Spy

Spy

I recall my father telling me that all business transactions in ‘the old country’ were sealed with a handshake. Once you shook hands the contract was sealed. No paper, no lawyers, no costs, and very few disputes. And should there have been a dispute it was mediated by a business-oriented Beit Din of peers. The point being, your word was your bond, as well as your honour.

Today, the expectation is that all transactions are spoken with a ‘forked tongue’ and that the best lawyers are hired to ensure that the written version of ‘your word’ has as many exclusion-clauses, loopholes, and fine-print, to ensure that the spirit of the contract can be offended to the very last lie.

In the political arena there is not even a semblance of pretence when it comes to verbal honesty. We expect politicians to lie, especially when making promises in an election year knowing full well these can’t be kept. And no-one batts an eyelid. Standards of honesty through words have devolved to such an extent that we don’t expect an honest politician or businessman. We accept that outright lying is the requisite height of the bar and all polis can clear it with ease.

Words reveal the inner truth. That is why creation of the world took place through the agency of words: “And G-d said…”.  A cosmic desire was revealed through words, creating a physical world and fallible human beings.  Why fallible?  To allow humanity to prove itself, to rise to the occasion, demonstrate strength of character, and practice verbal honesty.

Is your word your bond? Do you counsel your children to practice honesty and truthfulness in their business lives? And what if they are in IT-based sales, surreptitiously following buying profiles of individual purchasers and thereby anonymously pressuring them how to spend more and more by appealing to their ego or insecurity?

If you don’t practice a high standard of truth, neither will your family, nor your community, society, business, and representative politician. Nor will you be trusted in your most personal relationships.

Our Parsha is aptly entitled Shelachsend spies to reconnoitre the land. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe interpreted, ‘send spies’ deep into your psyche to reconnoitre the ‘lie of your land’, your standards of honesty, the truth of your words.   Become the solution – not the problem.