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    Easier to look, harder to find – Sh’lach L’cha

    The spies bring back their report, from a 1907 Bible card

    The spies bring back their report, from a 1907 Bible card

    Before entering the Promised Land, twelve spies were sent to check out the area and its people. They had to be carefully chosen and prepared for a difficult task.

    The Chumash only hints at the challenge that faced them, though the Midrash goes into detail. Their mission was what today we would call a hard grind.

    Compare then with now. Means of transport are better, communication is easier, finding out what is happening across the borders is so easy that the borders melt into insignificance. It is easier to look than it ever was, but results are harder to find.

    A topical example is the existence of weapons of mass destruction across the borders. If they exist, where are they? Are the real facts being masked?

    One of the most elusive issues is suggested by a gemara in Sotah 35a. The Torah states that the twelve spies thought the inhabitants of the territory they looked at were “stronger than we” (Num. 13:31).

    The Hebrew of “than we”, mimmennu, can be read “than he”, suggesting, according to the Gemara, that the spies thought the inhabitants were stronger than Him, God.

    Since the onset of modernity many people have imagined – like the men of the Tower of Babel – that He only had as much power as they were prepared to allow Him.

    Egotistical people still exist in large numbers. The fear today ought to be whether people will ruin the world by believing that they can manage without God. It is not only that one day they will topple, but the rest of civilisation might go down with them.

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