What did the spies do wrong?
1-They scared and demoralized people.
2-They doubted G-d’s power.
But spying for military preparations is OK. The Torah does not tell us to rely on miracles. It’s the spies’ presentation that was not OK.
3-They thought G-d may have changed His mind. The spies reasoned that since Israel had sinned with the Golden Calf and in many places, God may not honor His promise of the land.
They asked themselves: “Why is G-d Treating us like royalty when we are not deserving of such treatment?” Because of their sense of unworthiness the Jewish people could not have absolute trust in G-d.
4-They did not do a thorough job. -Moses had tasked the spies: Find out if the people who inhabit the land are strong or weak. Implies physically and morally. They did not report (or did not try to find out) what the inhabitants thought of them.
Forty years later, Rahav in Jericho tells the spies sent by Joshua that the inhabitants feared the Jews: I know that the Lord has given you the land and that a great fear of you has fallen upon us. All the inhabitants of the land faint because of you… As soon as we heard [of the miracles G-d performed for you] our hearts melted, no courage remained in any man, because of you. (Joshua 2:9-11).-And the Jews themselves knew that. Earlier, in their Song at the Sea, they had said: The people of Canaan will melt away. Terror and dread will fall on them. (Ex. 15:15-16)-
5-They wanted to continue to live in the desert, in isolation with a direct spiritual connection to God. The spies did not doubt Israel could win battles, they just did not want to lose their unique relationship with God in the desert, removed from civilization and its problems. They did not want to become just another nation. They were not ready to “leave home and launch”. But God wanted engagement with the world, not retreat from it. (Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi)
6-They went beyond their mission. Spies are only supposed to provide hard information dispassionately. They have no business coloring their report with alarmist language or advising on a course of action. (Ramban on Num. 13:1,)
7-They reported to the whole people. Spies are supposed to report only to the leaders, not to the whole people! The leaders then decide what to disclose, to whom, and when. (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, 19th century Germany)
8-They spoke lashon hara against the land and God. The Talmud says:-It was taught: Rabbi Eleazar ben Perata said, “Come and see how great is the power of an evil tongue! From where do we know its power? From the spies, because if this is what happens to those who bring an evil report against wood and stones, how much more will it happen to one who brings an evil report against his neighbor!”
9-They were affected by their people’s attitudes. When one represents another, he is affected by the mindset of that other. Israel was distrustful of Hashem, and this colored the spies’ judgment
After the Meraglim (spies) spoke badly about Eretz Yisrael, Kalev wanted everyone’s attention so that he could speak.
He knew what the people wanted to hear, so he pretended to be sharing more negative content against Moshe and Eretz Yisrael.
But once Kalev silenced everyone, he did a 180 and told everyone that they should indeed go forward into Eretz Yisrael “for we can surely do it!”.
We know that history repeats itself, and we see the alarming rise of Antisemitism all over the world.
Before Hitler rose to power, many Jews had the ability to leave, but they didn’t think things would ever get so bad.
Many Jews did manage to leave before the war – some to the UK, Canada, Asia, Palestine, the USA…
Some tried to leave but were not welcome anywhere, so they were turned back.
But most stayed and we know the rest of the story…
The big difference between now and 80 years ago, is that now we have Israel – a country that we Jews can call our own.
Israel, with all of its faults, is the Jewish Home – one of the few remaining places where Jews never need to hide their identity and can live as Jews – with pride.
So what’s stopping most Jews from moving to Israel today, before things get worse?
Obviously, like many thought 80 years, most don’t think things will ever get that bad.
A Mourner’s Lament
As Leah is visiting her late father’s grave in the Beth Israel Cemetery, she passes a woman who is sobbing and wailing at another grave. Leah can easily hear that the woman is saying, “Oh why, oh why did you die? Why did you have to die?”
After paying her respects to her father, Leah is leaving the cemetery when she passes the sobbing woman again. She is still wailing, “Why, oh why did you have to die?”
Leah feels pity for this woman and walks over to try to comfort her. “Pardon me, I hope you don’t mind me coming over, but I heard your cries of pain and anguish. I assume the deceased was a relative of yours?”
“No she’s not,” says the other woman, “in fact I never met her before.”
“Then why are you so sad?” asks Leah. “Who was she?”
“My husband’s first wife,” replies the woman.