Mel Alexenberg
Author of "Through a Bible Lens"

A Different Spirit: To Sanctify the World

On the Torah portion for this week Shelah/Send forth (Numbers 13:-1-15:41)

Israelis who choose to spend their entire lives studying Torah without working or serving the army are denying the essential message of the Torah itself.  The Lubavicher Rebbe explains: “The purpose of life lived in Torah is not the elevation of the soul; it is the sanctification of the world.”  

See the “Create a Spiritual Blog of Your Life” blog for all the photographs and Torah Tweets for this week’s Torah portion at

Send forth men, if you please, and let them explore the land of Canaan that I give to the Israelites…. They brought forth to the Israelites a disparaging report on the land that they had explored…. Among the men who explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Yefuneh tore their clothes in grief.  They said to the whole Israelite community, “The Land that we passed through to explore is a very, very good Land!” (Numbers 13:1, 32, 14:6-7)


10 of the spies feared that entering Canaan would rob them of a purely spiritual life and force upon them the drudgery left behind in Egypt.

Those Israelites who desired a life of Torah study divorced from enacting Torah in a mundane world were sentenced to die in the desert.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that “The miracles which sustained the Jews in the wilderness were not the apex of spiritual existence.”

“They were only a preparation for the real task: taking possession of the Land of Israel and making it a holy land.”

“The purpose of life lived in Torah is not the elevation of the soul; it is the sanctification of the world.”

Only Joshua and Calev with his “different spirit” could envision holy sparks emerging from commonplace tasks and hard work.

Calev saw that the same activities forced on us as slaves in Egypt could be transformed into acts of spiritual significance when done freely.

God said, “The only exception will be My servant Calev, since he showed a different spirit and followed Me wholeheartedly.  I will bring him to the land that he explored, and his descendants will possess it.” (Numbers 14:24)

In our day, the descendants of Calev of the tribe of Judah are being ingathered from the four corners of the earth to the Land of Israel.

Most Jews in Israel descend from the tribe of Judah.  Most descendants of those tribes that rejected entering the Land are the Lost Tribes.

Seek the spiritual side of birthing a calf, baking pizza, defending our country, paving roads, sweeping streets, and collecting garbage.

For a creative exploration of the ideas in this blog, read the book Photograph God: Creating a Spiritual Blog of Your Life. See

About the Author
Mel Alexenberg is an artist, educator, writer, and blogger working at the interface between art, technology, Jewish thought, and living the Zionist miracle in Israel. He is the author of "Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media," "The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness," and "Dialogic Art in a Digital World: Judaism and Contemporary Art" in Hebrew. He was professor at Columbia, Bar-Ilan and Ariel universities and research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies. His artworks are in the collections of more than forty museums worldwide. He lives in Ra’anana, Israel, with his wife artist Miriam Benjamin.
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