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    Take a good look – Sh’lach L’cha

    Twice in the sidra we find ur’item, “You shall look”.

    The first is when the twelve spies are charged with looking at the Land of Israel and bringing back a report. The second is when the people are commanded to put fringes on the corners of their garments, look at them and be reminded of God’s mitzvot.

    The first exercise in looking was to make sure the right conclusions were reached. Ten of the twelve spies looked cursorily and were frightened off. Only Joshua and Caleb looked carefully and concluded that it was possible for the Israelites to enter the Land and handle its challenges.

    The same observation can be made in relation to the fringes, the tzitzit. It was always possible for the people to look at the fringes and see merely an odd group of strings, curiosities with no significance. It was also possible to see the fringes as gateways to Heaven, reminders that there was a God whose ways would make the world beautiful.

    The point is made in a Midrash on the Akedah (Gen. 22). Abraham and Isaac and their manservants approached the mountain and the servants saw only an impressive hill; Abraham and Isaac saw a majestic sight with clouds entwined around the top of the mountain amid the joining of heaven and earth.

    Abraham said to the servants, “You stay here with the donkey: you and the donkey have no spiritual perception. I and the boy – Isaac – will ascend yonder”.

    A sukkah is a humble hut if you don’t see any poetry in it; tefillin are peculiar leather straps; Shabbat is a boring day without the fast and furious pursuit of fun.

    That is, until you see what Shakespeare calls sermons in stones and what Judaism describes as simchah shel mitzvah, the exhilaration of the Divine commands.

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