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When we recount events, when we retell stories, we tend to do so with an agenda. Sometimes it’s about embellishment to make ourselves look better, tougher, or more virtuous: perhaps that’s how the caught fish grows from 10 to 15 to 25 inches and the walk turns out to be uphill in both directions. More often than not, however, we recount events through the lens of our interpretations, impressing upon the listener what we believe to be important…even if that differs from the full story.
In this week’s Torah portion, D’varim, Moses takes similar liberties. A compassion between the ordeal of the spies sent to scout the land in Numbers 13 and Deuteronomy 1 shows significant differences:
In Numbers, God sent the Tribal leaders; in Deuteronomy, Moses sent 12 unspecified people.
In Numbers, the spies were scouting the whole land to determine its worth; in Deuteronomy, they are merely looking for an expedient path.
In Numbers, the spies brought back considerable warning about the Nephalim, the giants living in the land; in Deuteronomy, they simply reported that the land was good.
Why the discrepancies?
According to Nehama Leibowitz, Moses tried to show the people that: “Every individual is responsible for the misdeeds of the group. Each one is obligated to resist evil and do good, and not excuse himself on the ground that he was influenced by his colleague or superior or leader. Each individual has ultimately to be his own leader, responsible for his every action.”
May our study of Deuteronomy ensure that we never forget this lesson.