Ben-Tzion Spitz
Former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay

Detailed Devils, Vague Angels

“Some facts should be suppressed, or, at least, a just sense of proportion should be observed in treating them.” -Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Truth and factuality have been a prime tenet of Judaism so much so that Truth is considered God’s “seal.” The Torah has not shied away from revealing unflattering episodes of our ancestors. However, we have also seen some notable exceptions. There are some famous “bendings” of the truth, even by God Himself, in order to keep domestic peace.

What is less reported is not a bending of truth but a conscious omission of truth and facts. Early in the Israelite sojourn in the desert, Moses sends twelve spies to scout out the land. Their negative report is what then led to the punishment of forty years of desert wandering.

The Torah provides a fairly detailed description of the event, quoting what they said, where they went, what they did and the repercussions. Curiously, at one stage of the narrative, the Torah becomes suddenly vague and literally says “and they answered them something.” (Hello! What did they answer them?”).

The Ohr Hachayim (Numbers 13:26) explains that the Torah is being vague on purpose. The spies at this point are considered evil and what they did and said was bad. He states that the Torah does not wish to detail the deeds of the wicked unless it absolutely has to. He claims that unless there is a specific constructive purpose, the Torah will not disclose the indiscretions of others, even if they are deserving of public censure.

How much more so must we be careful in disclosing “facts” about others.

Shabbat Shalom,



To those who hold their tongue.


About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay. He is the author of six books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. He is the publisher of Torah.Works, a website dedicated to the exploration of classic Jewish texts, as well as TweetYomi, which publishes daily Torah tweets on Parsha, Mishna, Daf, Rambam, Halacha, Tanya and Emuna. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.