Ari Faust (Montreal, 2004)

Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying, “Send forth men, if you please, and let them spy out the Landof Canaanthat I give to the Children of Israel…” {13:1}

In this week’s Parasha, we read of the notoriously infamous event of the sin of the meraglim, the spies. The Torah, in Parashat Devarim, provides us with a more detailed account of exactly what went on that day when one representative from each tribe was sent by Moshe to survey the Land and Its inhabitants:

All of you approached me (Moshe) and said, ‘Let us send men ahead of us and let them spy out the Land, and bring word back to us: The road on which we should ascend and the cities to which we should come. The idea was good in my eyes…” {Devarim, 1:22,23} Moshe then sent out twelve choice men – one from each tribe – who covered the Land, studying Its agriculture, topography and inhabitants. These men returned on the date which, according to tradition, was Tisha B’Av, bearing the beautiful fruit of the Landof Israeland a terribly biased and terribly negative report against the Landof Israel.

Rashi, on the verse from our Parasha cited above, comments that Hashem told Moshe that He is not commanding Moshe to send the spies; if Moshe wants to fulfill the Nation’s request to send out spies, though, the decision is in his hands to do so. Moshe was keen on the idea and supported the mission wholeheartedly; he heeded to the voice of his Nation and sent the spies.

But if this is indeed true, if the mission of the meraglim was such a good an idea that it found favour in the eyes ofMoshe, why did it not come as a commandment from God? On what point did Hashem and Moshe disagree? Furthermore, how could Moshe have thought that this was a good idea if, seemingly, it was not so favourable to God?

Before learning the answer, let us give this short introduction:
Many times in the writings of HaRav A.Y. Kook, zt”l, we find mention of the concepts of “Torat Eretz Yisrael” and “Torat Chutz La’aretz” – the Torah of the Land of Israel and the Torah of the Diaspora. The difference between these two concepts can be understood in the following way: “Torat Eretz Yisrael” is a collective, Nation-wide type of Torah in which all actions for the sake of the Nation, and the actions of the individual within the Nation are holy; this is because the Torah of the Landof Israelis an all-inclusive one. Wherever one goes, the Torah goes with them; from simple daily actions – such as grocery shopping (terumot and maasrot), fielding the Land or any other industrial activity – to more communal actions – such as war – the entire lifestyle of the Nation (and the individual within the Nation) becomes one that binds the halacha to action and to Jewish thought with a deep, incessant bond. Even the most physical actions become ones of great sanctity and holiness. This sanctity in the seemingly mundane acts emphasizes the Torah’s desire for the Jewish Nation to establish a State for herself which is not merely built on spiritual growth, but on “physical” growth of the chosen Nation as well. (Based on a shiur given by HaRav Yitzchak Sheilat.)

Based on this idea, we can understand the answer to our questions. HaRav Moti Elon, (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat HaKotel) explains that in the Jewish people’s request to send out spies, Moshe saw that we were beginning to see life in an “Israeli” set of eyes – in a set of eyes that recognizes the importance and sanctity in “physical” actions as well as those purely spiritual. “The Emunah of Eretz Yisrael is completely different from the Emunah of the Diaspora.” Moshe thought that Bnei Yisrael understood this; Moshe thought that we understood that there will be hardships in conquering and settling the Land and that in order to succeed we must take our belief to a new level and incorporate it into our daily actions and adapt our actions to this great level of belief in The Almighty.

Hashem knew the sad reality that laid in the request of the Jewish people; He knew that when it came to belief in Hashem, this generation had seen nothing but extremes – Egypt, which depicts the property of God hiding Himself from the clear view of man. Versus the desert, where the involvement of God in this World was made clear to all at the splitting of the sea and the receiving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai, and in order to have food all we needed to do was to look up at the Heavens at the manna which fell down miraculously from God to sustain us. To them man had no partnership with God; To them our actions were irrelevant.

Because of this foreknowledge, Hashem did not and could not command for spies to be sent into the Land. Although in principal, Hashem certainly agrees with Moshe’s belief that in order for the Jewish Nation to settle The Land, we must spy It out in advance and we must build It’s cities and grow Its crops and fight Its “physical” wars. Hashem certainly agrees with Moshe’s “Torat Eretz Yisrael”.