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Shlach 5771

Shlach (Numbers 13-15 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Many years ago while I was working in the Old City of Jerusalem, a tourist asked me to direct him to a store selling mezuzot.  I took him to a shop and he picked out about 30 beautiful mezuzah cases and asked the shop keeper how much he owed.  I asked the gentleman, "But what about the scrolls for inside the cases?"  The man replied, "I don't need them.  I am not that religious."  Funny thing -- there is absolutely no mitzvah to place a mezuzah case upon one's door!  Affixing the scroll upon the doorpost is the mitzvah.  The case is only to protect the scroll inside and to beautify the mitzvah.

Why do we put a mezuzah on the doorposts in our homes?  The Almighty commands us in the Torah, "And these words which I command you this day ... you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates" (Deuteronomy 6:9).  The parchment containing "these words" is called a mezuzah after the place where it is to be affixed -- the doorpost (which is called in Hebrew a mezuzah).

The scroll must be parchment from the skin of a kosher animal, written with special kosher ink word for word, letter for letter by a God-fearing expert sofer (scribe) exactly as it is written in a Torah.  Any other scroll -- printed, written on paper -- is invalid and if used, one does not fulfill the mitzvah of mezuzah.

The mezuzah should be placed at the beginning of the upper third of the doorpost of all rooms excepting bathrooms, toilets and small closets.  The top of the mezuzah is angled in towards the room as you would enter it; the bottom of the mezuzah is towards the outside of the room.  If you have questions, ask a rabbi.

The mezuzah is not an amulet for superstitious protection.  It is a commandment -- and the fulfillment of a commandment brings one closer to the Almighty and provides spiritual merit.  There is a custom to kiss a mezuzah upon entering or leaving a room.  This is an expression of love for the mitzvah and for the Almighty; when one kisses the mezuzah, he thinks of what is written in it -- that God is one, to love God, to fulfill the commandments and that God watches over us and protects us -- and then one is naturally filled with love for God.

There is a 2,000 year old story about Onkeles, the nephew of the Emperor Titus.  Onkeles asks his uncle for advice on succeeding in life.  His uncle advises him, "Find that which is undervalued and invest in it."  So ... Onkeles converts to Judaism.

Titus is not pleased.  He sends a squad of soldiers to arrest his nephew.  However, the squad gets into a discussion with Onkeles and the soldiers convert to Judaism.  Titus sends a squad with direct orders not to talk with Onkeles.  As they are escorting him out of his home, Onkeles reaches up and kisses the mezuzah.  The soldiers are overcome with curiosity and ask him "Why did you kiss that?"  Onkeles explains, "Your king sits on the inside and his soldiers are outside protecting him; we, the Jewish people, sit inside and our King protects us."  The soldiers convert to Judaism.  Titus stopped sending squads.  Onkeles goes on to become a great sage whose Aramaic translation/commentary of the Torah is found in almost every Hebrew edition of the Torah.

Here is what is written in the mezuzah (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21):

"Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul and all of your possessions.  And these words that I command to you this day shall be upon your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children and speak of them (the mitzvot) when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and rise up.  You shall bind them upon your arm as a sign and as ornaments between your eyes (tefillin) and write them on the doorposts of your house (mezuzah).

"And if you will listen to My commandments that I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all of your heart and with all of your soul, then I shall bring the rain for your land in the proper time -- the spring rains and the fall rains; and you shall gather your grain, your wine and your oil.  And I will give grass in the fields for your animals and you will eat and be satisfied.  And guard yourselves lest your heart be seduced and you turn and serve other gods and bow down to them.  Then the wrath of the Almighty shall be upon you and He will hold back the heavens.  There will not be rain and the ground will not give forth its produce.  You will quickly be vanquished from the good land that the Lord gave to you.  And you shall place these words upon your heart and upon your soul and bind them to be a sign upon your arm and as ornaments between your eyes.  And teach them to your children to speak them while sitting in your house, when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise up.  And write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates. (If you do this) you will lengthen your days and the days of your children upon the land that the Almighty swore to your forefathers to give to them for as long as the heavens are above the earth."

The mezuzah scroll is not inexpensive.  Expect to pay between $40 and $100 for a 5 inch mezuzah.  Be sure that it is certified to be kosher -- that it has a certificate that it has been written properly and checked for missing letters or words, etc.  Mezuzot are generally available at your local Jewish bookstore.  You can purchase a kosher one at (search: "mezuzah scroll" and scroll to the bottom past the mezuzah cases) or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.  And if you're not "so religious" -- then at least buy one kosher mezuzah (and case) for your front door!

For more on "The Mezuzah" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

The Jewish people received the Torah on Mt. Sinai and were ready to enter the land of Israel.  There was a consensus of opinion amongst the people that we should send spies to see if it was feasible to conquer the Land.  Moshe knew that the Almighty's promise to give the Land included a guarantee to conquer it.  However, one of the principles of life which we learn from this portion is: the Almighty allows each of us the free will to go in the direction we choose.  Even though one man and the Almighty is a majority, Moshe -- by Divine decree -- sent out the princes of the tribes (men of the highest caliber) to spy out the land.

Twelve spies were sent.  Ten came back with a report of strong fortifications and giants; they rallied the people against going up to the Land.  Joshua ben Nun and Calev ben Yefunah (Moshe's brother-in-law) tried to stem the rebellion, but did not succeed.  The Almighty decreed 40 years of wandering in the desert, one year for each day they spied in the land of Israel.  This happened on the 9th of Av, a date noted throughout Jewish history for tragedy -- the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain amongst them.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"The men who brought back the evil report on the Land died of the plague by the will of the Almighty" (Numbers 14:37). What lesson for life can we learn from this verse?

The Talmud (Arachin 15a) teaches us the lesson that we learn the severity of speaking loshon hora ("evil speech" -- gossip, slander, talebearing) from the punishment of the spies who were sent to reconnoiter the land of Canaan.  If those who spoke against wood and stones received harsh retribution, how much more severe a punishment is deserved by someone who slanders his fellow human being?


(or go to

Jerusalem 7:12
Guatemala 6:15 - Hong Kong 6:50 - Honolulu 6:56
J'Burg 5:04 - London 9:01 - Los Angeles 7:46
Melbourne 4:49 - Mexico City 7:58 - Miami 7:56
New York 8:11 - Singapore 6:54 - Toronto 8:43


What you don't see with your eyes,
don't invent with your mouth.
--  Yiddish proverb


With Special Thanks to

Dr. Stuart & Elizabeth


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