Today is February 23, 2019 -
When Moses sends twelve spies to reconnoiter the land of Israel, they return and say, “We came to the land you sent us to; it does indeed flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who inhabit the country are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large…” (Numbers 13:27-28). Those spies then continue their report by exaggerating the size of the people in the land of Israel and the strength of the fortifications around their cities. They introduce their report with an objective statement about the fruitfulness of Israel and conclude with overstatements that made Israel look like a huge impregnable fortress. The Rabbis comment, “Such is the way of those who utter slander, they begin by speaking well and conclude by speaking ill.” We are more likely to believe a statement if the first part of it is true and sounds true, even if the ending is not. That is important to recall when we are in an election year and the airwaves are flooded with political messages. Do we recognize attempts to convince us that start with nice flowery statements, good solid facts, but then move on to political propaganda of questionable veracity? I sometimes feel that it is best NOT to believe in anything one hears in a political ad on television or in a mailing touting one candidate over another. One must check the facts, seek the truth independent of claims made by campaign committees. I know that the Torah is not really trying to teach us how to slander. But, I hope it helps us to recognize slander. I hope it helps us to recognize the false statements that we hear so often, sometimes in simple ways, and sometimes in egregious examples that come from political campaigns. Shabbat shalom.
Note: You can follow me on Twitter@RabbiRoth