Nelly Shulman
Nelly Shulman

The Courage to Ask

While embarking on a new venture we naturally feel a certain apprehension. Every time we change a residence or a workplace, we ponder on the nature of a new place and the new people we are about to encounter.

The great French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss once said, “The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he asks the right questions”. In the Torah portion for this week, Sh’lach, Moses, being somewhat a scientist, gives to the scouts a set of questions that can be used even now with minimal changes.

My organized mind craves tables so here is an attempt to create a classification of Moses’ questions.

Land People
Quality Health
Suitability for agriculture Number
Nature Towns

This template is so versatile that it can be used for the evaluation of almost everything – from the new neighborhood you are moving in to the team at your new job. In addition to that, Moses, being ever practical, asks the scouts to bring back something tangible to complete the evaluation, since the produce of the land might speak louder than words.

He sends the spies off with the rousing word הִ֨תְחַזַּקְתֶּ֔ם “gather strength’. Rashbam here gives a delightful little commentary ” והתחזקתם, give yourselves the appearance of self-confident men, men who are not afraid of anything”.

In other words, fake till you make it.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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