Oct. 1, 2020

Jonathan Neumann on Numbers 14:22 – “Slandering the Land of Israel”

Mark is delighted to welcome Jewish public intellectual, attorney and author, Jonathan Neumann, to the podcast today. A graduate of Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, Jonathan has been a fellow at Commentary magazine and has served as assistant editor at Jewish Ideas Daily. He is also the author of To Heal the World? How the Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism and Endangers Israel, and he discusses this book along with his selected passage of Numbers 14:22 with Mark here today.

Jonathan begins the conversation with his summary of the passage, its meaning for him, and his perspective on the ten tests mentioned within it. He and Mark also discuss the most important event from the passage, the consequences for slandering the land of Israel, women as the great Zionists, and the choice between serving Pharaoh or serving God. Jonathan also offers a glimpse into his new book and its exploration of the concept of ‘tikkun olam’, and he draws the conversation to a close with the lessons he has learned about mankind which hold particular relevance for the world today. This is a discussion which touches upon the very nature of the Torah and Judaism.

Episode Highlights:

  • Jonathan’s summary of the passage and what it means to him
  • His perspective on the ten tests
  • The most important event
  • Slandering the land of Israel and the punishment for it
  • Women as the great Zionists
  • The choice between serving Pharaoh or serving God
  • Jonathan’s new book and its exploration of ‘tikkun olam’
  • The lessons about mankind that Jonathan has learned
  • Finding the truth in what others are saying


“Clearly, at a basic level, the test of the spies is somehow the culmination.”

“The entire point of this whole exercise, from Exodus on, was to create a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation in the Promised Land. And God said, ‘Now, go do it’, and they totally blow it.”

“If you don’t have the courage and the strength to follow God’s directive…how are you going to do in the Promised Land? Not very well, so therefore God says, ‘It’s the next generation’.”

“If Moses had sent women, there would have been a different result…the great Zionists are usually the women.”

“Judaism makes no sense without Israel.”

“I’m going to make my relationship with the next generation.”

“You have a choice basically, you can be servants to Pharaoh and to the hubris of man, and a life with no meaning, or you can, in the Jewish world view, or the biblical world view, you can serve God instead and have a life with meaning, and that service…has to take place in the land of Israel. That is the whole point.”

“There is no basis for that contention that this understanding of tikkun olam as social justice has no basis in traditional Judaism.”

“Tikkun olam doesn’t appear a single time in the Bible, which is extraordinary.”

“Theologically, ultimately in the world view of Judaism, Judaism is meant to be done in the land of Israel.”

“I think it’s important that we all try to get out of our rigidity a bit and try to learn what there is to learn from the ‘others’.”

Numbers 14:22 none of the men who have seen My Presence and the signs that I have performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and who have tried Me these many times and have disobeyed Me, https://www.sefaria.org/Numbers.14.22?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en


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