Conservative Apikorus on the Parsha: Shelach Lecha
What I'm going to talk about is not the parsha, but rather the haftara. In fact, this fine haftara was what I read for my bar-mitzvah. When I received my little bar mitzvah book with the haftara, I was puzzled at the word "zonah." So I looked it up, and found out that it meant "harlot." OK, so I was a pretty naive 12 year old, I needed to look up the word "harlot" in Webster's.
Well this caused me my first crisis of faith. (No, not my first, that was when I asked my parents why they didn't serve bacon, but ate lobster when we visited Maine.) What's going on here? The spies had been traveling in the midbar for 40 (well maybe less, but still at least 20, I would say) years, having the presence of Hashem as a reminder to them at all times about the miztvos. And what happens when they get a chance to visit a goyische city? The first thing they do is go visit a cathouse! What kind of erlicher frum yidden are these?
So I took my misgivings to "Captain Von Trupp," my Bar Mitzva teacher. He wasn't much help, he gave me a lot of evasive answers, but finally, (after seeing the first draft of my bar-mitzvah speech where I raised the issue), the rabbi agreed to to talk to me. The rabbi wasn't much help, he gave me a lot of jive about how the word "zonah" meant "caterer."
I bought it at the time (and fortunately didn't call the rebbetzin, who was the shul caterer and prepared a very nice luncheon for us, a "zonah.") But thinking back on it, the rabbi's answer was a crock.
First, I dare anyone here to go to Israel, arrange for a catered meal, and then call the caterer a "zonah." That said, you do so at your own risk, and I will not pay any resulting emergency room bills.
Second, if Rachav the Zonah was a caterer, I find it hard to believe that she was a kosher caterer. She was a Canaanite pagan who lived in Jericho, after all. Which means that even if the spies weren't out shtupping and engaging in all sorts of lewdness, then they were eating treif food!
Therefore I can come to only one conclusion. What the Torah text here teaches us is that, if one is on a mission of vital importance to the Jewish people, then one is permitted to either eat treif food, patronize houses of prostitution, or both.