Sunday, May 30, 2010
[a scene from the Battle of Long Island 1776 - missing in action?]
This Saturday morning Jews all over the world will read the account of the Twelve Spies (Numbers 13 and 14) in their synagogues.
The story is basically as follows: After leaving Egypt, receiving the Torah and building the Tabernacle, the Israelites are poised to enter the Land of Canaan. However, at the last moment, they mutiny and refuse to invade. It’s as if all 200,000 troops involved in the Normandy Landings refused to go at the last minute. God punishes the Israelites by forcing them to remain in the desert for forty years.
In my humble opinion, a story like this clearly validates the authenticity of the Torah narrative. Why would this story have been fabricated? Why would the entire Jewish people have accepted it as fact? Why would some Jewish priest have sat in the Temple 2,600 years ago and fabricate this story from thin air? How would the Jewish people have reacted when presented with this never before heard story? “Oh, this is wonderful! Our ancestors were all cowards! That is so plausible!”
Consider the way that the American Revolution is taught to American school children. Great emphasis is put on the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill. These were battles where the American forces were more or less successful, however they were also relatively small, involving a few thousand combatants. They perhaps could more properly be called "skirmishes" rather than battles. I would guess that less than 1% of Americans could name the largest battle of the American Revolution - the Battle of Long Island. This was one of the very few real battles in the entire war. Ten thousand Americans faced 20,000 British in what is now Brooklyn. In the early hours of August 27, 1776, the British forces marched down what is today Eastern Parkway, the Gowanus Expressway and the Prospect Expressway and engaged the American forces at what is now Park Slope. The battlefield is in the heart of what is today America's largest city. The American forces were basically blown to bits over the next two days and the war almost ended. No one disputes that this happened, however Americans just don't want to talk about it for obvious reasons. It's a little mind boggling that the only monument to the battle is an almost unknown bronze statue in nearby Greenwood Cemetery and probably almost no one in Park Slope has any idea of the horrific violence which took place where their homes sit today. Nations apparently prefer to forget their humiliating defeats. (On a personal note, I am fairly certain that one of my fourth great-grandfathers, John DeCamp, who at the time was 15 and a private in the New Jersey Militia, fought in the Battle of Long Island, based on who his commanders were and where he served in the summer of 1776, however he makes no mention of the battle years later in his pension application. Selective memory loss?)
Considering this, why is the much more humiliating Spies story included prominently in the Torah? The correct explanation seems to be obvious: The Torah is divinely authored truth.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 2:45 PM