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    Agents of Moses – Sh’lach L’cha

    The return of the spies, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, c. 1851

    Chapter 13 of B’midbar is an example of the law of agency. Moses carried out the investigation at the Almighty’s command by means of agents.

    The notion of agency is that A can perform a legal act by means of B so the act will be recognised as the legal act of A. The Hebrew phrase is Shelucho shel adam kemoto, “a person’s agent is as himself”.

    Jewish law utilised the idea from an early period in its history. In Exodus 12 the paschal sacrifice is offered by means of agency. In a worship service conducted by a cantor or officiant, the latter is the sh’liach tzibbur, the agent of the congregation.

    Anything the principal can do himself can be done by an agent, but this does not apply to the commission of an offence. The rule is ein shaliach lid’var aveirah, “one may not appoint a shaliach to commit a transgression” (Kiddushin 43b).

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