This week's Parsha features one of the most infamous sins of the Jewish People, the sin of the miraglim, the spies. The result of that needless cry would resonate with pain, sorrow, and destruction for centuries to come. We read the parsha with frustration and ask, "How could they, why did they do it, and how could they have fallen so low?"
We will try to convey, with some additional commentary, the words of the Nesivos Shalom on this topic. He asks, what was the need for miraglim, were the Jewish Nation not used to living a supernatural existence? How would a report on the physical prowess of the Canaanite nations have any impact on their chosen path of conquest? Additionally, is it not a tactical error to send the holiest of men on, what would seem, a basic reconnaissance mission?
The Nesivos Shalom answers that the call for great men stemmed from a deeper understanding of the potential perils that might result from invading the land. Moshe understood that just as the land had phenomenal positive spiritual potential; it had a similar amount of possible negativity. To properly assess the impending danger required men of tremendous spiritual height. Only the greatest would be able to understand and diagnose what would be needed to remain impervious to the potential danger. Just as Sara (through receiving the land of Goshen) and Yehuda (by establishing a Yeshiva in Goshen) laid the groundwork for the Jewish People, to protect them from the evils of Egypt, the same process would be required in the land where true free choice would now be possible again.
So what went wrong? What was their error? Their mistake lay in the feeling of incapability to take on a land filled with tremendous physical potential and desire. The flavour of the fruits of the land were irresistible. The fruits' enormity represented physical pleasure to an extreme. Additionally, the Canaanite people were devoted to immorality on a level beyond comprehension. It was to this forbidden land that the Jewish People, coming literally from under G-d's shadow and nourished spiritually, were supposed to enter. A land that devoured its inhabitants with its pleasures, how could the Jewish People ever make proper choices there?
Yet, as well meaning as they were, that was their mistake. Just as they were to have full trust in G-d in conquering the land on a physical level, they should have had the same degree of confidence on a spiritual level. As the Talmud (Shabbos 104a) states, "One comes to purify himself, G-d helps him." Similarly the Talmud states elsewhere (Succos 52b), "A man's inclination threatens everyday to overpower him and seeks to kill him... And if not for the fact that the Holy One Blessed is He aids him, he would be unable to withstand it."
It was the will of G-d that they enter this testing ground. Their goal was to take all the seemingly mundane and elevate it for spiritual purposes. This is what Yehoshua and Calev referred to when they cried out in defense of entering the Holy Land, "For they are our bread." Those puzzling words alluded to the potential that the tantalizing food of Eretz Yisrael could become basic nourishment represented by bread. The fruit could be used to nourish the Jewish People on their quest for spiritual greatness and closeness to G-d. But they failed in the face of possible achievement, not wanting to leave their cocoon in the Clouds of Glory and test the waters of Eretz Yisrael. May we always remain undaunted by seemingly impossible spiritual tests and know that if we do our best, G-d will assist us with the rest.