The story of the spies, whose mission resulted in the tragedy of forty years of wandering through the desert and the death of an entire generation, raises many questions. Rashi explains that the men chosen were righteous individuals who were chosen by Moshe and met with the approval of G-d. How is it that they fell spiritually to the point that they lost their faith in
G-d’s ability to bring His people to the Chosen Land?
Messilat Yesharim [chap 11] explains, “It is possible that a person can overcome his inclination for money and other pleasures, yet still be pressed for honor, as he cannot tolerate being on a lower status than his friends…It was this which, according to our Sages [Zohar Bemidbar 3:13], caused the sin of the spies to slander the land and brought death upon them and the entire generation. For they feared lest their honor be diminished when they would enter the land, as they would no longer be princes among Israel and others would serve in their stead.”
Rav Yehudah Zev Segal A”H, the late Manchester Rosh Yeshivah, said that as difficult as it is to overcome prejudice, –personal interest–, it would have been possible had the spies learned a lesson from Miriam, who was punished for criticizing Moshe Rabbenu. Rambam
[Maimonedes] said that Miriam’s “sin” was well-intentioned criticism, out of love and concern for her younger brother and his wife. It was said to him directly and privately and yet she was still struck with Tzara’at [spiritual leprosy manifest on the skin].
The spies viewed Miriam’s affliction as an unfortunate occurrence. They should have given thought to the incident and learned a lesson about negative speech–a lesson to use throughout their mission and their lives. Had they done this, said Rabbi Segal, “They might have had the fortitude to overcome their personal interests and refrain from speaking evil of the Chosen Land that was G-d’s gift to His Chosen People.”
It is important that one learn meaningful lessons from the things that happen around them and to apply them to one’s own life. When a person strikes it rich, when someone achieves financial success, many are quick to inquire, “How did he do it?” They ask for two reasons. First, curiosity. Second, in order to evaluate how they can emulate him and attain success for themselves. This should be our attitude in spiritual matters. When we see someone succeed in learning or grow in Yir’at Shamayim [fear of Heaven], we should analyze their accomplishments and see what we can use from their successful methodology to achieve spiritual gains for ourselves.
DID YOU KNOW THAT
A person should involve himself or herself personally in buying and preparing for Shabbat–rather than send someone else to do it. Hakham Obadiah Yosef Shlit”a says that the perspiration that a person perspires in preparation for Shabbat is used by Hashem to erase our sins–like tears that we shed