Shelach Lekha

Numbers 13:1 – 15:41

(Send for Yourself)
This Torah portion tells the story of the spies that are sent forth to survey the Land of Canaan in preparation for its conquest. They return with a mixed message. The Land is superb but too well-fortified to be conquered. Moses is bitterly disappointed with their fearful report and so decides that the people must wander another 40 years (until the generation of slavery has died out) before they can enter the Land.

Shelach Lekha concludes with the instruction to wear fringes of blue as reminders of holiness.


GOD SAYS TO MOSES: “Shelach Lekha” (send for yourself) spies to scout out the Land. The spies sent by Moses return both enraptured by the land and terrified at the prospect of making their permanent home in that elevated state of consciousness.

So too, this portion blesses us with a mission: Spy out the Land of our Inheritance, taste the milk and honey that flows from the Land of Promise, and let that taste guide us on your journey. The blessing we receive is a glimpse. What we do with that glimpse becomes the challenge.

Over a lifetime we are given glimpses, flashes, and hints that open our awareness to the Reality of paradise and unity that underlies this world of constant flux. We are graced with a timeless moment in which the infinite is revealed as the source of our finite world. We are sent to that land of expanded consciousness through imagination, practice and grace. We return from this taste of enlightenment either empowered to receive and integrate the supreme blessing into our lives, or completely terrorized by the incomprehensible immensity of what we feel is beyond our grasp.

“The land eats up its inhabitants,” report the spies. And they are correct. The small ego-driven separate self cannot survive in the pure air of that land. The “I” will be dissolved, called beyond itself, merging with the beauty and the mystery of that place.

The spies return from their mission divided.

AFTER A PEAK EXPERIENCE, we return to our life shaken. Whatever negativity is in us, born of grief or conditioning, is still there. Yet some part of us remembers that immensity, that taste of the infinite… or tries to remember.

That is our work: to remember what we have glimpsed and to plant the glimpse like a seed in the soil of our lives.

Shelach Lekha blesses us with both the mitzvah of remembering and a technology for fulfilling that mitzvah. We are instructed to put tzitzit (fringes) on the corners of our garments and to place at each corner a thread of the purest blue. Looking upon that color we will be reminded of the Sea, and the Sea will remind us of the Heavens, and the Heavens will remind us of the Throne of Glory that we glimpsed in a moment of clarity. (Talmud Menachot 43b)


THE BLESSING WE RECEIVE IS A GLIMPSE. What we do with that glimpse becomes the challenge.

When I was in my twenties, I read Be Here Now by Ram Dass and I thought, “How simple! And how wonderful! That is how I will live my life.”

And then I had a dream. The dream gave me a glimpse into the state of consciousness that I was asking for — one of complete openness and presence. The dream showed me just a few minutes of that state. I saw the brilliance of every color, the symphony in every sound; each breath was breathed as a miracle; each moment held a lifetime of experience. I woke up totally overwhelmed… and sobered.

I knew for sure that I was not ready to enter the Land. I understood how naïve I had been to think I could attain that state without preparation. And I began to get a sense of the work that would have to be done in the wilderness during the next 40 years. I would need to build the strength of the container that might receive my inheritance: the fullness, the richness, the beauty, the mystery of each moment.

WE GLIMPSE THE PROMISED LAND, the place that is flowing with milk and honey, and then must return to the wilderness of our lives. This circuitous journey sets up a tension within us. We know the taste of perfection and yet the urge to reach for it calls us to battle again and again. We know that beneath the mask of suffering, there is grace. We have seen the light that is imprisoned within the shell of the world, the shell whose stubborn opacity shields us from the power of the truth within. The memory of our glimpse fuels our journey and keeps us from succumbing to the illusion and tyranny of this-is-all-there-is physical reality. That memory guides us through the wilderness.

SHELACH LEKHA GIVES ME THIS SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE: to remember what I have glimpsed and to plant the glimpse, like a seed, in the soil of my life. And Shelach Lekha warns me that if I deny that glimpse and if I doubt its validity, then I will be denied entrance to the Land of Promise — the state of consciousness that witnesses Divine Presence filling the whole world. To plant the seed of that glimpse requires that I acknowledge and celebrate it, and that I nurture its growth with my loving attention.


Planting the Memory of the Glimpse

OUR PRACTICE FOR THIS WEEK of Shelach Lekha is to remember and honor a moment of glimpse. It may have happened last week or 40 years ago. In that moment you experienced the perfection of the universe; you drank from the flow of milk and honey that is your inheritance. (If you cannot remember such a moment, then imagine one. Trust your imagination to lead you to the memory.)

TAKE A MENTAL PICTURE of the scene of that memory and put a frame around it.

NOW OPEN UP A HOLE at the right bottom corner of the picture and drain out all the color from it. Replace the plug.

OPEN UP A HOLE at the left top corner of your picture and pour in the purest blue light that you can imagine. Stay with that picture filled with blue light and feel the glory of that moment within you.


NOW WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE BLUE of the tzitzit or the blue of the sky or the sea, you can be reminded of the glimpse of promise that you were given.

LET THE FORCE OF THAT GLIMPSE guide you through the wilderness.

Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land
©2006 Shefa Gold. All rights reserved.