Imagine two friends going for a walk one afternoon. They meet at Golders Green station and walk all the way down Golders Green Road to the North Circular bridge and back up again to the station.
On their return, you ask them what they saw. The first describes the amazing variety of food stores in Golders Green. He describes the busy restaurants, the various kosher grocery stores and all the delicious delicacies displayed in the many bakeries as well as the enticing aromas that emerge from them.
The second boy is a born businessman. He is less interested in food but notices the currency exchanges at the money changer, which shops have sales or special offers, the latest gadgets and how many properties are for sale or to let.
The same walk, the same street but two very different reports.
Rashi tells us that the spies saw the inhabitants of the land burying their dead. Hashem had intended to distract them from noticing twelve spies touring the country but they interpreted it differently. They said Eretz Yisrael is “a land that devours its inhabitants” (Bamidbar 13:32), a dangerous and inhospitable country.
As my father always told us when we were growing up, we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.
Chazal tell us that the Meraglim had “negios”, personal interests. What exactly they were needs much investigation. But whatever they were, it is remarkable how the same people can see the same things and perceive them so differently.
Even someone as great as Dovid HaMelech needed to be taught this lesson.
Hashem delivered a parable to Dovid through the prophet Nosson. A rich man had many sheep and a poor man only had one sheep. This poor man exerted much effort in caring for his one sheep. When a guest arrived at the rich man’s house; instead of slaughtering one of his own sheep, he stole the poor man’s sheep and fed it to his guest. Dovid HaMelech ruled that the rich man was guilty.
Nosson then told Dovid that he was actually the rich man as he had many wives and despite this took Uriah’s wife. Dovid responded by saying “chotosi” – “I have sinned”.
Why present a parable? Just say it straight!
The answer of course is that when presented with a parable you are objective. There is no bias or instinctive defence barrier.
The lesson is clear. As human beings we have to recognise our innate subjectivity. Consulting others, seeking objective advice is a strength not a weakness.
In an effort to constantly improve Kodesh at Hasmonean, I regularly speak to Heads of Kodesh of other schools and try to visit them and their schools as often as possible. Last May I was in New York for a wedding of a former student and used the opportunity to consult with peers in some of New York’s finest Jewish high schools.
And I am also keen to hear from you, the parent body as well as students, all of whom were recently invited to complete a Kodesh survey. The overriding objective is to consult broadly and continue to strive for excellence to deliver outstanding Kodesh at Hasmonean.
Rabbi J Golker