Receive weekly insights from the Chief Rabbi
Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Shelach Lecha

Share this article:

In this week’s D’var Torah for Shelach Lecha, the Chief Rabbi describes the significance today of one small letter in a name.

Have you ever heard of a letter transplant? That is the best way for us to describe the explanation given in the Talmud Yerushalmi for the change of name from Hoshea to Yehoshua, at the beginning Parashat Shelach Lecha.

For Hoshea’s name to become Yehoshua, an extra ‘yud’ is needed. Where did that ‘yud’ come from? The Yerushalmi explains that the ‘yud’ came from the name Sarai, mother of our people, wife of Avraham, when her name changed to become Sarah. So we therefore had a free ‘yud’ which was taken from Sarai and added to the name of Hoshea, to enable him to become Yehoshua.

That is very sweet but what is the Talmud really trying to convey to us? I would like to suggest that it was important for Yehoshua, prior to going into the land on that mission of spies, accompanied by so many negative influences, to internalise the key elements of Sarah’s personality.

The first was “Chibat Ha’aretz – Her natural love for the land.” This is what prompted Sarah, together with Avraham Avinu, to make Aliyah. To engage in that “Lech Lecha,” that momentous and very difficult Aliyah from the diaspora to the Holy Land.

And similarly, Yehoshua would need “Chibat Ha’aretz – A natural love for the land.” To appreciate its majesty, its beauty, its centrality in our lives, when he would return with his report.

Secondly, Sarah recognised the impact of negative influences. That is why she was so concerned about her son Yitzchak, that he shouldn’t be influenced negatively by his half-brother Yishmael. Similarly, Moshe was concerned that Yehoshua would be negatively influenced by the other spies around him, except of course for Kalev.

In this very special year of the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel, we should be just like Sarah and Yehoshua – to have that natural “Chibat Haaretz.” To love the land and to appreciate how fortunate we are to have Israel as the central feature of our Jewish lives. And also to guarantee, that we should not be dissuaded from that love by those influencers who portray an unfairly negative image of Israel within our society. And we learn all of this from the intriguing letter transplant.

Shabbat Shalom