Highly Sensitive Intelligence! (Parshas Shlach)

One of the most successful accomplishments of the Israeli Intelligence Agency was the capture of the Nazi War criminal Adolf Eichmann over sixty years ago. After an unsuccessful attempt once before, the then Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, the primary founder of the State of Israel and its first Prime Minister, gave his head of intelligence a direct order to find Eichmann and bring him back alive to Israel for judgment.

On May 23, 1960, the prime minister proudly went in front of the cameras and announced to the world that they had captured Eichmann and he would stand trial in Israel.

There was a very interesting behind-the-scenes piece in Hebrew describing some eye-opening developments leading up to the famous announcement of his capture.

On December 5th, 1972 an Israeli television program hosted Yitzhak Navon, the fifth President of Israel (1978-1983) along with its former Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion (1949-1954; 1955-1963.) Sitting in the audience, was former Mossad head of intelligence, Isser Harel. During the program, Navon shared with the audience what Ben-Gurion’s reaction was when he was informed by Harel about the capture of Eichmann.

Navon told him that Eichmann was in custody in Israel. Ben-Gurion replied, “How do you know it’s really him? Do you know how damaging this could be for us if we were wrong?” 

Even after Isser showed Ben-Gurion all of the investigative proof, he still wasn’t convinced. Ben-Gurion instructed Isser to find a few Holocaust survivors who could give eyewitness testimony before moving forward.

Navon went on to explain how impressed he was with Ben Gurion’s control over the newfound intelligence. Morning turned into evening. Then evening turned into morning, and shortly before the scheduled afternoon Knesset meeting, Ben-Gurion finally accepted the eyewitness testimony as validating solid proof that this person was indeed Eichmann.

Ben-Gurion entered the Knesset meeting and informed the members of the exciting news. Then he ordered his staff to lock all the doors so that no one would leak the news to the media. Ben-Gurion then revealed the information to the world in a live interview.

In Israel this week, we will read Parsha Shelach. G-d told Moshe to send spies into the promised land to gather intelligence before going to war with the locals. According to most commentaries, Moshe knew that this was not going to turn out well and therefore added a Yud, which is a letter of strength to his most trusted student Hoshuah to have the name Yehoshua from this point forward.

Moshe sent out twelve spies to the land of Canaan on a fact-finding mission. Forty days later they returned, carrying a huge cluster of grapes, a pomegranate, and a fig to report on a lush and bountiful land.

But ten of the spies warned that there was good news and bad news. Although the land was bountiful, giants and warriors inhabited the land. However, Yehoshua and Calev insisted the spies could conquer the land as G-d commanded. “G-d has already promised the land to us.”

The majority held sway over our people, People are far more ready to side with the majority than to do what is right. In this case, the majority opinion was to abandon the mission and turn back to Egypt. G-d decreed that he would delay Israel’s entry into the land for forty years, during which time that entire generation would die out in the desert. 

A group of remorseful Jews stormed the mountain on the border of the land and lost the battle to the Amalekites and Canaanites. The spies that spoke poorly about the land were rebuked and punished severely for their actions. It wasn’t merely a bad decision; it was a rebellion against the Lord.

In one opinion, I saw that the spies that spoke poorly about the land didn’t have the worst intentions. They were quite comfortable in the desert and had a pretty good situation going. Not only could they sit and learn Torah all day from Moshe, but they didn’t have to work, food came down from the sky, their clothes always stayed fresh, and they had a constant spiritual high. Why should they leave this pleasant environment that they became quite fond of?

Chassidus explains that Jewish destiny consists of mistakes, consequences, and growth. We were put on this earth for growth and there is no growth in comfort zones. The Jewish people are not here for spirituality or physicality alone.

Our mission is to lower ourselves into the physical materialistic dark world and to elevate ourselves into the highest plateau of the spiritual world. We are Hashem’s soldiers in this world. We cannot create our own agendas no matter how lofty they might seem.

Chassidus asks another question. Were the spies supposed to lie? Were they supposed to bring back false intelligence just to make the Jewish nation feel good? All they did was report the truth! Why should they face punishment for telling the truth?

Chassidus explains that obviously, they have to report exactly what they saw and not lie.

If you work for Military intelligence, your job is to bring classified information to the leader and let him deal with it. The spies leaking the information to the public and using it as a tool to push the outcome in the direction of their personal agenda classified them as people that betrayed the country.

Sometimes we are in situations where we feel we must rebuke or reprimand someone for his/her actions. Chassidus explains one must first try to substantiate that the information is true.

If it is true, one must find a loving way to communicate this in a manner the person will accept. If you feel any anger in your heart, don’t rebuke your fellow Jew. Harsh words will only fall on deaf ears.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

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