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Parshat Shelach - Bamidbar (Numbers) 13:1 - 15:41

I Spy With My Eye

The biggest question imposed by this parsha is — Why did HaShem tell Moshe to send a leader from each tribe to scout out the Land promised to Israel?

The first thing to notice is that HaShem doesn’t actually command Moshe to do this but says to him:

“Send forth men, if you please…” [emphasis mine]

And then this is followed by a command that directs Moshe as to whom he is to send, should he choose to do so:

“…and let them spy out the Land of Canaan that I give to the Children of Israel; one man each from his father’s tribe shall you send, every one a leader among them.” Numbers 13:2 [emphasis mine]

In this one verse we see something very interesting. HaShem suggests sending spies but then states very clearly “the Land of Canaan that I GIVE TO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL.” [emphasis mine]

Israel is now standing on the very threshold of the Land of Promise. HaShem has made it very clear here in Numbers and again (with more details added) in Devarim (Deuteronomy) 1:21 that the Land is ALREADY theirs for the taking because HaShem has ALREADY promised it to them as a covenant with their ancestors and has ALREADY gone before them so there was no reason to hesitate, question it or be fearful:

“See — HaShem your G-d, has placed the Land before you; go up and possess, as HaShem, G-d of your forefathers has spoken to you. Do not fear and do not lose resolve.”

Twelve of the strongest and powerful leaders from each tribe were chosen to be spies.

We have to ask — Why were they even necessary? Wasn’t the promise of HaShem good enough? Wasn’t the word of the Creator of the entire universe sufficient?

There is at least one conclusion that can be surmised from this incident: This generation of Israel, after more than two-hundred plus years of slavery in Egypt were simply not mentally, emotionally — and most importantly — not spiritually equipped to inhabit Eretz Israel.

While physically capable, as their few earlier encounters in the Wilderness gave testimony; they were still gripped by the slave mentality and not yet fully able to meet the task of becoming the inheritors of the Land of their fathers; Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov.

We must keep in mind that HaShem isn’t surprised by anything or anyone. As we are reminded every day in Shacharit and the Yigdal hymn:

“He (HaShem) scrutinizes and knows our secrets. He beholds the end of a thing at its beginning.”

HaShem already knew the report the spies would give. It came as no shock to Him. However, the Israelites did not know they were not yet spiritually ready for what awaited them in the Land and the sending of the spies, twelve of their best of the best, revealed to them just how unsuited they currently were and how unready were their souls for such an endeavor. Of the twelve spies only two — Caleb and Joshua — were spiritually up to the task at hand. Sadly two a minyan does not make.

Many even wanted to appoint a new leader to replace Moshe. One who would take them back to Egypt to be enslaved once more — there is that slave mentality in full display.

Some even went so far as to want to stone Caleb and Joshua for declaring, “HaShem is with us. Do not fear!”

After Moshe intercedes on behalf of all the people HaShem declared this to them and Moshe:

“I have forgiven because of your (Moshe’s) words. But as I live — and the glory of HaShem shall fill the entire world — that all the men who have seen My glory and My signs that I performed in Egypt and in the Wilderness, and have tested Me the ten times and have not heeded My voice, if they will see the Land that I have sworn to give their forefathers! — and all who anger Me shall not see it. But My servant Caleb, because a different spirit was with him and he followed Me wholeheartedly, I shall bring him to the Land into which he came and his offspring shall possess it.” Numbers 14:20-24

HaShem also made the same promise of Caleb to Joshua son of Nun as they were the only two spies who fully trusted in the promise and protective ability of HaShem to go before them and guarantee success and victory.

And, as promised, that full generation of adults who left Egypt wandered in the Wilderness for forty years — one year for each day the spies were in Eretz Israel scouting it out — and that generation, save Caleb and Joshua, all perished without ever entering the Land of Promise. But, their children and grandchildren did as forty years of wandering had completely sifted any remnant of slave mentality from their hearts and souls — and it was they under the leadership of Joshua and Caleb forty years later who were now spiritually equipped and strong in the might of Adonai to conquer and take what was their rightful and ordained covenant of HaShem — Eretz Israel!

We learn from this moment in the history of our people that while HaShem knows our end at its beginning, He will allow events, challenges and obstacles to teach us that which He already knows of us. In this way HaShem guides and instructs us with His perception, awareness, understanding and intellect; strengthening us for the life He has chosen us for.

Baruch atah Adonai — Grantor of Perception.

Until next time — Shalom!

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