In God We Trust

Dedicated to the memory of Louis Levine z"l, Baruch Aryeh ben Avraham Halevi,
    on his third Yahrzeit, 19th Sivan


The first chapter of Sefer Devarim teaches us why Moshe allowed the spies to scout out the Land of Israel.


Devarim 1:8 states: “See I have given the Land before you, come and possess the Land that God gave to your forefathers, to Avraham, toYitzchak and to Yaakov, to give them and their children after them.


Rashi, quoting the Sifri comments that at that point, all that B’nai Yisrael had to do was to come to the Land of Israel. If they would have listened, nobody would have opposed them. The Land would have been theirs without a battle. However, this would have only happened if the fiasco with the spies did not occur.


A few psukim later in Devarim 1:21 we can find many similarities: “See, HaShem your God has placed the Land before you, go up and possess, as God of the forefathers has spoken to you. Do not fear and do not resolve.”


Yet in the next pasuk B’nai Yisrael request that men be sent to check out the Land. Moshe then agrees to send them.


Why didn’t Moshe have a problem with sending the spies?


Rashi tells the story of a person who asks his friend to sell him his donkey. The buyer asks to take the donkey for a test drive in the hills and in the mountains. When the seller agrees to let him take it on a test drive, the buyer decides to buy it on the spot and says that he no longer needs to take it for a test drive. Since the owner was so confident that the donkey was up to standards, the buyer felt comfortable enough not to have to try it out at that point.


Rashi explains that Moshe sent the spies since he figured that if he agreed to let the spies go to see the Land then the people would see how confident he was and would then say that even though Moshe gave permission, they no longer feel obligated to go.


Moshe was hoping that the B’nai Yisrael would opt out of sending the spies. However, they still wanted to go ahead with it and at that point Moshe had no choice but to send them.


Ramban doesn’t have any problem with the fact that B’nai Yisrael wanted to send spies. Ramban’s view is that they wanted to send people to check out the Land so that they would be familiar with it and would then be able to lead the army and have strategies of how to conquer the Land as quoted in Dvarim 1:22 “And bring us back word of the way by which we must go up and the cities unto which we shall come.” Many other times as well we find in the Tanach that spies were sent (including in the Haftorah of Shlach from the Book of Yehoshua).


So what was the real problem?


When the men came back (Parshat Shlach- Bamidbar13:31) they said “we cannot go up.” According to Rabbi Isaac Arama, “they were implying that they did not desire to scale the heights of spiritual perfection…but preferred to choose a captain and go back to Egypt, descending to an impure land”.


The spies as well B’nai Yisrael did not trust that God would take care of them. They spoke negatively about the Land of Israel and they therefore lost the privilege of inheriting it.


The problem was not in sending spies, the problem was that they did not trust in God.