The parsha of the meraglim – can be approached from the point of view – “How could the spies have erred. How could the spies of whom The Torah emphasizes their moral and intellectual stature – “princes of the tribes, – all men”, have made such a mistake. It’s a question that echoes down the ages. There are certain events that not only impact on history, more so – they are turning points in history. At these points, historians attempt to understand how people could be so blind as to not foresee the unfolding of events.
Indeed this seems to be the connection between the section that deals with the episode of the spies and the section that deals with “atonement for a person or congregation who errs in the matter of idol worship”. [Shelach, chapter 15; verses 22-31.] (The connection of the spies’ refusal to enter Eretz Yisrael and the sin of idol worship has been explained in various ways. See for example Ramban – The decision to appoint a leader and return to Egypt was equivalent to idol worship.)
The Rambam in Hilchot Teshuvah[ chapter 3 ; halacha 7.] writes that a person who believes in Hashem but thinks that Hashem is a corporeal being is a heretic and has no portion in the world to come. The Raavad there comments – that whilst it is true that such a person doesn’t have a “sophisticated” level of faith, nevertheless he can’t be deemed a heretic. If that person’s intellectual limitations lead him to believe that G-d is corporeal( and the “simple meaning” of many verses say as much, e.g. G-d spoke to Moshe, He took us out with a strong arm etc), how can he be held responsible for thinking otherwise. According to the Raavad, the Intellect responsible for “policing” what is right and wrong, [of course given a set framework] – can also be “infiltrated” and found to be fake.
The Rambam though is saying that regarding fundamentals there is no room for error! Hashem granted each person the intellectual capacity, guided by the Torah, to know these Fundamentals and if a person doesn’t reach the Truth – it must be that for some reason that person chooses to ignore it.
Even when the Truth appears obscure and the mind confused, the Intellect is strong enough to recognize “it’s state of confusion” – it can “police itself” and call for ‘outside’ help. What people nowadays term “agendas”, may interfere with grasping the truth. Yet the intellect can recognize these agendas and set safety measures to neutralize their affects.
In the case of the spies, no matter how complex their analysis might have been regarding the feasibility of entering the land – but the fundamental truth that Hashem wanted the Jewish People to enter the land at that time should have been paramount, and all information which seem to point them in another direction, should have been deemed faulty.
To avoid the problem of “agendas” and to assist the intellect in its vigilance, the parsha concludes with the mitzvah of tzizit. “And you shall see it and you shall remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them; and you shall not spy after your heart and after your eyes after which you stray.” Shelach, chapter 15; verse 39.]
Tzizit is about constant reminders; it induces a sense of alertness, and awareness thus preventing one from “spying after his heart and after his eyes “and this is an antidote to the sin of the spies who ignored the fundamentals and strayed after their heart and eyes.