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Shelach Lecha: How not to use the Torah

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It is possible for a person to be an expert in Torah law without practising any of it.

For example, this could be an academic who has studied the Torah and has produced a thesis as a historic document as opposed to being a guide for life. Or perhaps, you might have somebody who has been schooled in the ways of the Torah, who has grown up within a Torah environment but doesn’t any longer want to translate their knowledge into action.

It is with this in mind that in the third paragraph of the Shema, which is presented to us in Parshat Shelach Lecha (Bamidbar 15:39), Hashem tells us, 

“Uzechartem et kol mitzvot Hashem va’asitem otam.” – “And you shall remember all the mitzvot of Hashem and you must perform them.”

What we remember needs to be translated into action.

And then the Shema continues to reinforce this message (Bamidbar 15:40), 

“lema’an tizkeru ve’asitem et kol mitzvotai,” – “so that you will remember and translate that memory into the performance of my commandments,”

“vehayitem kedoshim l’Elokeichem.” – “So that you shall become holy before your God.

If you indeed lead a life which is filled with shemirat mitzvot, the performance of the commandments, you will have a sacred existence, ‘vehayitem kedoshim’ – you’ll have meaning in life, you’ll have joy in life, you’ll have a deep sense of fulfilment, you will have a spiritual existence.

In Parshat Shelach Lecha, we are told of the saga of the meraglim, the spies. They ignored the word of Hashem who had promised them that they were going to a glorious, blessed land. They wanted to decide for themselves. They wanted to reach conclusions in life without regard to what they knew to be the word of Hashem – and the result was a great tragedy for our people.

So the Shema, at the end of the parsha, comes to tell us that when we are aware of the expectations of Hashem and we choose to translate them into meaningful practice, the result will be that we’ll be all the better for it. Our lives will be enhanced and we will be enormously blessed. Everything that we know, is there to be translated into action, to give us lives of incredible spirituality, wonderful meaning and true happiness.

Shabbat shalom.