I had no idea what it was all about – as I didn’t speak their language, I couldn’t make out their words – and it could well have been quite harmless, but I said to my wife, “This is now holocausts begin – people in the streets with coloured flags and stereotyped slogans that demonise others and lead to mass hatred and hysteria”.
This week I have a similar thought because the parashah describes the twelve spies’ visit to the land of Canaan. The fact-finding mission set out at the command of God, but it seems to have had its origins in a mass demonstration.
Why I say this is because when the story is mentioned again in the Book of D’varim, Moses says, “You all came to me and said, ‘Let us send men to search out the land’” (Deut. 1:22). In this instance, the people’s request was probably fair and reasonable, but it could have been emotional and hysterical. When crowds get hyped up there is no telling where it will all lead.
It’s so easy to wave flags and shout slogans, and in the end there can be terrible consequences.