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Shelach Lecha

Wednesday, 6th June 2018

They reported to him and said, “We arrived at the land to which you sent us, and indeed it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. But – the people that dwells in the land is powerful, the cities are fortified and very great, and we also saw there the offspring of the giant.

On the surface, it seems that the Meraglim (spies) did nothing wrong in describing what they had seen. They had been sent to make their own observations – whether the land was good or bad and if the people that dwell in it are strong or weak; and that is exactly what they had reported back. It seems that they could not be faulted for reporting the truth as they had seen it. What then was the reason for their punishment? 

You get a phone call about a certain boy for a potential shidduch (match). The boy is slightly overweight and has no teeth. Your phraseology in your response could make or break the shidduch. If your response is, “The boy is extremely intelligent, very kind, and very social, but he is overweight and has no teeth”. You are implying that his negative qualities outweigh all of his good attributes. The term “but” negates all that which was previously stated. However, if your response is, “Listen, this guy is slightly overweight and has no teeth, but he is extremely intelligent , very kind, and very social”, you are implying that despite his negative traits he is still an unbelievable prospect.

Although the Meraglim gave over the report exactly as they have seen it, the fact that they mentioned the word “EFESS – BUT”, revealed that they had a personal agenda. In a purely factual report there was no need for such a qualifier; they should have continued to state the facts. By using a word that implied a contradiction to the optimism of their first two sentences, they were, in effect, telling the nation that no matter how rich and blessed the land was, it was beyond their reach; the inhabitants were just too strong and their cities too invincible. It was the way the Meraglim phrased their report that caused their punishment. 

One can apply this principle when complimenting or praising. If one says for example, “The steak was unbelievable, but it tasted a bit raw” or “You’re a great guy, but you are annoying”, he has negated the entire compliment. He is implying that the positive is irrelevant in comparison to the negative. Never put a compliment and but in the same sentence.

 

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