Those Who Lied

In the opening verses of the Parashat Shelach, God, commanding Moses to send the scouts for the exploration of the Promised Land, expressively notes that they should be chieftains of their tribes. “So Moses, by יהוה’s command, sent them out from the wilderness of Paran, all of them being men of consequence, leaders of the Israelites.”

The commentators have always strived to understand why the worthy people chosen for the mission have sinned afterward. Rashi writes, “These men, [though they later sinned] but at that time [when they were appointed] they were worthy men.”

Later, Tur HaAroch, apparently wishing to “save the face” even further, adds, “…this is no difficulty because Hashem had already said to him [Moses] “send for yourself — according to your opinion” and they would be allowed to err.”

So, the burden of responsibility for the unwise choice is transferred to Moses. It is implied that God bestowed upon the scouts a benefit of the doubt. The story of spies teaches us that the person, who appears the most trustworthy and reliable, can change overnight. In the case of personal relationships, that hurts but in the case of the state leader, that can cause tragic consequences.

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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