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Parshas Selach- The Miraglim's Negative Vibes

Written by Shai Rose, 17/6/2019

As the nation stood at the threshold of Eretz Yisrael and Moshe told them that it was time for them to conquer it, a pivotal, incident took place. Twelve of the truly great leaders of the nation, one from each tribe, known as the Meraglim, went to survey the land-- and came back with a report that demoralized the people and caused them to lose faith in their ability to occupy their divinely ordained inheritance. As a result, the entire generation was condemned to death in the wilderness and Israels entry into the land was delayed for nearly thirty-nine years. The affair of the spies presents many questions, among them: Why was it necessary to send spies, as if God's promise was not sufficient? After the disastrous outcome of this mission, why did Moshe and Yehoshua themselves send similar expeditions? Why did God allow Moshe to send spies? If Moshe was in favor of this stratagem, why did he blame the people for having made this request? Since Moshe gave the spies a detailed list of questions about the land, why were they condemned for telling the truth as they perceived it? Many years later in Devarim, Moshe himself gave equally frightening pictures of the awesome power of the Canaanite nations that were waiting to fight the Jews; why, then, were they spies punished for saying essentially the same thing? 

The story of the spies immediately follows the incident of Miriam's criticism of Moshe and her punishment for it. According to Rashi, although the spying mission took place shortly after her experience had taught the nation the gravity of gossip, nevertheless, the wicked spies did not learn their lesson and were not deterred from slandering the land. When the spies came back after their forty-day tour of the land, they should have reported to Moshe, who had sent them; instead they made their comments in a loud public voice. In view of the account in Devarim that the entire nation demanded harshly of Moshe that he send a spying expedition, it is understandable why the report was made in such a public fashion. The people felt entitled to hear the results. 
 On the surface it seemed like spies did nothing wrong. They went to observe the land and to describe how they felt about it. Ramban comments that the key word in their report to show their lack of faith was "Efes", "but". They should have continued to state the facts. By using a word that implies a contradiction to the optimism of their first two sentences, they were, in effect, telling the nation that no matter how rich and blessed the land was, it was beyond their riches. The spies were advising the nation to not even attempt to assault Canaan. After the spies mentioned how scary Amalek was, the entire nation turned against Moshe. We could learn a very important lesson here. You have to be careful of rumors. True or not, they could really hurt someone for a very, very long time. 

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