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Shlach 5779

Shlach (Numbers 13-15 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  The story is told of a woman who enters what she believes is a Chinese laundry. However, there behind the counter is a little old Jewish man. Asks the woman, "Isn't this a Chinese laundry?" Responds the man with a thick Yiddish accent, "Vell, no. I own it. I guess you could call it a Jewish laundry." "What about the name?" queries the woman. "Ah, the name! I was standing in line at Ellis Island behind my cousin. The immigration man asked, 'Vat's your name?' and my cousin replied, 'Rabinowitz.' Then the immigration man asked me the same question and I replied, 'Sam Ting.' "

What's in a name? When the Almighty created humans he called the first man "Adam" meaning "earthling -- created from adama/earth". and the first woman "Chava" meaning "the mother of all living". Then the Almighty presented each creature to Adam to name the creature according to its essence.

Avraham was first called "Avram" -- meaning "Father of his native land Aram." Later the Almighty added the letter "heh" to his name after entering into the Covenant of Bris Mila -- meaning "Father of many nations." His wife Sarah was originally "Sarai" meaning "my princess'" -- a princess in his (Avraham's) house. Changing her name to Sarah meant that she was now "a princess for the whole world."

When a baby is born, the custom is to name the child after someone. The Sephardic custom is to name the first boy after the father. The Ashkenazic custom is to name the child after someone deceased -- to carry on the name, to remember the departed loved one and perhaps most important, there is a mystical influence upon the child by the name he or she is given.

If one has enough children to run out of deceased relatives -- or is lucky enough to have his children while his parents and grandparents are still alive, then the custom is to name after great tzadikim --righteous men and women in Jewish history.

The Midrash tells us that the Jewish people were redeemed from slavery on three merits: 1) They didn't change their distinctively Jewish dress (hence the strength of maintaining distinctive garb in Hassidic circles) 2) They didn't change their language 3) They didn't change their names. They kept their identity as Jews!

It is fascinating how in America a child will be given an English name and a Hebrew name. The English name will usually start with the same letter as the Hebrew name to give a hint of the Hebrew name. For instance, the child will be named Max after his grandfather Mordechai or Howard after his grandfather Chaim. Now, however ... perhaps a sign of the times ... there are so many Jews who don't remember who they were named after or their own Hebrew name.

If a person regains consciousness after a trauma, the first question asked is, "What's your name?" If the person doesn't know his name, he has suffered severe trauma.

Ask your relatives who you were named after or what your Hebrew name is before it is too late to ask. Ask them what their Hebrew name is before it is too late to ask and no one knows what name to put on the tombstone. I know of a Jewish woman named Regina who passed on. The family asked a scholarly friend if he knew her Hebrew name. Responded the man, "Regina is Latin for queen so her Hebrew name must be Malka (queen in Hebrew)." In reality, the woman's father was an immigrant born in the late 1800's who did not know Latin. He named her Regina because it started with "R"-- just like her Hebrew name Rivka.

I once met a man who only found out he was Jewish before he left home for college. At the university he met a beautiful blond, blue-eyed girl named Helga. When he asked her father for her hand in marriage he was turned down because "we are Jewish and I don't want a non-Jew for a son-in-law." He turned to Helga with great surprise and asked, "You're Jewish? So am I!" Only after their two daughters became Torah observant and had children did the man find his identity --"Saba" -- "grandpa" in Hebrew. "All my life I never really had a sense of who I was or what my mission is in life. When I became a grandparent I realized that I am a link in the chain of the Jewish people and my purpose is to strengthen that link and to strengthen the chain!"

What is in a name? It is who you are and who you want to be!


Torah Portion of the Week

Shelach, Numbers 13:1 - 15:41

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 Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight" (Numbers 13:33).

The Kotzker Rebbe said that the mistake of the spies was in the words "and so we were in their sight." It should not bother a person how others view him. (Otzer Chaim)

A person who worries about how others view him will have no rest. Regardless of what he does or does not do, he will always be anxious about receiving the approval of others. Such a person makes his self-esteem dependent on the whims of others. It is a mistake to give others so much control over you. Keep your focus on doing what is right and proper. Work on mastering the ability to have a positive self-image regardless of how others view you.

If people give you constructive criticism because of things you are doing wrong, you should appreciate the opportunity to improve. However, do not allow your self-image to be dependent on the arbitrary approval and disapproval of others.

The Chofetz Chaim commented, "When you view yourself as inferior, you will assume that others also view you in this manner. The truth could very well be that the other person views you in a much higher manner. As the Yalkut Shimoni states, "The Almighty said, 'Who says that you were not in their eyes as angels?' " (HaChofetz Chaim, Vol 3, p. 1060)

Realize your intrinsic value as a being created in the image of the Almighty and you will feel much more comfortable around other people.


Candle Lighting Times

June 28
(or go to

Jerusalem 7:13
Guatemala 6:17 - Hong Kong 6:53 - Honolulu 6:59
J'Burg 5:08 - London 9:04 - Los Angeles 7:51
Melbourne 4:52 - Mexico City 8:01 - Miami 7:58
New York 8:13 - Singapore 6:56 - Toronto 8:45

Quote of the Week

A good name is more desirable
than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than
silver or gold
--  Proverbs 22:1



With Deep Appreciation to

Mr. and Mrs. Jeremy S. Goldstein

With Special Thanks to

Stephen & Elly Hammerman



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