Parshas Shlach-Likkutei Torah-Power of thought

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Parshas Shlach


“Vayishlach Yehoshua…Miraglim…”

[Likkutei Torah p. 102]

The Haftorah of Parshas Shlach mentions the sending of spies to Yericho by Yehoshua, and thus relates to the similar action taken by Moshe in the Parsha. We are all aware of the episode that occurred with the spies sent by Moshe and the tragic outcomes that resulted; the entire Jewish people between the ages of 20 and 60 were destined to die in the desert and not enter Eretz Yisrael as a result of the sin. We would think that such a spy mission would never be repeated in our history, and certainly not by those that lived in that generation, having learned the lessons of the previous outcomes. Thus it is most puzzling and surprising that we find in the Haftorah that once again, prior to the conquest of Eretz Yisrael, after the conclusion of the 40-year decree of wandering in the desert, the leadership again decides to send spies! And which leader does so? Yehoshua, the prime pupil of Moshe and one of the members of the previously tragically failed mission! In this Mamar, the Alter Rebbe delves into the spiritual conquering of Eretz Yisrael and the spiritual task of sending spies that accompanies it. Just as there exists a physical land called Eretz Canaan that is desolate of holiness and requires conquering by the Jewish people, so too the body and animal soul of each Jewish person is considered an Eretz Canaan that requires conquering by the Jewish people, the G-dly soul, in order to be turned into Eretz Yisrael. This Zionistic fervor is applicable in each generation to every Jew, as each Jew is given the task of conquering the personal Eretz Yisrael found within his nature and soul. However, the goals of this achievement must be realistic with the capabilities that one is given for battle. Ideally, one would entertain the idea of conquering the body and animal soul until complete surrender and integration into the holy society, having it join the efforts of the G-dly soul in serving G-d, and ceasing all thoughts or activity that are contrary to His will. However, realistically, this goal is not truly achievable by the majority of people, as for most people, other than Tzaddikim, the animal soul will always retain some animalistic sentiments that run contrary to G-d’s will.  Therefore, the achievable goal of conquering is simply to prevent the animal soul from ever expressing its evil tendencies, neither in thought, speech, nor action. The goal is to stand guard that the animal soul is never given a podium to express its evil inclinations within the body. This difference in goals was the core difference between the spies of Moshe and Yehoshua. While Moshe intended sending spies to help conquer the essence of the enemy and turn them into G-dly citizens, Yehoshua simply desired to control the enemy and prevent it from committing acts of spiritual terror. Moshe’s goals were high and unrealistic for the next generation, and hence met a tragic outcome. Yehoshua’s goals, however, are within the reach of every Jew, and hence his spies were successful in their mission and brought about the conquering of Eretz Yisrael in that generation.


Explorations of the Mamar:

1.      Why did Yehoshua send spies despite the negative consequences of the previous espionage in the times of Moshe?

2.      Why were the spies sent specifically to Yericho? What is the significance of this city?

3.      What is the spiritual conquest of Eretz Yisrael in each generation, and is it truly expected and possible for one to control his thoughts and prevent entertaining matters of evil?

4.      Why does the soul need spiritual garments made from Mitzvos in order to garb itself?


The Question:

The verse states, “Vayishlach Yehoshua Min Hashitim Shnayim Anashim Meraglim Cheresh Leimor Lechu Ureu Es Haaretz Vies Yericho/And Yehoshua sent two people to spy the land and the city of Yericho.” This matter seems puzzling, as why did Yehoshua, the most trusted pupil of Moshe, repeat the tragic mistake of sending spies, which he was witness to in the times of Moshe? One must thus conclude that Yehoshua had to have been commanded by Hashem to send these spies, as he would never have repeated the mistake that occurred in the times of Moshe unless explicitly directed to do so from above. It requires explanation, however, as to why Hashem agreed to send the spies in Yehoshua’s time, while in the former case the matter was left to Moshe’s discretion. Furthermore, why were the spies specifically sent solely to Yericho, when there were many more cities that also required conquering?


The uniqueness of Yericho:

Yericho was considered to be the “lock” of Eretz Yisrael, and its inhabitants consisted of citizens from each of the seven nations. As such, it represented the fortified might of the nations and its conquest would deal a huge blow to the morale of the inhabitants. This would explain why, on a strategic level, the spies were only sent to Yericho. However, on a spiritual plane, the matter requires further examination. Every Jewish soul contains aspects of Eretz Yisrael, including Yericho. So why would the aspect of Yericho be the only one to require spies and not the other aspects of one’s personal Eretz Yisrael?

The Rebbe’s explanation:[1] The command to conquer the land of Israel is eternal in every generation in spiritual terms.[2] Likewise, the giving of Israel to the Jewish people is a spiritual, constant occurrence.[3] Hence the idea of sending spies to Yericho versus the remainder of Eretz Yisrael must have a practical directive for us in our service of G-d. In general, the conquering of Eretz Canaan and naming of Eretz Yisrael represents every Jew’s mission: to conquer every aspect and power of the animal soul (Eretz Canaan) and make it a vessel for G-dliness (Eretz Yisrael). What remains to be understood is the difference between Yericho and all the other areas in this regard.


The Levushim/Garments of the Neshama:

The verse states, “VeAvraham Zaken Ba Bayamim/And Avraham was old and fulfilled in days”. The Zohar explains that Avraham was enclothed by the “days”. “Days” represent the garments of the soul, as every soul is given an exact number of days in accordance to the amount of “soul garments” he requires. These garments are created through the Torah learning and fulfillment of Mitzvos that a person does throughout his day. Every day that one misses Torah learning or the fulfillment of a Mitzvah causes an absence of the soul garment required from that day. What remains to be understood is as follows: What is the meaning of this garment? What would occur if the soul remains unclothed? And why was this matter written in the Torah?


Drawing G-dliness into one’s thought, speech, and action:

Every morning we sanctify Hashem in the (Kedusha) prayer of Nakdishach. Why does G-d require us to sanctify Him, and why do we say “Kadosh” exactly three times? The explanation is as follows: The Torah was given in three different forms of expression: thought, speech, and action. Certain Mitzvos are dependent solely on thought, others solely on speech, and others solely on action. A person may mistakenly think that the level of revelation of G-dliness available in Mitzvos of action is not as great as the revelation in thought or speech, being that action involves coarse physical matter. In truth, however, all is equal before Him, and Heaven and earth are nullified to Him, for although He gives life to all matter He is nevertheless separate and holy, and above these matters. So what is it that draws G-dliness down to these matters, i.e. to the thought, speech, and action of a Jew? It is through the Jewish people, who are called Goy Echad Baaretz, fulfilling the Will of G-d. It is for this reason that we say Kadosh three times – to draw G-dliness into each one of these levels of thought, speech, and action.


The purpose of the Levushim:

In order for the Neshama to benefit from the ray of the Shechina and be incorporated within the unity of Hashem, proper Levushim are required. Without Levushim, the soul is unable to be incorporated within G-d’s unity since the Neshama is a created entity, and every creation (with its inherent sense of self) is distanced from Hashem’s absolute Oneness. So what are the Levushim for the Neshama? They are the thoughts, speech, and actions of Torah, and they clothe the entire soul from top to bottom. This is the inner meaning of the verse, “Vehaysa Nefesh Adoni Tzerura Betzeror Hachaim/And the soul of my master was bound to the rock of life”, meaning to say that the soul received its garments due to the Mitzvos and is hence able to be bound with G-d.

The connection of the Levushim to the 365 days: The Levushim are drawn down throughout the 365 days of the year, as the 365 days of the year represent 365 different forms of revelation. This is similar to the 365 sinews of the body, through which its blood and life-force flow.


The power of thought:

The above information provides a tremendous insight into the awesome power contained within thought. A mere thought of holiness is capable of creating a Levush for the Neshama! One should contemplate this matter and be cognizant of its outcome while having thoughts of holiness. Furthermore, he is not to do so for the sake of reward, but in order to unite his soul with the Oneness of G-d. Similarly, one must also be aware of the great damage an evil thought possesses and how it creates a soiled and dirty garment for the soul. This negates the perspective of the fools who allow for entertaining evil thoughts under the guise that thoughts are not deeds and hence have no quantifiable results. They assume scholarly support for their claim, based on the saying of the Sages that Hashem does not join an evil plan to the action. Certainly mere forbidden thoughts that they do not plan to carry out are insignificant in their eyes. In truth, however, those very thoughts become garments of the soul, which clothe the soul from top to bottom, and disallow it to be incorporated in G-d’s unity. Thus one must consider a forbidden thought to be like the most severe form of actual idolatry, which prevents him from connecting to G-d. One should make a daily accounting of the soul regarding these thoughts.


The sin of Adam and his nakedness:

Based on the above, one can understand the meaning behind the sudden cognizance that Adam had of his nakedness after the sin. Adam had sinned, and had thus lost the garment of that day. He therefore considered himself naked, as he states, “Yamim Yatzru Velo Echad Bahem/ You created days and I lost one of them” [Psalm 139/16]. This means to say, “Hashem, You gave me days that serve as garments for my Neshama, but I did not draw down the level of Echad, Your Oneness, into them.”


The difference between the spies of Moshe and those of Yehoshua:

In terms of Avodas Hashem, the significance of the spies is as follows: The spies of Yehoshua were sent to “spy” on the garments of the soul and determine how to best conquer them. The spies of Moshe, however, were sent to spy on the soul itself [in contrast to just the garments] and discover where one is holding in his love and fear of G-d. This supreme level of love and fear of the [animal] soul cannot be demanded of every person, and therefore it was presented to Moshe as optional. Likewise, only Moshe had the ability to send spies to conquer the animal souls’ emotions [as opposed to Yehoshua]. However, when it comes to the conquering of the Levushim/Garments of the soul, it is not only possible but obligatory and thus demanded from every person.


The meaning of Yericho:

In light of the above, it can be understood why Yehoshua sent spies only to Yericho, while Moshe sent them to the entire Israel. The word Yericho is from the word Reiach, which means “smell”. In spiritual terms, this refers to the thought, speech, and action of a Jew, as Levushim relate to Reiach, as just as smell is external, so too garments are external. However, the entire land of Eretz Yisrael, which was once called “Eretz Canaan,” refers to the Middos of love and fear. Thus Yehoshua, who knew that the Jewish people as a whole only have the ability to conquer the Levushim, sent the spies only to Yericho. However, Moshe, who desired to have his generation conquer even their Middos/emotions, sent the spies to the entire Eretz Yisrael.


The lessons of the Mamar:

·         Utilizing every day for Avodas Hashem: Each day grants one’s soul the garments it needs in order to cleave and unite with G-d in the future. These garments are acquired through the fulfillment of Torah and Mitzvos each individual day. If one day is lacking in Torah and Mitzvos, that day’s garments are lost from one’s soul.

·         Importance of thought: One’s thought is a garment of his soul. Holy thoughts create a holy garment that garb the soul from top to bottom. Forbidden thoughts create soiled garments of Kelipa that garb and encompass the soul, preventing its ability to be absorbed in G-d’s Oneness.

·         Conquering one’s thought, speech, and action: Not every person has the ability to transform his emotions to the love and fear of G-d only. However, every person can control his thoughts, speech, and actions, and is required to send “spies” to deliberate on which matters need repair and how he can bring about true change.



[1] Mamar “Vayishlach Yehoshua,” 1976 [Edited]. Printed in Melukat Beis.

[2] See Tanya, ch.9, which describes the battle of the animal and G-dly souls in the body and its limbs as similar to the battle of two kings over a city, each one desiring to conquer it.

[3] Or Hatorah p. 440.

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