Parshas Shelach recounts the tragic tale of the Meraglim, the twelve spies sent to scout out Eretz Yisrael ahead of Bnei Yisrael. Instead of returning with the true praises of Eretz Yisrael and all it could be for them, the spies returned with negative reports, burying the goodness of the land under stories of giants, fortified cities, and grave danger. The nation believed them completely and refused to enter Eretz Yisrael, even after hearing everything Hashem had told them about how incredible Eretz Yisrael is and would be. In return for this lack of faith, they were sentenced to spend a total of forty years wandering in the desert, and none of the adults alive at the time would make it to Eretz Yisrael.
The question is of course, why were the spies sent in the first place? The parsha begins with Hashem commanding Moshe to send the spies; but why would He command them to do that if He had already told them about how great it was? Rashi explains that the Bnei Yisrael had come to Moshe asking him if they could send an advance team to check out the land; he thought it was a good idea and asked Hashem if he could send them. Hashem responds, “שְׁלַח לְךָ֣ אֲנָשִׁ֗ים” “Send out for yourself, men” (Bamidbar 13:2). If it was up to Me, Hashem says, I wouldn’t do it. But if you want, go ahead!
So now it appears that it was Moshe’s fault for sending the spies! Why didn’t he tell the Bnei Yisrael when they asked him not to worry about it, trust in what Hashem has told them and everything was going to be awesome? And while Moshe spent the same time in the desert and didn’t enter Eretz Yisrael like everyone else, the pasuk doesn’t seem to blame him for what happened!
The Ramban explains that what Bnei Yisrael requested, and what they actually ended up doing, were two different things. They presented a practical idea to Moshe, that they send an advance team, not to check out the quality of the land, but to plot a course of action for conquering it. What the terrain looked like, the layout of the cities, how prepared the natives were; these were all important ideas that needed clarification. Moshe heard this idea and decided it was a good one. Hashem advised him against it, “send for yourself” He told Moshe, but let him go ahead with it in the end. However, the spies had different ideas. They went not as an advance team, but instead tried to undermine the entire move into Eretz Yisrael. That was something Moshe did not intend, and therefore, he did not receive the blame.
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