Yonaton Behar,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Yonaton Behar
Yonaton is happily married with 6 children, and 10 grandchildren, and lives in the most amazing Torah community in the world - Har Bracha. He is a long-time member of the Likud Central Committee.

The Sin of the Spies

"The Jewish Nation transgressed two dreadful sins in the wilderness – the sin of the Golden Calf, where they made the figure of a molten calf and bowed down to it, and the sin of the Spies, where they followed the advice of the Spies who discouraged them from journeying on to the Land of Israel, saying they could not conquer it. From a number of aspects, the sin of the Spies is more severe than the transgression of the Golden Calf, when Jews did not completely disclaim God and Moses. Rather, they erred, thinking that after Moses failed to return from Mt. Sinai, God Himself would cease from watching over them. They felt they had to find a substitute means to communicate with Hashem, via a god who would mediate between them. Since they did not entirely reject God, He forgave them. However, concerning the sin of the Spies, they denied God’s ability to assist them in conquering the Land of Israel . They also betrayed their main mission, for which the world was created, and for which the Nation of Israel was chosen – to reveal the Divine Presence in the world, through the holy life of the Jewish Nation in Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, the sin of the Spies was not forgiven. Death was decreed upon them and upon all those who heeded their evil speech against the Land. Only Yehoshua, the son of Nun, and Calev, the son of Yefune, merited entering the Land, in reward for having remained faithful to Hashem in rising up to rebuke the sinners.

The night that the people cried in the wilderness, rejecting the Promised Land, was the eve of the ninth of Av (Tisha B’Av). God said: You cried for no reason; therefore I will set for you a crying for generations (Sanhedrin 104b). At that very moment, it was decreed that the Beit HaMikdash would be destroyed years later on that very same day, and that the Nation of Israel would be exiled from its Land (see Tanchuma, parshat Shlach).

The question arises: What was the actual sin of the Spies? They believed that the people, just freed from bondage in Egypt, lacked the ability and strength to conquer the seven fierce nations residing in Canaan. In their opinion, if the newly-formed nation agreed to fight, they would be defeated and face the possibility of total extinction. If so, they had an ethical obligation to warn the people about the apparent danger, for the preservation of the Jewish Nation is more important than the mitzvah of settling the Land. Even though they were mistaken in their evaluation of the situation, for in fact, Israel could have conquered the Land, nevertheless, since the Spies seemingly spoke out of deep concern, in order to save the Nation from defeat and extinction, there was no need for them to be punished so severely – rather, they should have been praised for the national responsibility they exhibited.

However, their underlying sin was that they did not love the Land of Israel and understand its vital significance to the nation. Not having a passionate love for Eretz Yisrael, when they saw the difficulties in conquering it, their hearts fell, and they began to invent excuses and reasons why it was impossible to go up and possess it, until finally they lost all faith, as it says, “Moreover, they despised the pleasant Land, they did not believe His word” (Tehillim,106:24) In contrast, Yehoshua and Calev, who cherished the Land, declared, “The Land through which we have spied out is an exceedingly good Land” (Bamidbar, 14:7). In spite of the difficulties, they believed that, with God’s help, it was certainly possible to conquer the Land, rallying the Nation with the call, “Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are surely able to overcome it” (Bamidbar, 13:30).

Judging from Hashem’s fierce anger against the Spies, it became clear that Yehoshua  and Calev were right. Had the nation listened to them, the entire generation would have been saved and would have merited entering the Land immediately. Ironically, the Spies, who professed to be concerned about the welfare of the people in discouraging them from waging what was, in their eyes, a losing battle, they themselves caused the death of their brethren in the desert."

Taken from "Peninei Halakha: Ha'Am ve' Ha'Aretz" by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed shlita