Friday, June 15, 2012

D’var Torah Parshas Sh’lach - The Sad Results of Half-Truths and Scare Tactics.

A halber emes iz a gantser ligen” (A half truth, is a full lie). - An old yidish proverb 
“The Internet doesn't cause anyone to go ‘off the derech’ except those who are looking to leave” - A yeshiva boy

The story of the miraglim is a sad one. 600,000 Jews perished in the desert. And it wasn't even their fault. Sure, they asked for spies to check the Land, but they just wanted information on how to conquer it. So what happened?

With the help of Rashi’s interpretation, the story goes as follows: Although Hashem told the Jews to enter Eretz Yisroel they didn't put their faith in Hashem and decided instead to put their faith in humans. And although they chose some of the greatest leaders of Klal Yisroel who were very righteous people, they came back telling the Jews falsehoods and spreading lashon hara about Eretz Yisroel. Why? Because they had a hidden agenda.
The people didn't know their agenda, and so unfortunately believed the stories and lies they were told. But how did they convince the people of all these lies? it's easy to fool one person but not 600,000? So Rashi explains, that every lie needs a bit of truth to make it believable. They needed to create Half-Lies.  In order for the people to believe their deception, they needed to add some truth to the falsehood. So they mentioned the beauty of Eretz Yisroel but at the same time mentioned anything negative they can throw in.

What was the negativity? Mostly scare tactics. They pointed at the giants that lived in Eretz Yisroel and tried to scare the B’nei Yisroel. “We are like grasshoppers to them”, they said, and “the land was killing its inhabitants”. But they purposely failed to mention that it was killing its inhabitants because Hashem was looking out for the B'nei Yisrael.

In addition, they brought back fruit from Eretz Yisroel that looked enormous. Why? To show the yidden that Eretz Yisroel is a land of complete gashmius and taivos. “We are an am kodesh”, they told the B’nei Yisroel, “we should stay in the desert where we can learn all day and G-d will feed us with the mun and protect us with the ananei hakovod.” Everything made perfect sense; who wouldn't have bought into such a story? They even brought back the large fruit which must have been a huge pain, just in case someone claimed they were lying. So even beautiful healthy fruit which Eretz Yisroel was blessed with was twisted so that their own agenda could profit. What was their hidden agenda? Why did the spies refuse to see the beauty in Eretz Yisroel? Why did they try to convince B’nei Yisroel to stay in the midbar? Chaza"l tell us it was because they had  "negius" (selfish-motivation). They each had positions of honor in the community. They were afraid that if they went into the Land of Israel, they would lose their positions of honor and leadership. When a person has a "negius" that perhaps he will have some loss of honor, he cannot see things properly.

Rashi says they organized large gatherings and rallied the crowd to their point of view and anyone that dared say otherwise took the risk of being crushed and banned. Even Kolev had to wait until the next day when the people were more sober to try and bring the truth to the B’nei Yisroel. But it was too late. Klal Yisroel wanted to return to Egypt. Moshe and Ahron fell on their faces to plead with Bnei Yisroel to change their mind. R’ Hirsch explains that Moshe and Aharon were ready to give up their position of leadership because when the people lose faith in their leaders, they are powerless.
Yes, it all sounded so frum and like the spies had the people's best intentions in mind, but it was lies sprinkled with some truths. And so 600,000 Jews died in the desert because of half-lies. That they were following their rabonim, who they believed to be righteous, made no difference. Evidently, a Jew is required to think for himself. Ultimately he has bechira and the choice of whom to follow. They should have followed Moshe Rabeinnu, who Hashem personally spoke with. But they didn’t. They wanted to return to Mitzraim. By the time the B’nei Yisroel realized that they were conned, the punishment was already decreed.
And so, Moshe pleads with Hashem to forgive the B’nei Yisroel, and while forgiveness is part and parcel of being a jew, this time Hashem refused to forgive them. T’shuva didn’t help but something else did. It was for one reason alone that Hashem would changed his decree and Moshe knew that. So he asked hashem not to make a chilul Hashem. If Mitzrayim will think G-d is not all that powerful and he couldn't deliver them to Eretz Yisroel it would cause a desecration of G-ds name. The Jews didn't deserve to go to Eretz Yisrael after what happened, but Hashem couldn't allow a chilul hashem, or the entire yetzias mitzrayim episode would have been for naught. Why is that? Why should we care what the Mitzrim will think? It was obvious that they hated us and wanted to kill us. Should we care what the Arabs think about us? The Torah seems to say we should. If Israel is unsuccessful in a war, it is a chilul Hashem, and when Hashem helps us win a war it's a huge kiddush Hashem. It seems Hashem cares very much what the non-Jews think. Saying that they hate us anyway doesn't seem to fly in Hashem’s eyes.

We all know that history repeats itself. “Meise avos siman libonim we are taught. Tanach was recorded so that we can learn from the mistakes that were made, sometimes even by the greatest of men. Why else would Hashem want to tell us terrible things our ancestors did? But we don't learn from these stories, instead we repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Photo by: Art Levin Studio
Everything Hashem creates is a bracha, and everything Hashem creates can be used for good or bad. It's our job to use it for good. Even today, Eretz Yisroel has many thing that can turn a frum Jew off, but does that give him a right to not live there? The answer is no. More so, one is not even allowed to say something negative about Eretz Yisroel. Not the people, not the traffic, not even the food. Why? because its a gift from Hashem. Imagine you gave your child a gift and he said he didn't like the color. I’m sure it would make you unhappy.

And so I believe its the same with modern technology. This is Hashem's gift to us. This isn't my idea, many tzadikim have called it a gift from Hashem. The power of the internet and the good that can come from it is incredible. It has the ability to solve many of the worlds problems, but only if used correctly. The amount of Torah being produced on the internet each day is incredible. There are talmidei chachamim that produce blogs daily that cover every topic, that no matter the type of Jew you are there is something to learn. the Torah educational sites are flourishing faster than you can ban them. Ban one and ten more pop up in its place. This is all despite the discouragement of the yeshivos. just imagine if it was encouraged. There many concerns one should have about our new lifestyle with the internet and those things should and are finally being addressed today. The internet can be a very dangerous place for anyone, let alone a frum Jew. Whether the benefits outweigh the bad is irrelevant.

While there are many important issues that need to be addressed, some of things being said are untrue and repeating them can cause more harm than good. Most of these mistakes are caused by the spread of misinformation. Sometimes using outdated studies or not having a proper understanding of the technology. But all too often, the condemning of the internet is said by those that have personal agendas and they learnt from Rashi how to get away with it. They use half-lies, by highlight the points they want to make and disregarding the complete picture. The audience, some of whom themselves don't use the internet all too often believe what they hear.

More so, they use scare tactics, horror stories of kids going off the derech, kids being kidnapped and marriages falling apart. They say they are here to protect you from that. It doesn't matter that these stories are one in a thousand or that there are many real reasons for these problems we are facing. Because that's not on their agenda.

They claim the true leaders of Klal Yisroel are behind them. When in reality they are not. They have a bad reputation of forging signatures and presenting misinformation. They claim to be speaking for Gedolim but the Gedolim don't agree with them.

They tell you to listen to them because they say so. Don't think for yourself, just follow what we tell you. You need a strong filter because you are not capable of choosing right from wrong. Just follow what the provider allows, and you will be fine. But maybe you won't be fine. Maybe filters are not the solution. Maybe it takes more than filters to deal with the realities of the internet.

And so just like the miraglim these people spice up their lies with bits and pieces of truth. in order to make them sound credible. But they are lies, and as the saying goes “If you tell a lie big enough and long enough, people will eventually come to believe it. but Sheker, no matter how “frum” the motive is, should not be allowed. They justify these lies, by saying it was for the good of Klal Yisroel. Like the saying goes: if the evidence is not there just fabricate it and then use it to make your point. We are taught in Pirkei Avos "On three things does the world stand: On justice, truth, and peace." Our justice system is in shamble. Peace in this world these days is a rarity and now the truth is being taken away from us.

If you look at studies, you will see the internet is not responsible for any of our kids going “off the derech”. I wrote about it here. Sheltering our children. Is that really our Mesora? And my daily interaction with teenagers confirms this. But as the saying goes: I made up my mind, please don't confuse me with the facts!

If we want to know the truth these days it's not easy. How can we know the truth if we silence and BAN the opposition? (OPINION-PHOBIA and the MORAL MAFIA!). Charles Hynes’s recent comments that the Jewish cover ups is worse that the Italian mafia is terrifying.

And so, where have these lies taken us? Lets see.  We have wasted so many years banning things that should never have been banned, again, based mostly on half-lies. Read A Kosher Alternative By: Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum Z".L. The current trend of turning chumras into halacha is another half-lie. A lie that turns children away from yidishkeit instead of bringing the closer to hashem. And the worst of all, Children that were being abused, whether mentally or physically. Instead of helping them we shunned them and called them the liars! We created an Olam Hafuch.

The fact that filters are only now being discussed, in 2012 when it should have been spoken about in 2002 is a huge mistake that we made. We never taught our kids how to use it properly. All was needed was for even one kosher newspaper to speak about free customizable filters and how every Torah family should have one. But that wasn't done, because the internet was a forbidden word. It was forbidden because people compared it to television. This myth was perpetuated by those that didn't use it and others that didn’t understand it. It was a half-truth, and now we’ve realized it. And we are now paying the price for it. When it comes to social networking, the misinformation is even more pronounced because it is a recent innovation that is mostly used by our teens and because it’s relatively new. Therefore, all kinds of distorted information are said about it. All by people that dont use it or know anything about it. I'm afraid we are going to keep playing catch up if someone doesn't educate the Rabbanim and the public about the internet and to discern fact from fiction.

I know people that are working hard at this. In the coming days there will be online seminars that will educate the public with volunteers answering questions online. These will be public forums so that only correct information will be presented and no companies will be promoted.

Is the internet the biggest problem facing klal Yisroel today, or is it a tool that can be used to bring Torah and Judaism to a much higher level? Is the internet causing teens to leave yidishkeit or is it the other way around. Like a teeanger told me “The Internet doesn't cause anyone to go ‘off the derech’ except those who are looking to leave”. Let’s not give them reasons to leave.
Good Shabbos.


  1. Wow Dovid, the similarities are incredible. Yasher Koach again for a beautiful insight.

  2. so when do we get to hear about these online seminars? I'm curious

  3. hopefully next week

  4. Another beautiful dvar torah someone sent me."
    When the meraglim were delivering their report, the posuk says, ויהס כלב את העם אל משה; and כלב hushed the people toward Moshe. Rashi says that כלב quieted them all down to listen to what he had to say about Moshe. Then he raised his voice & said, “is this the only thing Moshe did to us? ... " Read here

  5. Actually, back in 2004 I was thinking about this, and wrote an article here ( )(bottom article, "A Call to Action").
    This article was submitted to every single chareidei newspaper and magazine. The Jewish Observer considered it, but a wealthy donor vetoed it being printed.

    The more things change ...

  6. Thanks for sharing. And to think you knew all that without an Asifa! Thats amazing.

  7. And
    so 600,000 Jews died in the desert because of half-lies. That they were following their rabonim, who they believed to be righteous, made no difference. Evidently, a Jew is required to think for himself. Ultimately he has bechira and the choice of whom to follow. They should have followed Moshe Rabeinnu, who Hashem personally spoke with. But they didn’t.

    Hysterical. Every Jew should think for himself. Next line "They should have followed Moshe Rabbeinu". Comedic gold

  8. Its pretty simple. We should think for ourselves and choose which leaders are correct and which ones are misleading. Its that simple.

  9. "This isn't my idea, many tzadikim have called it a gift from Hashem." I showed your post to a friend, and he challenged that statement. Can you name anyone, or give me some idea how it can be verified. It certainly would make me feel better ...

  10. Where should I start, there are so many. The gemara many times. The rambam says when one gets to the next world he will be asked did you partake of all the pleasures I gave you. R' Hirsch many times. About modern technology... The rebba of course. Artscroll quotes Reb gifter... Before this aguda convention I didnt know there was an apposing view.

  11. My father compared internet to the light G-D gave Adom before the sin. It was a light that chazal say one can see across the world. It was a gift that was abused and G-D took it away. now before mochiach hashem is giving us back that gift.

  12. Why did Korach's 250 followers die with him? Weren't they following their Rov who was a huge talmid chochom and manhig?


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