Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller
Purity of Intent and Objectives
Many wonder why the mission of the meraglim (the spies) ended in failure. It seems quite legitimate for a conquering nation to reconnoiter the territory they seek to conquer. We even find that Yehoshua, Moshe Rabeinu’s successor and one of the original spies, sent spies to Yericho in the beginning of the conquest of Eretz Yisroel. It was a most successful mission and no criticism is made of this action.
Chazal give us several answers. The stated purpose of the mission was reconnaissance and to form a strategy for conquest. However, the real purpose of the meraglim was to “confirm” that the land was as good as it was promised to be and to evaluate whether conquest was feasible. Although the people asked – “Are they strong? Do they live in fortified cities?” – there was a hidden and distrustful agenda to confirm that they were not being misled. This illustrated too much self-reliance. After our experiences in the desert, they should have known better. Hashem’s response was, in Rashi’s words, “I told them it is a good land and that they will conquer it; if they question that, I will give them opportunity to fail.”
The second explanation for failure is in the process that created formulation of the plan. In Sefer Devarim, Moshe recounts the story of the meraglim and describes, “You all came forth to me and said let us send spies before us.” Rashi says it was a chaotic and strident group that approached Moshe. The predictor of failure lay in the fact that, “the young pushing aside the old” as Rashi points out. It was a poorly conceived idea put forth with little reflection and thought.
The third explanation is in the quality of the people who were assigned. Although they were respectable men and “heads of Bnei Yisroel,” there was a lack of inner faith and character. Their respectable veneer was not backed by substance, and it led to the great debacle when the hidden agenda came to the fore.
Like all stories of our early past, the purpose of the Torah’s recounting the incident of the meraglim is מעשה אבות סימן לבנים – The deeds of the fathers are a template for their children. Therefore, whenever a community gets ready to do something big and ambitious, they must look for three things:
- Is the real agenda transparent and clear? Are all the cards on the table?
- Is this decision process deliberate and considered in a calm and organized way?
- Who is leading the way? Is it people with integrity?
If there are satisfactory answers given for these three questions, one can hope for Divine assistance to get positive results.