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Careful Consideration

06/27/2024 01:23:39 PM


I try to catch up on the news at least once a day, particularly in regards to Israel. But as responsible consumers of media, we recognize that different news agencies have different biases, and might elevate some aspects of a story over a more rounded and nuanced approach. At best, the news agencies themselves are reliable and accurate. At worst, the reporting doesn’t conform to media standards and promotes stories that are later fact-checked and proven to be false. Knowing what is objective truth versus subjective opinion becomes a responsibility of the consumer. We don’t take the news at face-value, and it behooves us to “click the links” or check the footnotes.

In this week’s Parsha, the Israelites are confronted with two conflicting reports. Twelve leaders are sent to reconnoiter the Promised Land, and ten of which come back with a negative report. They report that the land is overflowing with warlike people in fortified cities, even if the land is fertile and prosperous. These leaders seed discord in the Israelite camp by providing a narrative that it's not worth conquering the land as God willed. Only Caleb and Joshua provide a different report and implore the Israelites to continue to have faith in God and to persist in their quest towards possessing the Promised Land. However, the Israelites followed the majority with the negative report, complained and rebelled against Moses and God, and the whole community was punished with 40 years wandering in the wilderness.

How could the Israelites have prevented this outcome? They could have relied on their past experiences. As people who witnessed the wonders of Egypt, the splitting of the sea, the water from the rock, and much more, it wouldn’t have been so far-fetched to trust their experiences and have faith. Surely, the task of conquering the land isn’t as formidable as God’s victory over Pharaoh and all his armies! Yet, the Israelites didn’t rely on the truths they knew and instead got swept up in a narrative that played into their worst fears. Alternatively, the Israelites could have reserved their judgment. They could have heard about the fortified cities and instead of jumping to conclusions, they could have reflected and planned a meaningful approach to the challenge. Instead, they jumped to conclusions and acted rashly.

Learning from the impulsivity of the Israelites, perhaps we too can be reminded of the importance of relying on our own experiences, and bringing more measured responses to the media we consume. It is a little more work than just letting someone else paint the entire picture, but we would be at fault if we went along with something just because someone else believes it to be true. Surely we can rely on experts, but we must also verify the conclusions we draw. News agencies have biases and sometimes get things wrong. Knowing what is fact, what is partial information, and what is opinion takes a little more work, and a little more time. And if we can make that time and put in that work, then we will have learned one of the lessons from the incident with the spies.  

Shabbat Shalom

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784