In this week’s parsha the Torah tells us about Klal Yisrael’s desire to appraise Eretz Yisrael. The spies and the rest of Klal Yisrael fell into despair, not believing they could accomplish their mission of conquering the land. They were thereby punished, that they must stay another 40 years in the wilderness before attempting to reenter Eretz Yisrael. We understand that the punishment of having to stay another 40 years in the desert was not just a punishment for their misconduct, but it was a process of therapy, bringing them to a point that they would be in the correct frame of mind and on the level to enter Eretz Yisrael. The Mefarshim add on to this idea by explaining, that the mitzvos mentioned in this week’s parsha, were commanded at this time because of the lowered state in which Klal Yisrael were now in.
For example, Rav Shimson Raphael Hirsch tells us that the reason tzitzis is found at the end of the parsha is tied into the beginning of the Parshah. The root word ”תור” is found in the beginning of the Parsha (ויתורו) and again by Tzitzis (ולא תתורו). The mitzvah of tzitzis was given to us to protect us and give us the ability to see things in the right way. The same attribute of תור, which means looking into something, is a wonderful thing, if what is driving one is the will of Hashem. Then, while looking at something, his vision will be focused on what the will of Hashem is. This is one reason why we are commanded to look at our tzitzis, in order to remind us what to ‘look’ at. The miraglim, Rav Hirsch says, were also ‘looking’, but they were looking for what was best for themselves. When that is driving what one is looking for, he will ‘see’ things very differently, which is what caused them to speak negatively about the land.
The Sforno tells us that after Klal Yisrael sinned with the spies, it became necessary for them to always give the first portion to something holy, in order to set the correct tone and help us ‘see’ correctly. (see Toras Chaim Sanhedrin 102b).
We often have a project in front of us that we know we are obligated to deal with. And while we understand its importance, we are lacking the proper emotional connection to do it in the proper way. In the past few years, the mitzvah of hafrashas challoh has become highlighted as a segulah – a special mitzvah that people look forward to performing in order to gain a ‘yeshua’. A highlight of “The Shabbos Project” in South Africa was its “hafrashas challoh” event, which actually affected many people on a deep level. However, many people get caught up in the concept of the segulah of the mitzvha, and miss out on the point of the mitzvah. The mefrashim tell us that this mitzvah is special because it reminds us to think of Hashem first, before we start any endeavor. Rabbi Hirsch tells us that this was the fatal mistake of the spies: To look at Eretz Yisrael as a place to exploit for their personal benefit, not yearning for it as a place to serve Hashem. Before we sit down and partake of our bread, we must stop and think first, that the purpose that we should be able to eat is to serve HaKadosh Baruch Hu. After that statement is made, we hopefully can partake of our bread without danger of straying in our mission. After a woman takes challoh, customarily it is a time that she will pray for a variety of things because when one does a mitzvah they are especially close to Hashem. We should keep in mind that the main aspect is not to “squeeze the moment” for our personal benefit, but rather to take pride in the fact that we were able to do the service of Hashem.
It seems to me that this healthy understanding of performing a mitzvah, will in itself, be a great segula because this will bring pleasure to Hashem.