Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Shelach Lecha

In his D’var Torah this week, the Chief Rabbi asks: What blessing can one give to someone who is blessed with everything?

People are like trees. This is a message we can derive from this week’s Parasha of Shelach Lecha.

Moshe was sending the 12 spies into the Holy Land and he gave them a list of items to notice and to report back on, one of which was ‘Hayesh Ba’Eitz Im Ayn’, find out please, he said, ‘whether there is or is not a tree in the Land’.

Now what sense can we make of this? Moses surely knew there were thousands upon thousands of trees in the Land of Canaan.

‘Moshe wanted us to know that a great individual is like a wonderful tree’

But according to our tradition, actually what he meant was, find out if there is a person who is like a tree. A person of stature, a person who everyone looks up to, a person through whose merits the Canaanites might survive.

So, therefore, Moshe wanted us to know that a great individual is like a wonderful tree. In this spirit, there is a fascinating anecdote in the Gemarah in Mesechet Ta’anit (5b), it’s about a traveller who is walking through the desert, he hadn’t had sustenance for a number of days and fortuitously he came across an oasis. In the midst of it, there was a lovely, luscious, beautiful tree with a stream of water alongside it. He immediately ate of its fruit. He drank from the water and then he rested in the shade of the boughs. And when he woke up feeling fully rejuvenated and refreshed, he turned to the tree and he said ‘Ilan, Ilan Bama Avarechecha?’, ‘Oh tree, tree, how can I bless you?’ I’d like to give you a Bracha, you have been so good to me!

But then he had a problem. What can I bless you with? That you would have lovely fruit – you have already got it. A lovely source of water  – it is there. That you will provide shelter and shade – you do that.

‘Thank God, we are blessed with so many trees, so many outstanding, wonderful people, walking in the footsteps of their ancestors, keeping Torah law’

And then a thought crossed his mind and he said ‘Yehi Ratzon Shekol Netiyot Shenotim Mimcha Yiheyu Kemotcha’, ‘May it be the will of God that all trees planted with your seed will be just like you’.

I believe that this is a very apposite blessing for our times. Thank God, we are blessed with so many trees, so many outstanding, wonderful people, walking in the footsteps of their ancestors, keeping Torah law.

May it be the will of Heaven, that their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren will be just like them. To embrace a life of Torah and Mitzvot, to appreciate the great legacy that is theirs and in turn, to guarantee that they too will be wonderful and outstanding trees, to produce a flow of outstanding generations to come.

Shabbat Shalom