SEEDS OF DISCONTENT – II
Shelach lecha anashim veyasuru es eretz k’naan asher ani nosen l’vnei yisrael, ish echad, ish echad l’mateh avosav tishlachu, kol nasi bahem … send out men for yourself and they will explore the land of k’naan that I am giving to the children of Israel, one man for each tribe, each of them a person of high rank (Bamidbar 13:1)
The tragedy of the spies is well known; their malicious report resulted in an entire generation being denied entry into the
Both of these approaches seem to be somewhat deficient and it would be hard to categorize either description of the land as being malicious lashon hara, for their report was essentially true. The land did devour its inhabitants. The seven nations dwelling there were being uprooted by the Jews who were to replace them as masters of this land. Why? Because their decadence made them unworthy of inhabiting the land. Hashem had destroyed
Moreover, it was true that the land was inhabited by anshei midos. The spies did not lie when they reported seeing the giants of Chevron. When they returned to the encampment, they brought with them a cluster of grapes so large that it took two people to carry it – another sign of the grotesque proportions that were common in the land.
The punishment also seems to be somewhat out of character. The spies, in convincing the people that it would be dangerous to try and capture the land, were guilty of leading an insurrection against G-d. Hashem had promised that the nation would go up to the land and they claimed that it would be impossible, efes ki az ha’am – the nation [dwelling there] is too strong and cunning! The ten spies are struck down for their blasphemy. They are devoured by a Divine plague, but not because they challenged G-d’s ability or His intention to keep His promise? Vayamusu ha-anashim motzei dibas ha-aretz ra’ah b’magefah … and the men who had given an evil report about the land died in a plague (ibid. :37) – the plague was a result of their having spoken lashon hara about the land. Not the sin of convincing the nation to deny its manifest destiny, nor the sin of fomenting a revolution against G-d.
And the people, who are guilty of joining with the spies and demanding to go back to
Perhaps we might offer another suggestion. The message of the spies report was not that it was beyond God’s ability to conquer the mighty nations of
The spies honestly believed that the people were not on a level that would bring the requisite Divine intervention. They needed to go back to