This week’s portion begins with the 12 spies sent out to the Promised Land in order to gather specific information regarding the quality of the land and its inhabitants. The intelligence was necessary if there was to be a successful invasion of the land. The Bible details this event providing for us two versions, one where Caleb is at the center opposing the other spies and another version where Caleb and Joshua are opposing the others. In one version only southern Canaan is explored and in the other version all of the land is reported on. Regardless, Moses is disappointed with the reaction of the ten spies who reveal a lack of confidence and faith in their ability to be victorious over the Anakim.
The story of the twelve spies teaches us two lessons. In order for man to transcend in spite of the odds, he has to have not only confidence in his position but unswerving and undaunting faith. Doubt, even if later displaced with confidence isn’t enough. The damage is done. Once there is a kernel of doubt the chances of winning are reduced. Moses understood this and determined that the generation that experienced slavery was disadvantaged in that they suffered from a collective inferiority complex. It would take a new generation who hadn’t been exposed to slavery to see themselves as advantaged, strong and able to win. It appears that the Bible understands that there is no real long term benefit in playing the slavery card, but to ceremoniously recall it within a ritual/historical context.
A second lesson is that apparently the Bible doesn’t treat military conquest as a moral issue. War has always been a part of the life of nation states, as death is to living organisms. There is inevitability and as much as we would like to eliminate or forestall wars it is unavoidable. The Bible recognizes it, is non judgmental and considers it not a moral issue. It would appear therefore that modern Israel doesn’t have to justify its military victories. How countries conducts themselves in battle becomes a moral issue. The Bible recognizes the need for a code of conduct in war and addresses this need in another section. How modern Israel conducts itself during battle does have moral overtones. Israel has addressed this from the inception of the IDF with the principles of tahor neshek, the rules of engagement.