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One Small Letter Makes All the Difference: A YUD in Shelach Lecha

Rabbi Arie Hasit
| 24/06/2024

Learning with Rabbi Arie Hasit: A Midrash teaches that sometimes the consequences of what happens in our lives can take place many generations in the future!

This week we begin to read from the Torah portion of Shelach Lecha. The Torah reading in which God commands Moses to send 12 spies – one from each tribe – into the Land of Israel to report back to the people what is waiting for them in this promised land.

Our Torah reading gives the names of every spy from every tribe including the representative of the tribe of Ephraim: Hoshea bin Nun. This name might sound familiar to us, but it is the first time that it appears in the Torah. But then, the Torah tells us that Moses changes the name of Hoshea to Yehoshua, connecting us to the character that we have already met in the book of Exodus, Yehoshua bin Nun, who stands at Moses’ side.

There is a lovely Midrash in the Talmudic tractate of Sanhedrin that explains what happens here.

The word Hoshea, the name, means that “he saved them.” Yehoshua means that “God will save them.” There is a beautiful theological message just in that. But there is also a reference to a much, much earlier story in the Torah in which God takes Avram and Sarai and gives them new names: Avraham and Sarah.

Avraham only got a new heh. But Sarai, in order to get her heh, had to lose her yud.  

The Midrash teaches us that that yud spent generations waiting and angry at God, saying:

“What did I do to lose my place in this ever so important matriarch?”

So, the Talmud tells us that Moses does God’s work in that moment. Moses gives the yud the glory that that the yud deserves by naming Hoshea “Yehoshua.” The yud goes from one righteous woman to one righteous man who is able to lead us into the Land of Israel.

We are in very, very difficult times here right now in Israel. This Midrash teaches us that sometimes the consequences of what can happen in our lives are many generations down the road.

When that yud came back, the Talmud teaches us, it is saying that even the most difficult and painstaking actions and moments in our lives right now can have the most amazing and most wonderful effects in the future.

May we know redemption in our days and may all of our hostages come home soon.

Shavua Tov from Schechter  

Rabbi Arie Hasit, Associate Dean, Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, was ordained by the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in 2016 and was in the second cohort of the Mishlei program. Prior, he served six years as the founding rabbi and CEO of 70 Faces — Mazkeret Batya, a unique community that promotes the values of Masorti Judaism and religious pluralism in the public sphere.

Rabbi Hasit volunteers as co-chair of the Masorti Movement’s Youth Committee and as a member of the Law Committee for the Israeli Rabbinical Assembly.

He lives in Mazkeret Batya with his wife, Sara Tova Brody and their two children.

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