It’s not easy to cope with conflicting opinions or contradictory information. That was the conundrum facing the Israelites when they heard the report of the scouts in this week’s Torah reading, Shelah-Lekha. On the one hand, they heard that the land which God has promised them is “eretz okhelet yoshveha–one that devours her settlers” (Numbers 13:32); on the other hand, they are told by others that the land is “tovah ha-aretz me-od me-od–it is an exceedingly good land” (14:7).
The Israelites were more inclined to believe the first (pessimistic) opinion, even though that had seen evidence of the first (beautiful produce) with their own eyes. Maybe that was a function of numbers; the scouting board had voted 10-2 against going to the Promised Land. But there may have been something else happening here– a natural tendency to find the negative more alluring than the positive.
On Shabbat morning, we will look at how one classical medieval interpreter understood the competing claims that the scouts presented. And we will explore what it means for the evaluation of modern states and lands, some of which are the subject of bitter debate today.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,