HASHEM spoke to Moshe saying, “Send forth men, if you please, and let them spy out the Land of Canaan that I give to the Children of Israel, one man each from his father’s tribe shall you send, every- one a leader among men. Moshe sent them forth from the Wilderness of Paran at HASHEM’s command; they were distinguished men; heads of the Children of Israel were they. (Bamidbar 13:1-3)
It was with great reluctance that Moshe sent these spies. Why? What went so terribly wrong? These were great people, leaders of the Children of Israel, chosen by Moshe and later they would return with such a discouraging report that the entire nation would lose heart!? How is such a thing possible?!
They saw great things in the land but they interpreted them as bad. Everyone knows that image that the Israeli tourist department has coopted as their logo of two people carrying a giant cluster of grapes on stick on their shoulders. They testified about the rich bounty of the land saying it was indeed a land flowing with milk and honey. But somehow that giant cluster of grapes testified about how huge and formidable the inhabitants of the land were. The sad conclusion was that it is too difficult to defeat them.
How could this generation of all generations be lacking in confidence and trust in HASHEM? The question remains, how is such a thing possible? It is compounded by the fact that not only were these spies great people in their own right but they lived through and experienced the most miraculous events ever. Not just onetime happenings but daily miracles. This was the generation that witnessed and experienced the ten plagues in Egypt. They saw the splitting of the sea and the drowning of the Egyptian army. They stood by Mount Sinai and heard the voice of The Almighty thundering, “I am HASHEM your G-d….”. They ate heavenly bread in the form of Manna every day and received a double portion on Friday. They saw it all, heard it all, and experienced it all. How is it possible that this group should be lacking in the proper trust required to conquer the Land of Canaan?
It could be that the answer is embedded in the question. The Talmud says, “Ain somchin al ha-nes; We do not rely on miracles!” (Pesachim 64). Of-course the simple meaning is a piece of practical advice. Look both ways before you cross the street and cross when the light is green. We should not make plans on the assumption that a miracle will happen. We have to live with and within natural boundaries. Miracles are expensive and it is foolish and reckless to rely on their timely arrival. This understanding has application to our case also but maybe only after another approach to that statement.
For sure the generation that left Egypt and lived with constant miracles in the desert had a great advantage in terms of Emunah and Bitachon,- belief and trust in G-d! But it also comes with a distinct disadvantage. Living with miracles makes one reliant upon miracles and again the Sages had said, “Ain somchin al ha-nes; We do not rely on miracles!” Transitioning from the miraculous to the natural isn’t easy.
Amongst the many wondrous acts of kindliness that HASHEM does the Chovos HaLevavos zeroes in on the blissful unawareness and total lack of knowledge about the world that a child begins his life with. According the Talmud in Tractate Nida, before a child is born, he is living a heavenly existence, and absorbing Torah knowledge beyond any adult comprehension. Suddenly after birthing into this world he is stricken dumb, and says the Chovos HaLevavos, it’s a good thing. If a child would realize how absolutely dependent he is on the good will of his parents and everybody else, he would die immediately from fright and worry. Somehow his parents and everyone around him finds him beyond cute and are prepared to help him in exact proportion to how helpless he is. He doesn’t know that.
Those spies were like that once brilliant child living a miraculous existence in the womb now peering beyond what he should now know. Trying to understand how to adapt to a world of “natural” qualities where the daily miracles are hidden meant a shattering of their world!