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    Ifs, buts & still – Sh’lach L’cha

    The return of the spies, by Gustave Doré

    The return of the spies, by Gustave Doré

    Sometimes one word says it all.

    This comes across clearly from the story of the ten spies.

    Twelve people were sent to spy out the land of Israel. Ten reported on the magnificence of the land, but there was a “but”.

    Efes, they said: but the people are fierce, the cities are fortified, and giants live there (Num. 13:28).

    The efes said it all: we are going to be defeated.

    Only two spies, Joshua and Caleb, had the faith in God and themselves to go ahead.

    Nachmanides says the word efes denotes human impossibility. This one word indicated an unpardonable offence.

    Had the ten simply said the people of the country were mighty and the cities fortified they would merely have stated a fact and done their duty. But the word efes said that when an obstacle looms it is automatically impenetrable.

    People are sometimes, perhaps often, like the pessimistic ten. Things have a habit of going wrong. Nobody’s life always runs smoothly.

    Isn’t it Murphy’s Law that whatever can go wrong will? But Murphy and all who think like him deserve our sympathy.

    Joshua and Caleb’s Law is better: things may look tough, but I’m still alive, aren’t I, and as the Latin saying put it, while I breathe I hope.

    No-one should abandon the future and forget to have faith in God, in oneself and, yes (most of the time), in other human beings too.

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