"The signature of G-d is truth" (Shabbat 55a). Our Torah, which is a description of G-d, is the method for implemtation of truth in a world full of falsehood. We all know, and unfortunately see, that the first casualty of war is truth. Thus modern warfare is fought not only on the battlefield, where Israel excels, but in the media as well; here, Israel has a very tough battle. Perhaps the Jewish emphasis on truth does not allow us to win the public relations war, a war based on spin and falsehood. Our Sages summed up their view on the lack of truth by referring to this world as an olam sheker a world of falsehood. It is our job to try to bring as much emet as possible to such a world.
Moshe Rabbeinu, despite being denied the privilege of entering the land of Israel , spends the last weeks of his life preparing his beloved people to enter the land. He warns them not to repeat the mistakes of the past, nor to follow the idolatrous ways of those currently residing in the land. He inspires them with a vision for the future and instructs them in the setting up of a Torah society, reviewing their short history and much of their legal and moral code. And yet the first item of Moshe's agenda is to exhort the nation regarding the critical importance of justice and truth. "I then gave your judges instructions; Listen to every dispute among your brethren and judge honestly between each man and his brother and the stranger that is with him. You shall not respect persons in judgment. Listen to the great and small alike and do not be impressed by any man since judgment belongs to G-d" (1:16-17). We must never confuse justice with mercy. Mercy has no place in a courtroom. A judge seeing the suffering of a poor starving person may under no circumstances rule in favor of such a person on that basis. Mercy may only come after justice is served.
The appointment of judges was done at the behest of Moshe's father in law Yitro and serves as the preamble to Divine revelation at Sinai. The giving of the Torah is dependant on having a justice system to guarantee the proper implementation of Torah. While the role of the judiciary includes interpretation of law and issuing new enactments the Torah's description focuses primarily of the settling of monetary disputes. With money being at the root of most personal disputes, it is no wonder that approximately 120 of the mitzvoth of the Torah more than any other area of law relate to monetary issues. The difficulty of actually implementing such a system is borne out by Rashi's comment (Devarim 1:12) that of the seven characteristics necessary for a judge, Moshe could find people meeting only three of the criterion.
Yet just a few verses after Moshe's exhortation on the importance of truth, Moshe seems to less than truthful as he describes the tragedy of the sin of the meraglim . "And all of you then approached me and said; send men ahead of us to explore the landthe report they brought back was the land that our Lord is giving us is good. You did not want to head north, however and you rebelled against G-d your Lord" (1:22-26). Is this what actually transpired? What happened to the real views of ten of the meraglim . Not one word is mentioned here. Moshe puts the entire blame on the people who, if you just read our parsha, rebelled not only against G-d but ignored the advice of the spies. What happened to the true story?
Moshe in Sefer Devarim is not interested in recounting historical events. Those events are recorded, factually and accurately, in the other books of the chumash . Sefer Devarim as Nechama Leibowitz zt"l points out, is Moshe interpreting the events of history, to derive their meaning and message for a generation that did not live these events. Of course the meraglim gave a terrible report and Moshe and the people he was talking to were well aware of that. Ultimately though it really does not matter. We and we alone are responsible for our own actions and the Jewish people did not have the courage to listen to Calev and Yehoshuah . Sure we can blame the meraglim but that would miss the point. Our history must be accurate but it is the lessons of history that matter more.
The Jewish people were about to enter the land. There would be many excuses for our not living up to our potential. We can blame others all we like, but Moshe Rabbeinu 's opening message to us is that we are the ones responsible for our actions. And that is the ultimate truth.