The text says Moshe sent men to reconnoiter the land. They were instructed to “see the land, what it is; and the people who dwell there, (whether they are strong or weak, whether they are few or many); and what the land in which they dwell (whether it is good or bad); and what the cities are in which they dwell (whether in camps or in strongholds); and what the land is (whether it is fat or lean, whether there is wood there, or not). And be of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land.”
The twelve observers, or meraglim (as their mentioned in Deuteronomy), spend forty days in the land, and the come back with an interesting report.
Report #1. “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”
Report #2. Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
Report #3. “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are. The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
Report #4. Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
In this fourth report, we have two events. First, the people raised a loud cry and wept in their tents. What they wept or what the murmured is not recorded, or at least not here. Second, they grumbled against Moshe and Aaron, and what they said is recorded here.
In the past, I mentioned we need to study Shemini from Leviticus and Behaalotcha from Numbers together to get a more complete picture of the events on the first day of the dedication of the Tabernacle. In like manner, to get a better understanding of the cheit hameraglim (the sin of the spies), we pair parshah Shelach Lecha with the first parshah of Deuteronomy, Devarim.
Deuteronomy gives us a glimpse into the crying, weeping, and murmuring in their tents, we need to look at the first chapter of Deuteronomy where it’s reported, “And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.“‘”
Two things that need to be noted are present in these texts. First, “we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” For those who’ve taken psychology, you’ll notice that the spies have projected their feelings upon the people of the land. They felt like grasshoppers, so they assumed they were seen as grasshoppers in the yes of the people of the land, but nothing could be further from the truth. Balak saw us as a formidable foe. He said we were about to overwhelm his city-state just as the bull licks up the grass in the field. Also, remember the reaction and the fear felt by the people of Jordan when Joshua began his conquest (this story is the haftarsh for Shelach Lecha). We were far from being grasshoppers in their eyes. We victimized ourselves through projection, but we did it more than once. Look again at what we said in our tents: “Because Hashem hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt.” Because G-d hated us? G-d hated us, so he pummeled the Egyptians, took us across the Yam Suf on dry land, fed and sustained us through a never-ending stream of supernatural miracles, and he gave us his Torah and His covenant from Sinai? If He hated us, He would have allowed the Egyptians to drown all of us in the Nile. The fact is that we, again, were projecting. It wasn’t G-d who hated us, it was we who hated Him!
The meraglim slandered the land and the G-d who was giving us the land. The land was wonderful, and this they did not deny. They brought fruit from the land that was carried on a pole between two men. If the land was a rich and wonderful as G-d had promised, wouldn’t it make sense the people living there would be strong and healthy? When my grandparents came from the old country, my grandmother was probably five feet tall in heels. Her grandchildren now have grown much taller than her because the USA, historically, was a healthy land that was blessed by G-d.
“Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is Hashem bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
Which leader are they proposing they fire? Are they wanting to get rid of Moshe? Do they want to get rid of the meraglim? If they are wanting to get rid of them, it would make sense. The meraglim slandered the land and slandered G-d’s ability to help them conquer the hand, but they had no alternative, they had no end game. What were they proposing? Slavery in Egypt? Death in Egypt? Wander the desert forever? What was their plan? I can tell you, there was no plan. Nothing. They slaughtered everyone’s dreams and left us without hope, and this is why we murmured and cried. We allowed the lashon hara (evil speech) of ten leaders to erode our faith in Hashem.
Imagine you are single and a shidduch approaches you and says, “I have the perfect match for you.” Do you go on a date, or do you decline? What would tip the scales in favor of a date? The track record of the shidduch service? Pictures? What the service said about the person’s personality or physical traits? How much money he or she made? Your age? For what reason would you chose to go on a date? Would you go to see if there is compatibility between you and the prospective spouse?
Now, what if G-d came to you and said, “From the beginning of time, I have been manipulating events in order to create for you the perfect mate.” Would you go on the date? For what purpose? If you said, “I would go on the date in order to meet the spouse of my dreams and to begin our lives together,” you have the right purpose in mind.
Such is the case with the Jews and the land of Israel. If we believed G-d, the leaders who went to reconnoiter the land would have returned with a plan of immigration; after all, the Land of Israel has been deemed holy from the foundation of the world and it was created as the perfect match for the Jewish people and for those who align themselves with us.
Such, also, is the case of the righteous and the Torah. If we believed G-d, we would be obedient to his mitzvot. If we understood from our core that the commands of Hashem are for our life and our happiness, there would be no reason to choose a different lifestyle.
Hashem is the perfect shidduch and he has given us the land of Israel and He has given us His Torah. Now it’s up to us to believe and to trust Him.