Reckless talk abounds during the Israelites’ long slog through the desert. In last week’s Torah portion, Miriam slandered her brother Moses. This week, in Shelach Lecha, the scouts publicly express fear of the Promised Land, causing a destructive grumbling campaign. Next week, Korach et al will publicly challenge the divinely-ordained leadership of Moses and Aaron.
A reckless – if calculated – use of language occurs in our day as well. Political leaders in this nation contort language to avoid responsibility and to advance narrow political interests and personal gain.
One common tactic is language deflection. A child caught in the act might say, “She started it!” Unbelievably, we see this in the highest offices of our land. “Well, it used to be worse!” Or “Yeah, but that other guy started it!”
In the Bible, this sort of behavior drains the Israelites of hope and confidence. We find ourselves in the same sorry situation, not knowing whom to trust and distrusting what our very own eyes tell us.
The Torah’s narrative clearly points to the truth. Those who speak falsely are punished, so we know they were wrong. We have no such absolute truth arbiter. We would be wise to exercise discernment about what and whom to trust. We should seek sober and not explicitly biased sources. Read sources that gather information carefully and make honest analyses. And, of course, do not trust those who seem to have a congenital aversion to truth-telling.
Rabbi Jeffrey Weill