טובה הארץ מאד מאד. אם חפץ בנו ה' והביא אתנו אל הארץ הזאת ונתנה לנו ארץ... אך בד' אל תמרדו.
“The Land is very, very good. If Hashem will desire in us and bring us to this Land and give us this Land… But against Hashem you shall not rebel.” (Bamidbar 14:7-9)
A Chassid once came to the tzaddik Rebbe Moshe Tzvi of Savran asking for a blessing, as he was about to embark on a trip to Eretz Yisroel to fulfill his dream of living in the Holy Land. It just so happened to be the week of Parshas Shelach. The Rebbe opened a Chumash to this verse and said to the Chassid: “The Land is very, very good. It is indeed a great zechus to live in this Land, where Hashem’s presence fills every corner. The holiness of Eretz Yisroel envelopes all of its residents. However,” the Rebbe warned, “You must also remember the admonishment that follows: But against Hashem you shall not rebel! Of course we must be careful never to rebel against Hashem’s commandments, regardless of where we live. But if a person sins in Eretz Yisroel, he is held to a higher level of accountability, and his sin is far more severe.” The Rebbe continued instructing the Chassid to be especially careful with all of the mitzvos while living in Eretz Yisroel.
Based on this, we can now find some justification for the actions of the ten spies, who caused the delay of Bnei Yisroel’s arrival to Eretz Yisroel. After all, the Torah testifies that they were all righteous people, so how could they have fallen so low as to malign the Holy Land? Many commentators try to explain the reasoning of the spies, to help us understand how such great men made such a grievous mistake.
We can surmise that the spies were afraid that the Jewish people would be held up to a higher level of accountability while living in Eretz Yisroel, and they felt that it would be better for them not to live there as of yet. Although they understood that the “Land is very, very good,” they feared that the people would not be able to live up to the level of righteousness that is expected of those who live in the Holy Land. Perhaps they felt that the Jewish people weren’t prepared enough for living in Eretz Yisroel, and they needed another few years to learn more Torah before entering the Promised Land.
Although their intentions might have been noble, Yehoshua pointed out: “If Hashem will desire in us… and give us this Land.” We are not taking this Land by ourselves. Hashem is giving it to us! And since Hashem is giving it to us, He will also give us the strength and ability to fulfill His will in Eretz Yisroel. If we would be taking the land of our own accord, then we would have to worry whether or not we’d be up to this challenge. But with Hashem giving us the Land, it is not up to us to doubt ourselves or make any personal calculations, but we must fulfill His will with complete faith.
Immediately after the account of the ten spies, the Torah discusses the nesachim - the wine-pouring on the Altar. The commentators ask how these completely different topics are connected.
We can explain it with a story. On a certain Shabbos, the Satmar Rebbe zt”l davened especially powerfully, with great fire and devotion, to the point that when he came to the tefillah of Shemona Esrei he cried out “Hamelech Hakadosh”, which is said on Rosh Hahsanah. After davening, one of the Rebbe’s faithful Chassidim, Reb Yecheskel Amsel, came over to him and said: “While the Rebbe was davening with such fire, I momentarily forgot where I was and felt as if today is Rosh Hashanah. When the Rebbe then cried out Hamelech Hakadosh, I was pleased to see that my feeling was correct…”
The Rebbe then replied: “A similar thing happened to Rebbe Shlomo of Munkacz zt”l. He was once in Sanz for the second days of Pesach, but during the entire davening he felt as if it was Shavuos. He kept on wondering why he feels as if it is Shavuos instead of Pesach. When the Sanzer Rav came to Yaleh V’yavo, he cried out, ‘Yom Chag Hashavuos hazeh’ instead of saying ‘Chag Hamatzos.’ Now Rebbe Shlomo understood why he felt as if it was Shavuos; apparently, the Rebbe’s avodah was similar to Shavuos. He was so pleased that he was able to sense the Rebbe’s holy kavanah, that he brought a hundred bottles of wine to the Rebbe’s tisch.” The Satmar Rebbe added with a twinkle in his eye, “Well, Reb Cheskel, will you also bring us wine?...”
We see from these incidents that when a tzaddik makes a mistake, there is often a deeper reason behind it. We cannot presume to understand our tzaddikim and their holy intentions.
The ten spies were very great, righteous people, but they made a very grave error that cost the Jewish people hundreds of thousands of lives and delayed their arrival to Eretz Yisroel with forty years. However, there were deeper things at work here. Perhaps the Jewish people had to learn Torah in the desert for forty years, and perhaps Moshe was destined to live for another forty years. Whatever the case was, this was all part of Hashem’s plan. When Moshiach will come, we will finally see how everything was part of the bigger picture, and we will understand how it all falls perfectly into place. Although on the surface it seemed like a mistake, in truth it was meant to be exactly the way it happened. And just like in the stories above, after we sense that there is a deeper meaning behind this mistake, the Torah discusses the “wine-pouring”…