Shelach 2021: Dead Fish and Women

by devadmin | June 3, 2021 8:15 pm

We begin with a mazel-tov shot-out to chaver Avi Gluck, of the Monroe Avenue minyan -temporarily on spring break- upon the upcoming aufruf (this Shabbis) -and wedding (soon) of his son Yoni. Yoni will be marrying Sara Halpern, she the beautiful daughter of Shmuel and Baila Halpern, and granddaughter of Rabbi Avrohom and Ahuva Halpern, they, friends of many decades. Mazel tov to Yoni, his siblings and to the extended mishpocho. May Sara and Yoni merit to enjoy many decades of blissful marriage.

A big mazel tov to our dear friends Ashley and Judah Charnoff upon the wedding this past Sunday- of their beautiful daughter Michelle to Brian Polay, the Ois and eishes chayil were in attendance; it was fabulous.  May the newlywed’s merit to enjoy many happy decades together. Mazel tov to both extended families.

Mazel tov again to our very dear friends and cousins, Sharon and Brian Duftler, upon the marriage -this past Monday- of their son Mendy to Eliana Slomnicki, she beautiful daughter of Laura and Steven Slomnicki. We had a blast. Mazel tov to Mendy’s siblings Rachel, Aliza, and Boaz and to the entire extended Duftler and Silver families.  Mazel tov to the entire Slomnicki family. May Eliana and Mendy merit to build a beautiful life together and give their parents a slew of grandchildren. Omen!

Mazel tov to our cousins Gitty and Yitzchok Grossman upon the wedding -last Tuesday- of their beautiful daughter Temmy to Srulie Bertram, he the son of Civi and Yaakov Nissen Bertram. The heylige Ois and eishes chayil were of course in attendance at the wedding and shabbis sheva brochis. May the young couple be zoche to build a bayis ne’man b’yisroel.  


Dead Fish and Women

According to informed sources, there are 10 Types of Handshakes with each having its own meaning. Mamish?  Yesh Oimrim (there are those who say) azoy:  you can tell much about a person by his handwriting; similarly, how a person shakes hands is also a clue to their inner nature. Prior to Corona, we shook many hands and encountered a variety of handshakes in shul, at the office, at a simcha and elsewhere. The names given to each of them can be found on various internet sites. They include the sweaty palms handshake, the brush -off, the two-handed handshake, the controller, the finger vice, the bone crusher, the lobster claw, the top handed shake, the pusher, and the dead fish handshake. These are all real.

They say that of all the types of handshakes, the ‘dead fish’ is the most infamous one. The hand has no energy, there is no shake, no squeeze, not even a pinch, and it gives the feeling you are holding a dead fish instead of a hand.  And we begin with the dead fish handshake why? Is it at all related to Parshas Shelach? It’s not! Not exactly; let’s however recall a posik near the end of last week’s parsha. But we’re not done yet as fish, or more accurately stated, the dead fish handshake is very related to an incident that took last shabbis. Let’s first read the posik below before we discuss last shabbis.


We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.   הזָכַ֨רְנוּ֙ אֶת־הַדָּגָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־נֹאכַ֥ל בְּמִצְרַ֖יִם חִנָּ֑ם אֵ֣ת הַקִּשֻּׁאִ֗ים וְאֵת֙ הָֽאֲבַטִּחִ֔ים וְאֶת־הֶֽחָצִ֥יר וְאֶת־הַבְּצָלִ֖ים וְאֶת־הַשּׁוּמִֽים:

This past shabbis, at a shabbis sheva brochis tendered in honor of the marriage of the daughter of a first cousin, the Ois found himself seated immediately next to another first cousin, let’s call him Isaac Tessler. Isaac practices personal injury law and is famed for quick settlements. Shoin, if you fall out of a car, get beaten by your wife, or are otherwise injured, and someone else is at fault -isn’t it always- Isaac is your man.



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On Friday, while making the rounds to wish the entire family a mazel tov on the occasion, the Ois noticed that he had gotten a dead fish handshake form a particular relative. Because Miriam was stricken with tzora’as in last week’s parsha for speaking loshoin horo, and because the RBSO excoriated both her and her brother Aharoin over the incident, the relative who offered me the dead-fish handshake shall remain nameless. By the second attempt at a handshake -again met with a similar greeting- the Ois (no dummy) realized that this particular relative was epes angry about something. But what? Ver veyst? What to do? The Ois shared the incidents with cousin Isaac who pointed the Ois to one of the most powerful Rashi’s he had ever seen. Though it’s found at the end of Bihaloischo and though the Yiddin are busy in Parshas Shelach wreaking other forms of havoc, we must review the incident and how Rashi interpreted what took place.

Towards the very end of the parsha, in Perek 12, we read of the loshoin horo spoken by Miriam and Aharoin about Moishe and his Kushite wife. Of course, you know well the story and the relevant pisukim. Let us take a look at posik 9. After the RBSO explains His relationship with Moishe and how He speaks directly to him – “peh el peh….”- and only then, do we read posik 9. The posik is rather short, five words in total. It tells us that the wrath of Hashem flared against them (Aharoin and Miriam) and He left. Picture the scene. They were summoned to a meeting, the RBSO explained His relationship with Moishe to Aharoin and Miriam and then His anger flared. WOW! Says Rashi who pictured the scene and chapped what went down, azoy:

Only after He informed them of their bad behavior, did His anger flare. Rashi than adds these words:

ויחר אף ה’ בם וילך. מֵאַחַר שֶׁהוֹדִיעָם סִרְחוֹנָם גָּזַר עֲלֵיהֶם נִדּוּי, קַ”וָ לְבָשָׂר וָדָם, שֶׁלֹּא יִכְעֹס עַל חֲבֵרוֹ עַד שֶׁיּוֹדִיעֶנּוּ סִרְחוֹנוֹ (ספרי :

AND THE WRATH OF THE LORD GLOWED AGAINST THEM; AND HE WENT AWAY — Only after He had informed them of their offence did He decree “excommunication’ against them. All the more so should a human being not display anger against his fellow before he informs him of his offense (Sifrei Bamidbar 104).

Raboyseyee, think of how powerful Rashi’s words are. “All the more so for flesh and blood- that he -mankind- should not display anger towards his fellow man until he informs him of his foulness.” Think how many fights and broigeses can be avoided. Think of the many thousands of Yiddin not talking to one another because one is angry but the second knows not why. Rashi rocks!

Shoin, let’s see what the Yiddin are up to in Parshas Shelach. Earlier today, as the heylige Ois was making his way through the parsha in preparation of a speaking engagement at a sheva brochis being tendered in honor Eliana and Mendy Duftler, he came across a most interesting take on the entire Miraglim (spies) saga and how it could have been prevented. Says the “Kli Yokor,” (Precious Vessel), a 16th century commentator on the heylige Toirah that had Moishe chosen to send female spies instead of the men he sent, the entire incident would not have taken place. By extension, the Yiddin could have avoided the entire 40-year midbar stint and marched directly to the Promised Land. Say what? Women had such power? OMG! Want more color on what the Kli Yokor says? We’ll get to that soon, ober let’s first review what went down.

Vey is mir (woe is to me): the relationship between the RBSO and the Yiddin is on shaky ground. Last week we read about the Misoininim, the complainers and how they angered the RBSO. They wanted an expanded menu. The news isn’t much better in Parshas Shelach which tells us the famous myseh of the meraglim, the caper which led the RBSO to retaliate by declaring that the Yiddin would not be   making a quick trip across the desert into the promised land. Instead, as punishment, they were sentenced to trekking though the Midbar for another 39 years, 40 in total, before entry. Nu, given such news, the Yiddin found ways to occupy themselves and were to become embroiled in several fiascos, cascading from one set of trouble into another. Nebech, we’ll learn more as we make our way through Sefer Bamidbar.  Along the way, the RBSO will continue to thin out the male population until all those that He had intended to leave behind, will have died in the Midbar. Ober what about the females? Were they too thinned out? We will get to the them soon. In the end, very few of those leaving Mitzrayim, to include our man Moishe were to make it over to the Promised Land. Nu, could it be more depressing? Yikes!

There is however a shtikel good news, a sliver of a silver lining: some might even say the news is mamish oisergevayntlich (outstandingly good). After reading all about the Meraglim (spies) and the fellow tending to his wood on shabbis (last story in this week’s parsha), and as you make your way through the rest of Sefer Bamidbar, you might come to the conclusion that you’re not such a giferliche oisvorf and minuvil. Not at all. You might taka be right! When compared to the behavior of the midbar generation (at least a portion of them), and their mischievous behavior, you might be quite the tzaddik! Shoin, with that less than cheerful intro, let’s quickly, in one paragraph, efsher two, review the gantze parsha before selecting a topic for further discussion.

With the RBSO’s permission (or, as we will learn later this summer – at the insistence of the Yiddin), Moishe sends 12 Miraglim (spies or scouts), one from each Sheyvet (tribe), to check out the Promised Land of Canaan. Prophetically sensing trouble, Moishe, changes Hoshea’s name to Yehoishua, expressing a prayer that the RBSO not let him fail in his mission. As you can only imagine, the medrish is replete with myriad interpretations on this name change; more below. Forty days later they return carrying unusually large fruit. Ten of the twelve spies report that the people in Canaan are as formidable as the fruit they just smuggled over the border. The bottom line: seemingly, anything too large, even fruit, can taka also be a problem. In other words, what the miraglim stated, was not to enter the land and not fight its inhabitants. The Yiddin quickly lost faith in the RBSO and began crying like little children. The RBSO, not at all pleased with the crybabies, declared (according to the medrish) that a time will come- namely Tisha Be’av- when the Yiddin will have good reason to cry. How is Tisha Be’av related to our parsha, very veyst ober the medrish weaves the stories together.  Avada you recall learning that the Medrish has literary license. The Yiddin are mamish depressed. Kolave and Yehoishua, the two good guys, try but fail to bolster the people’s spirit. Too late! The Yiddin are petrified and nervous about war against its inhabitants and demand a return to Mitzrayim where they had shelter, an expanded menu of watermelon, fish and meat, hot shiksa Mitzri women and other good times. Hey, didn’t we learn that the Yiddin – while in Mitzrayim- had sunk to the 48th of the 49 levels of Tumah (impurity and shmutz)? Yes we did!  Mistama they got there by laying more than just bricks, if you chap. The bottom line: the Yiddin -after 210 years of slavery- were still in salve mentality mode; it takes a block of time to break out. The RBSO is, avada fed up with His people and tells Moishe that He would like to wipe them out and start all over again (not the first time this has been suggested) using Moishe as the master seed. Ober Moishe davens and through his fervent prayers, saves the nation once again from annihilation. Though their lives are saved, the RBSO does not give the Yiddin a free pass. Instead, He decrees that they must remain in the midbar (desert) for 40 years in total, one year for each day of the spy mission  (where they will commit many more transgressions) and until the men who wept at the scouts’ false report pass away.  A renegade and remorseful group rashly begins an invasion of the Land based on the RBSO’s original command. Moishe warns them not to proceed, but they are Yiddin and avada don’t like to take orders form their leaders. Has any Rabbi successfully and totally stopped talking in shul or the kiddush club? Yiddin don’t listen, they act impetuously! Nu, the Yiddin didn’t listen to Moishe and were massacred by the Amalekites and Canaanites. There are dead Jews all over the place. Veyter.

The Parsha mentions a few new rules concerning the Korbonois (offerings), a topic we’ll skip over. If you want more information about korbonois, visit the website ( and look up the first few parshas in Sefer Vayikra. The Yiddin are told to remove challah from their dough, seemingly the source of challah removal ad hayoim hazeh (till today). A new rule is handed down: should someone blaspheme against the RBSO, chas v’sholom (a subject we covered a few weeks back) and be unrepentant, he will be cut off spiritually from his people. Don’t tune out: the best is upon us right now. Towards the end (7th aliya), a man is found gathering wood on public property in violation of the shabbis and he’s stoned to death. Next: The laws of tzitzis are taught.  Nu, are you dizzy yet?  Shoin! We just covered the gantze Parsha with its 100+ pisukim a few short paragraphs and many of you are wondering why the Ois doesn’t stop right here: taka an excellent question.

Nu, the main topic of discussion seems to be the misdeeds of the meraglim. Let the Ois delight you with a few pearls; feel free to discuss them at the shabbis tish instead of the usual menu of loshoin horo and badmouthing the Rabbi’s speech. As mentioned above, let’s see how women could have helped the Yiddin get to the Promised Land 39 years earlier. Lommer lernin.

Exactly what it was the meraglim said that was so giferlich the Ois never really chapped. Haven’t we all spoken such loshoin horo over the years? And repeated things that were much worse than the size of fruits? We have! Are you (we) still alive? We are!  Is pointing out that the fruit was epes too large so giferlich? A chaver told me that for the last fifteen years, he’s been telling his eishes chayil that certain parts of her -fruits included, if you chap- are too large. And guess what? He’s very much alive and they’re still married! And the miraglim with some gossip, got the death sentence- right there in the midbar? Maybe fruit smuggling was a capital offense, ver veyst.

What terrible sin did these meraglim commit?  Weren’t they specifically selected because each was an upstanding person, each a leader who could mistama articulate and communicate? Isn’t that why each was referred to as a leader, a Nosee of his sheyvait? Indeed. They were instructed to report the facts, and that’s exactly what they did! Furthermore, even if we consider their report as deliberately biased, why the death sentence for some loshoin horo? Just last week Miriam got a seven-day sentence of leprosy for speaking ill of her brother; should the entire nation be punished for being misled by a small group of 12 people?  Finally, even if the Yiddin’s initial reaction wasn’t as enthusiastic as the RBSO had hoped, is this a valid reason for annihilation? Does this rise to the sin of the Eygel (golden calf) where the Yiddin mamish worshipped a false god? Moreover, we just read that they did tshuva (repented) by declaring their willingness to take the challenge of conquering the Land and some did! What’s pshat here? Isn’t tshuva supposed to work? And if not, why are we davening a whole day on Yom Kippur? And can you imagine how empty our shuls would be if we were all sentenced to death for some loshoin horah? Ver veyst; how are we to understand this story?

Rashi calls these spies upstanding citizens in one posik and then just a few earlier, he refers to them as “these wicked people.” The answer Raboyseyee is that you need to spend some time learning and reading the myriad medroshim on this story. For the Ois, it’s 20 pages of writing, yikes! Yet a few more questions to ponder. Why taka was the “Dor HaMidbar” (the generation that wandered the desert) punished so severely? Why were they to wander forty years until they perished? Why couldn’t the RBSO just wipe them out as he did to smaller groups throughout Sefer Bamidbar and take the rest of the Yiddin over to the land? Who needed all these headaches? Ober, the bottom line is this: as has been said many times before, the RBSO had and always does have, a master plan. In this case, and in many others, He chose not to share it with you.

And how many meraglim were there? Was it really12 as we were always taught?  Maybe not.  The Toirah uses a double expression of ‘ish echad ish echad’ to describe the meraglim sent by each sheyvait. Common knowledge is that one spy was sent from each sheyvait; however, says Toisfos (Soita 34a) citing the opinion of Rebi Akiva quoted in the Yerushalmi who derives from the double language azoy: in actuality 2 spies (ish-ish) went from each sheyvait for a total of 24. Rebi Yishmael disagrees, no surprise there. Avada you’re shocked to hear that Rebi Akiva has a different view than the words of the heylige Toirah mamish and you might be klerring (thinking) azoy: According to his view, why does the Toirah list only twelve names at the beginning of the parsha when actually 24 were sent?  Says the Toirah Temimah azoy: only the important, prominent ones were mentioned by name; the less prominent remained anonymous, no shout out. Gishmak!

Perhaps the less prominent 12 were not involved in, or not responsible for causing the Yiddin to complain and lose faith; leadership comes with responsibilities. Or, efsher they stayed behind to taste the real fruit in the land, if you chap.  Accordingly, only the leaders, the chashuvim (big shots) are named at the beginning of the parsha. Veyter.

Finally, if you’re wondering which fruits the Meraglim smuggled back that caused all this trouble, the answer is 1- a cluster of grapes; 2- a pomegranate; 3 – a fig. And it took 10 miraglim to carry them. Seemingly, since almost the beginning of time, the Yiddin haven’t fared very well when it came to fruit. Efsher you recall that a forbidden fruit and the tree it came from, caused all sorts of problems way back when. Till this day, -says the medrish- we suffer the consequences. In our parsha, fruit seems to have been at the root cause of the Yiddin having to spend an additional 39 years wandering through the midbar looking for a port-a- potty.

And we close where we began, with a gishmake pshat form the Kli Yokor.  Said he azoy: when describing the meraglim, the heylige Toirah referred to them as ‘men’ and Moishe was taka instructed to “send for yourself men.” Said the Kli Yokor azoy:  the men hated the Land, for they said ‘Let us turn around and return to Mitzrayim (BaMidbar 14:4) whereas, the women loved the Land, for they said ‘Give us an inheritance in it’ (BaMidbar 27:4). Therefore, the RBSO said, ‘From my perspective, for I know the future, it would have been better to send the women, who love the Land, and would not speak ill of it.’

The Kli Yokor concludes that had women been sent, they would likely have seen their mission as determining “how” to implement the command of the RBSO to conquer the Land, without having had any doubt as to the ability of the Yiddin. Unlike the males who showed a lack of investment in the land, the females showed great love for it. While the men suggested going back to Mitzrayim, the heylige women, like Tzelofchad’s daughters, fought hard for their right to inherit land in Canaan. Had Moishe sent female spies, they would have seen the same terrifying sights as did their male counterparts; ober driven by their love for the land, they would have focused on long-term solutions instead of becoming discouraged in the face of difficulty. Large fruits would not have scared them off.

A gitten shabbis-

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman


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