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    Why not the princes? – Sh’lach L’cha

    The return of the spies, by James Tissot

    Who were the spies? Every tribe was represented in the team of twelve, but it was not the tribal heads themselves who carried out the mission.

    Admittedly, each of the spies, according to the Torah narrative, was a nasi, a prince (Num. 13:2), but in this context the word “prince” does not necessarily mean “a man of royal lineage” but “a notable person”. The twelve were all possessed of national standing, personality and spiritual potential.

    How then could the majority bring back a pessimistic report?

    At that moment their spirituality deserted them. Otherwise they should all have recognised that if God was with them they could be certain that their mission would succeed.

    Nachmanides quotes Kohelet 8:5, “Whoever keeps the commandment shall know no evil thing”.

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