivors. I grew up with an awareness of the Shoah at a very young age. My parents explained that there were people who killed almost all their families in Europe because they were Jews. They decided that anyone Jewish was evil and deserved to die. This type of hatred was heinous. It is not only dangerous, but, small minded to assume all people in a nation are the same and worthy of dismissal.

It is appalling to hear hate talk shared publicly today at Jews and especially by Jewish people.  Manifesting it invites history to repeat itself. Hatred breeds hatred. Children of abusive parents will tend to act abusively themselves.  Unless this pattern is terminated, actively and intentionally, hate and hate speech will continue to perpetuate and this cycle will continue.


Sadly, the leaders of the grade school I attended taught us that Jews were better than anyone else.   We were the “chosen people.” This seemed surreal and shallow, even then. The abusive behavior continued. This time Jewish teachers were perpetrating prejudice and the separation that goes with it.


It was only 25 years since the Shoah. This triumphalist attitude was a human response to the mass murder of 6 million European Jews. An event so horrific and huge it is beyond containment. This hatred response is a second-order effect of the Shoah.

Clearly, hate damages. If all people were created equal, I maintain that they do; we must take the high road and consider everyone with respect and curiosity.

The damage from the Shoah is ongoing in other ways. Nazi values are held by many US voters. This hate still exists, and antisemitism is on the rise. Look at the mass shooting at the Pittsburgh Jewish Community, the synagogue in Poway, CA and the “Camp Auschwitz” shirts worn by some who stormed the capital on January 6, for recent examples.

The need to say “I am better than you” or “my people are better than your people” initiates from fear and disempowerment and quickly gets patterned into human consciousness. Triumphalism brings out the worst in people. The damage continues to ripple out in a variety of ways. It is sad and dangerous that divisiveness is pervasive today. 


Humans are created in the B’tzelem Elokim – in the Divine Image. No one or ethnic group is a mistake. Each of us has a job to do. When one mocks an ethnic group, they are mocking The Holy One’s creation.

 Every human is an individual with freedom of choice. All deserve to be judged on individual merit. No exceptions.

It is time to heal and be healed.

I like to dream we are living in post triumphalist world.  In particular communities, I can feel that reality taking hold.

More than ever, in this global society, our impact on each other is genuine. We are one. There is no “other.”

 This is a perfect time to do your part to halt divisiveness and triumphalism and call it out in ways that can be heard. It has no place in the world that is coming.

“The only way to get it together… is together”,

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

The parashah in the S’firah cycle 

Sh’lah counts Hod in Hod 

Hod in Hod is the turning point within the S’firah counting system. After Hod of Hod, you feel the end of the Jewish year (Tishray, around September) pulling you more than the beginning pushing you.

The development of the S’firah Hod has essentially ended as of this point. All that’s left in this cycle are Y’sod and Sh’khinah, which have more to do with the marketing of Hod and little, if anything, to do with its character development. And then come to the last two cycles, Y’sod and Sh’khinah.


This coincides with the Summer Solstice, which arrived on Tuesday, June 21. This is an interesting intersection. The solstice is the day with the most sunlight of the year. In that way, it is like a pendulum that has reached a peak. It pauses and then changes direction like the lessening hours of sunlight that follow the solstice peak. There is a relationship between this and the change of direction to the pull.  For me, the High Holy Days come into view this time of year and it brings about a shift in focus.


Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer, counts Hod of Hod.  Refinement of Refinement. It’s also the yahrzeit, or “wedding day, “of Rebbie Shimon bar Yohai, who spent 13 years in a cave buried up to a neck in sand, eating from a carob tree sprung in the cave and studying Torah from memory, with his son.  This count of 33rd, too, reflects the themes of Lag B’Omer.

The decree was given to spend 40 years in the wilderness, eating manna and studying with Moshe, Miriam, and Aharon. That probably didn’t sound so terrible, Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai.


If it is then true that the year begins to be pulled by its end, that would mean that the high holy days now begin to check on us. Let’s notice if that’s true. Look. Sivan is now almost complete. Tammuz is nearby. What is coming next?  The special holiday in Tammuz lands on the 17th and is a traditional fast day. It initiates three weeks of reflecting on the deconstruction of The Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  It is an invitation to release ingrained patterns that no longer serve. This release is the work that precedes T’shuvah (re-turning, re-forming) in Elul before the High Holy Days. Deconstruction and disintegration are paramount to Summer. It reflects the looming heat and dryness of these summer months.   This culminates on the ninth of Av.

The energy shifts quickly; then, by the full moon of the fifteenth love is in the air. It is Tu B’Av, Jewish matchmaking day.

 The ninth of Av inaugurateS seven weeks of comfort that end with Rosh Hashanah.

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Tmimah Audrey ickovits

1 Comment

  1. Gary Itzkowitz. on June 24, 2022 at 4:31 pm

    Very nice and all very interesting, love the part about The Nazi’s, Never Again and Compassion for sure you tell a lie over and over again, all based on hatred and not facts people will believe.

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