Shlach: The Trauma of the Spies and its Lessons

June 9, 2023

Optimism isn’t naivety, the majority isn’t always right, and modernity isn’t an enemy. Lessons from the spies of Moses and Joshua.

A. The Successful Spies and the Failed Spies

Moses sent spies to evaluate the defenses of the Land of Israel and how best to conquer the land. They return with their finding: It’s not worth settling in Israel (Sources 1-2). The Jewish people collectively burst out in tears, the spies are punished and the Jews spend forty more years in the desert.

Forty years later, Joshua sends spies to scout out Jericho. They return from their mission reporting a clear path to conquering the land (Source 3).

What was wrong with the report of Moses’s spies, asks the Rebbe? They reported exactly what they found! The Rebbe explains that their assignment wasn’t to see if the mission was possible, but to find the best way to carry it out and conquer the Land.

B. Don’t Ask ‘If’, Ask ‘How’

Lessons from the spies:

A. When we embark on a Divine mission we must know that we can certainly fulfill the mission. We must adequately prepare and evaluate the most suitable way to carry it out.
Story: Guaranteed success

B. Don’t wait for others to tell you. Do it yourself! Go visit the place and see what needs to be done.

C. Sometimes, when we want to do something positive, the people around us laugh at us and tell us we’re crazy. We need to recall the spies’ lesson: the majority isn’t always right.

Story: The drunk majority

C. In The Material World

The Rebbe explains the mistake of Moses’ spies in a deeper sense. They thought that life in the desert was perfect. They didn’t need to concern themselves with material needs, they had manna from heaven, and they studied Torah all day with Moses himself. It was worth staying in the desert, they figured. They didn’t understand that the purpose of creation and the giving of the Torah is for people to live a material lifestyle, while being connected to G-d.

Today as well, we need to live within their physical world and use it for our spiritual objectives. Digital media must be used to advance positive information and wealth should be used for charity.



Teaching aids

My account

Welcome Guest (Login)