MOS 5-Point Parasha - Shelach 5780

Join us for: * ShabbaZoom: Friday, June 19, 6 pm Note new zoom instructions below!

* Chanting & Chocolate: Sunday, June 21, 7:30 pm

* Monday Meditation & Middot, Monday 7:30 pm

* Remembering Reb Zalman, Tuesday, June 23, 7:30-9 pm

(See full announcements below.)


Here is our weekly "5-Point Parasha", what we are enjoying or pondering as it relates to life and Torah.

Rabbi Sherril inspired by this teaching from Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld about grasshoppers and self-doubt:

On Grasshoppers and Angels

At the beginning of this week’s parasha, we encounter the Israelites in a moment of intense vulnerability and self-doubt. The people have been wandering in the wilderness for over a year. So much is behind them: moments of miraculous rescue, relief, revelation; other moments of thirst, terror, and trembling; and always, the thin, almost imperceptible line between them. What lies ahead is unknown. Guided on their journey by a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud by day, these ex-slaves – still strangers to their own new-found freedom – are commanded to follow a God they cannot see to a land they cannot imagine. It is not difficult to understand why they slip so easily, again and again, from faith into raw fear. As our portion opens, Moses is commanded by G*d to send men to “scout out the land of Canaan” – which he does immediately, selecting twelves spies, a leader from each tribe, and sending them off with these instructions: “Go up there into the Negev and on into the hill country and see what kind of country it is. Are the people who dwell in it strong or weak, few or many? Is the country in which they dwell good or bad? Are the towns they live in open or fortified? Is the soil rich or poor?” All good questions. The spies spend forty days scouting out the land. When they return, they go directly to Moses and Aaron and, before the entire community, they make their report. It begins on a positive note. “We came to the land you sent us to; it does indeed flow with milk and honey.” But as they continue with a description of the people who inhabit the land, the message becomes more equivocal. “The people who inhabit the country are extremely powerful and the cities are fortified and very large.” A less glowing report, but still, a seemingly reasonable response to their assignment. It is at this point that things begin to unravel. Caleb steps forward, offering words of encouragement and trying to stem the tide of panic rising among the people. But the other spies take on an even more ominous tone. Their message now turns from one that is tinged with fear to one that predicts certain failure. “We cannot attack that people, for it is stronger than we.” And then, reaching fever pitch, “The country that we traversed and scouted is one that devours its inhabitants. All the people that we saw in it are giants. We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.” It is an exquisite articulation of self-doubt: “Lo nuchal. We can’t do this.” And the ever-so-human projection of one’s own sense of inadequacy onto others: “We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.” It is this statement that captures the attention of an extraordinarily poignant commentary from Midrash Tanchuma. “The Blessed Holy One said to the scouts: “You don’t know what you have just let your mouths utter. I am ready to put up with your saying, ‘We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves.’ But I do take offense at your asserting, ‘And so we must have looked to them.’ Could you possibly know how I made you appear in their eyes? How do you know but that in their eyes you were like angels?’” In this brief imagined exchange between G*d and the scouts, the midrash underscores the insidious nature of self-doubt, the way we can mistake it for truth, the way it can indeed become “a land that devours its inhabitants.” The antidote, the midrash insists, is cultivating the capacity to open up some space between our inner experience and outer reality. This is the vital, life-giving space of breath, hope, possibility. The voice of G*d is the voice that speaks to us, saying: I understand that you are afraid. I understand that you feel small. But take a minute. Leave room for the possibility that your fear is not the whole story. How do you know but that in their eyes you were like angels? Perhaps the very end of this week’s portion – the mitzvah of tzitzit, of wearing fringes on the corners of our garments – can best be understood as a way of ritually enacting this very truth, a way of keeping open this dialogue with the divine voice in our own lives. The word tzitzit, according to Rashi and other commentators, is related to the Hebrew word metzitz, or “to peer,” as in the verse from Song of Songs, “metzitz min hacharakim” – “peering through the latticework.” We, who have a tendency to see ourselves as grasshoppers at times, need to be continually reminded to expand our vision and remember that we stand in every moment before a loving G*d. In those moments when self-doubt clouds or constricts our vision, we are asked to lift our eyes, to try to peer through the cracks in the walls we have built, and open ourselves to the possibility that we may be like angels in the eyes of another.

Reb Sherril shares a Hebrew version of "We Shall Overcome":

Lyrics derived from a hymn by Charles Albert Tindley

Hebrew added by Rabbi David Zaslow and Rabbi Emanuel Ben-David

אנו נתגבר יום אחד. עמוק בלבי אני מאמין אנו נתגבר יום אחד.

Anu nitgaber yom ehad. Amok b'libee ani ma-amin anu nitgaber yom ehad.

We shall overcome someday.

Deep in my heart I do believe that we shall overcome someday.

Paul Rene de Cotret shares some personal thoughts on the parasha:

My reflection is quite allegorical.  Being called out of slavery in Egypt, crossing a perilous Red Sea, wandering in some desertic wilderness, receiving a «Torah» at Sinai, then, launching a scouting expedition to check the «Promised Land»...then what do we do with such a frightening bird's eye view?? 

If these were just somethings that happened to a bunch of slaves 3000 years ago, of what possible significance could it bear on MY life today???

However, if this historical event stood and still stands at the very root of all of our lives, could vivify it, lend it some sense...a G-dsent story...G-d touching MY humanity, my heart?????

This made me travel way back in when I was a junior medical resident at McGill, age 23.

I was performing quite well in med school (exceedingly well, in fact) but boy, was I ever screwed up inside.  My Daddy had died when I was 8 years old and that had left terrible scars on my deep soul.  He had been the MOST important person in my life.  Then, followed a very prolonged and pathological mourning with my Mom and my brother.  The only place of solace was retreating all alone inside myself. ALONE.  Basically no friends.  At age 20, I was seriously neurotic. My heart had been shattered (pulverized, in fact) and hadn't healed well at all. At 23, I consulted one of my psychiatry professors and, at his firm suggestion, I started a full-fledged psychoanalysis (3-4 times / week) that would in fact last several years....deep surgery to attempt to repair my soul !

With that as a background, let's come to our parasha...(I could write pages upon pages but, gosh, I'll try to give you the short version..)

At 9-10-11-12-13 yrs old etc, always living with a deep, gnawing anxiety..always looking out for my mother...terrified that something might happen to her...being made fun of by my schoolmates because I was out-performing them...always alone...gee, it feels SO good to be alone...delving in Catholic rituals as an altar boy...and that really allays my fears...etc

Well, that was slavery.  I was a slave to all my defense reactions (denial, displacement, substitution etc).  That was my EGYPT.  A slave indeed, yet alive, fed, and feeling somehow secure...

At one point (age 23) however, this harness became just simply intolerable.

I heard the inner cry to break the start analysis!

Once you start that, there really isn't no possibility of backtracking.  Merely starting to explore your totally unconscious defense mechanisms unleashes unforeseen anxieties...the Egyptian troops are bearing down...your in for it, buster.!!...suddenly, the sea divides (the unconscious opens up) have no choice but to go forth. The step of utter uncertainty...the first step to LIFE, delving inside yourself to search for the fountain of life.

Then you a barren desert.  You've let go some of your old neurotic consolidations.  In fact, you feel WORSE than before.

At Sinai, you get a message...«NEVER, EVER lie to yourself».  If you do, therein lies death.

When, after hundreds of sessions on that couch you've gotten to know so goddam well, you feel you must send out scouts to check out what's ahead for you, you disastrously realize that all your neurotic constructs are seemingly invincible giants!  Having travelled so far to realize that you're utterly frail and vulnerable.

And yet, that very frailty and vulnerability, IF YOU CAN FINALLY ACCEPT IT, are the very resources that will allow you to enter your Promised become yourself, freed from those ancient neurotic enslaving constraints!

Rabbi Schachar shares an article that he has been thinking about:

Rabbi Sid Schwarz on "Does Jewish Renewal have a future?"

Rabbi Schachar shares a quote by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, in honour of the upcoming yahrzeit (next Friday night, June 26):

"Retiring means getting new tires to take us to new adventures" - Embracing Wisdom: Soaring in the Second Half of Life by Malka Drucker & Nadya Gross.

Announcements & Upcoming @MOS --

* ShabbaZoom: A Virtual Warm-UP for Shabbat at home

Friday, June 18, 6-7 pm

Join Montreal Open Shul to welcome in Shabbat online with a virtual pre-Shabbat gathering over Zoom.

To join with video, you must have a password. 

Email Rabbi Sherril for the password at

1) Log into Zoom (

2) Click on Join meeting

3) Enter Meeting ID: 514 489 7121 4) Enter password that you received by email

To join by phone:

One tap mobile +17789072071,,5144897121# Canada +14388097799,,5144897121# Canada

Dial by your location         +1 778 907 2071 Canada         +1 438 809 7799 Canada         +1 587 328 1099 Canada         +1 647 374 4685 Canada         +1 647 558 0588 Canada

Meeting ID: 514 489 7121

* Chanting & Chocolate

(Chocolate when we're together again)

You are invited to join in the weekly Cross-Canada Chanting & Chocolate* from 7:30-8:30 EDT Sunday, June 14 with chant leaders from Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver. R' Schachar will be leading a chant this week. We hope to see you there.  This is the Zoom link: Meeting ID: 880 0417 6254 One tap mobile +15873281099,,88004176254# Canada +16473744685,,88004176254# Canada Dial by your location: +1 587 328 1099 Canada +1 647 374 4685 Canada +1 647 558 0588 Canada

Organized by Lorne Malin * Monday Meditation & Middot with Cantor Heather Batchelor 7:30 pm via Zoom.

Weekly sessions focussing on meditation and mindfulness skills, as well as development of personal virtues ("middot") as defined by the Musar tradition of Jewish ethics.

All are welcome. Suggested donation.

Please register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Initial registration will automatically enable attendance to full series.

Click here for more info.

* Remembering Reb Zalman... our beloved teacher, scholar, friend and visionary. Come and learn! An inspiring evening of classic Reb Zalman teachings, songs and stories. Tuesday, June 23, 7:30-9 pm.

Register in advance for this special gathering honouring Reb Zalman's yarzheit:

We have a great group of people to help us remember:

Rabbi Daniel Siegel (R' Zalman's first ordained rabbi) Rabbi Shalom Schachter (R' Zalman's son) Rabbi Laura Duhan-Kaplan & Charles Kaplan Lorne Mallin Rabbi Hannah Dresner, of Or Shalom Vancouver Rabbi Schachar Orenstein Rabbi Simcha Raphael Rabbi Sherril Gilbert

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting

* Friday Night Service - Every Third Friday of the Month...stay tuned for new dates

* New/Old-school service every fourth Saturday of the month...stay tuned for new dates

Please Note: Due to current health concerns, 3rd Friday Shabbat and New/Old-school service will be temporarily suspended until further notice.

* Are you (or is someone you know) facing a food shortage at this time due to the pandemic? Montreal Open Shul participants may be able to receive help from MOS, thanks to support from the Jewish Community Foundation and FederationCJA. Please get in touch with us by email at or contact Rabbi Sherril directly at

And, if you are in a position to help, we ask and encourage you to please support FederationCJA's Community Crisis Response effort by donating to the community CrowdFunding campaign. Visit

Finally, FederationCJA has established a "helpline" for anyone in the community to ask for help. Call 514-734-1411.

* Let us know if you have something that you would like us to include in the 5-Point Parasha (by Wednesday of the week)

*Did you know that you can donate to MOS and receive a tax receipt from Aleph Canada? Go to the Aleph Canada page on Canada Helps and us the drop down menu under "APPLY YOUR DONATION TO A SPECIFIC FUND SET UP BY THIS CHARITY" to select Montreal Open Shul.