Parshas Shlach-Likkutei Sichos-The sin of the Meraglim

This article is an excerpt from the above Sefer

Parshas Shlach

The sin of the Meraglim

 (Based on Likkutei Sichos Parshas Shlach Vol. 2; 4; 18; 28; 33 [1st and 2nd Sicha])

Without doubt, one of the most fascinating stories in Chumash is the story of the Meraglim. They have become infamously known for their speaking of Lashon Hara against Eretz Yisrael and thereby causing the Jewish people to remain 40 years in the desert, delaying their entrance to Eretz Yisrael. One can’t help but feel angry and upset at the Meraglim, and perhaps the entire generation of the Midbar, for accepting the evil words of the Meraglim as true. They should have known better after seeing all the miracles and salvations that Hashem did for them. How could they suddenly not trust the hands of Hashem? Reading the story superficially, as true with many stories in Tanach, leaves one with an impression that the Meraglim, and perhaps that entire generation, were evil troublemakers, who had no gratitude for what Hashem did and are fully deserving of their punishment. It seems we would have done much better if we were around and would have never succumbed to such a low state of rebellion and sin. In truth, however, after analyzation, we see that there is a lot behind the story that is not visible to the naked eye. The Meraglim and generation of the Midbar were not at all Reshaim as we seem to interpret them. In fact, they were great Tzaddikim, and did all their actions for the sake of Heaven. What then was their sin, and why were they punished? In this collection of Sichos, the Rebbe addresses various points in the story of the Meraglim, bringing up many powerful questions and contradictions within the story, which leads to a fascinating discovery of the mistake of the Meraglim. This Sicha touches upon the most essential parts of the Jewish religion, its purpose and goal, and how one can combine spiritual growth with physical responsibilities.


Explorations of the Sicha:

1. What was the true sin of the Meraglim?

2. Why did Moshe agree to send the Meraglim to begin with if he knew they were evil?

3. How could the Meraglim state they did not believe in Hashem’s powers after all the miracles they witnessed?

4. What is the true purpose of Judaism? Personal spiritual growth, or elevating one’s surroundings?

5. Why did the people remain in the desert for 40 years?

6. What is the connection between the story of the wood gatherer and the Meraglim?

7. Do the Meraglim have a portion in the world to come?


1. The story in Chumash with Mefarshim:[1]

[In the second year of the stay of the Jewish people in the desert, on the 29th of Sivan[2]] Hashem told Moshe that he can send people, one representative per tribe, to tour the land of Israel, which will be given to the Jewish people. [Hashem did not command Moshe to send the people, but simply told him that if he wants to do so, he has permission. The Jewish people had come to Moshe and demanded from him to send a delegation to Eretz Yisrael before the conquest. Moshe then asked Hashem what to do and Hashem replied as above that it is their choice.[3]] Moshe sent the people with the consent of Hashem, and they were all men of stature, [Tzadikim[4]], and leaders of the Jewish people. The Torah lists the names of each one of the tribal leaders sent in the delegation, [and the delegate from the tribe of Binyomin] was Yehoshua Ben Nun. His original name was Hoshea Ben Nun, and Moshe Called him Yehoshua [as a prayer to Hashem that Hashem should save him from the scheme of the Meraglim[5]]. Moshe sent the men to tour the land of Canaan and instructed them where to go and what to report on. They are to see the quality of the land, the strength and numbers of people currently living there, and if the cities are fortified. They are to see if the land grows fruit and trees and are to bring back fruits from the land. The people went up to tour the land as instructed and when they arrived at Chevron, they saw giants. They came to Nachal Eshkol and cut off a vine of grapes, which took two people to carry on a pole due to its large size. They also carried a pomegranate and date. They returned to the camp [on the 9th of Av[6]] after forty days of touring the land. They came to Moshe and Ahron and all the Jewish people and reported on what they saw and showed them the fruits. They said the land flows with milk and honey, and these are its produce. The nations living there are very powerful, and the cities are fortified and large. There are also giants living there. The Amalekites live in the south and the Chiti, Yevusi, Emori live on the mountain, while the Canaanites live near the sea. Kalev quieted down the people and told them that we will be successful in conquering the land and inheriting it. His pears, who traveled with him, however responded that that they will be unable to conquer the land as the nations are too strong [even for Hashem to conquer[7]]. They slandered the land which they visited, stating it is a land that eats its inhabitants [i.e., people die tragically] and the people living there are very strong. We are like grasshoppers in the eyes of the giants, they claimed. After hearing this, the Jewish nation let out a scream, and cried that entire night, and complained against Moshe for taking them out of Egypt to die in the desert. They began campaigning to return to Egypt. Kalev and Yehoshua tried to calm down the nation and emphasize to them the greatness of the land and Hashem’s ability to conquer it. Hashem became infuriated with the rebellion against His great kindness to give them the land and after a long dialogue with Moshe regarding the punishment, told him that the people will die in the desert and will not enter Eretz Yisrael. Everyone who is currently 20 years of age will die in the desert [when they reach 60 years of age[8]], and the Jewish people will remain in the desert for 40 years, one year per day of travel of the Meraglim. This is with exception to Kalev and Yehoshua who will enter the land and inherit it. The Meraglim died from a plague [shortly afterwards, on the 17th of Elul[9]]. [On that day, of the 9th of Av, their tongues stretched until their naval and worms came out of them. Their suffering continued until the 17th of Elul, when they died.[10]


2. The questions on the story:

At first glance, the story seems to make sense, telling over the slander of the Meraglim, and how it initiated a rebellion, and the punishments given due to it. However, a deeper and contemplative look at the story raises several difficulties and inquiries that attack the very premises of wrongdoing of the Meraglim, and other matters said in the story. The questions are as follows:

  1. Why did Moshe agree to send them?[11] There is a glaring contradiction and inconsistency regarding the spiritual state of the Meraglim prior to being sent on the mission. At first, the verse states that they were Tzadikim and leaders, which implies that Moshe was at no fault for sending them and on the contrary, he chose the most upright of people for the delegation. On the other hand, a few verses later it says that prior to their travel, Moshe Davened for Yehoshua, and changed his name, as a prayer that he should not join the scheme of the Meraglim. The Talmud[12] states that just as the Meraglim arrived back from their journey with an evil scheme so too they initially left with intent of performing the evil scheme. This inconsistency is troubling on several fronts. 1) If Moshe knew that the Meraglim were up to no good, why didn’t he send other people instead, or abolish the entire mission. If Moshe knew of their scheme and decided to send them anyways, that is a grave irresponsibility and can be viewed as a possible collusion with the evildoers. How can Moshe proclaim innocence if he is the one who sent them and knew beforehand of their evil scheme! 2) Furthermore, how can the verse call these people righteous, if already prior to travel they were scheming and plotting against Eretz Yisrael, for which they were eventually killed? 3) How could people who were hand chosen by Moshe, leaders of the Jewish people, Tzadikim, fall so low and transgress such a grave sin?
  2. What did the Meraglim do wrong by informing Moshe of the information he requested? The Mefarshim[13] address the following question: After contemplation, one of the most puzzling issues in the story of the Meraglim is that it is difficult to understand what exactly the Meraglim did wrong by reporting on what they saw in Eretz Yisrael. Moshe asked them to report on the strength of the nation’s living there, and bring back the fruit, and that is exactly what they did. In their first and initial report, prior to the protest of Kalev and what then spiraled to a deterioration of events, they seem to have said absolutely nothing wrong, but simply reported on what they saw. How can they be blamed for stating that the nations are strong and fortified, and telling them of the giants and showing them the large fruits, which instilled fear into the people, when that was exactly what they were sent to report on? Were they expected to lie to Moshe and the people and give an unrealistic report of fantasy and paradise that awaited? Were they punished for simply telling the truth; the facts as it is? Why should a journalist be punished for doing his job of factual reporting, simply because the truth hurts? In fact, what’s even more puzzling, is that Moshe himself in the 40th year, prior to his death and eventual entrance of the sons of the current generation into Eretz Yisrael, told the Jewish people an even more frightening description than did the Meraglim themselves of the nations they need to fight against! In Parshas Eikev[14] Moshe stated “Listen Israel! You are crossing the Jordon to fight against nations that are much more powerful than you. They have large and fortified cities that reach until the heavens. They are a great nation with giants.” Now, if the Meraglim were wrong and punished for simply truthfully reporting the realistic state of the nations, how much more so should Moshe be punished for repeating their mistake of discouraging the Jewish people and adding even more frightening details than were said by the Meraglim!
  3. How could the Meraglim disbelieve Hashem’s abilities?[15] After Kalev intervened to defend against the words of the Meraglim and encouraged the Jewish people that they could conquer the land, the Meraglim replied with a most stunning choice of rebuttal. They stated that not even Hashem could overcome those nations. Such a statement, aside for being heretical, seems absolutely ridiculous and out of touch with reality. The Meraglim were taken out of Egypt, the world’s strongest superpower, by Hashem and witnessed tens of miracles that crushed the nation of Egypt. They saw the ten plagues, the splitting of the sea, the death of the Egyptian army, the revelation of G-d in the giving of the Torah, the falling of bread from heaven, a miraculous rock that provides water, clouds which give light and protection and supply their every need, and so on and so forth of nature breaking miracles. How could they even logically entertain the idea that G-d could not be successful in conquering the nations of Eretz Yisrael. This is not a matter of lack of faith but a matter of delusion and ignorance of their current miraculous state of reality. If anything, they should have been considered Halachically insane, rather than Reshaim, as no sane person would come to that conclusion in their times. What’s even more puzzling is that the Jewish people bought into their ridiculous assertion and truly believed Hashem could not conquer the land. All this is in addition to the general question of how the Meraglim, who were initially Tzadikim, could fall to the lowest levels of heresy.
  4. How come Hashem gave in to their request and did not punish them in the desert?[16] The aftermath of the story seems quite strange. Hashem tells Moshe that the Jewish people need to be punished for not trusting Hashem, and not wanting to enter Eretz Yisrael. What is their punishment? That they will not enter Eretz Yisrael! This is exactly what they asked Hashem for to begin with! How can granting the request of the sinner, be considered a punishment, especially when their request was the entire content of their sin for which they needed to be punished? Furthermore, if they would have lived their lives in the desert in suffering, it could be understood that their punishment was to suffer in the desert. However, in truth, they did not suffer at all, and lived a luxurious life until the age of 60. They had all their needs provided for them from Hashem for all 40 years. What kind of a punishment was this?

3. The Meraglim were truly Tzadikim with holy, but misguided, intentions:

The root of the answer to the above questions is found in understanding what the Meraglim were guilty of. The Mefarshim[17] explain that, unlike the superficial understanding of the story in which one concludes the Meraglim were great Reshaim, in truth they were great Tzadikim and had good and holy intentions in their actions. In the wording of the Alter Rebbe[18] “They were on a very high level.” They were great Tzadikim not only at the time they were chosen by Moshe and went on their trip, but even afterwards, upon their return, and eventual deterioration of events.[19] They never intended to rebel against Hashem or proclaim heresy but took a mistaken and misguided approach in their service of G-d, which eventually led to the tragic events that followed. In the coming paragraphs, we will elaborate on the exact mistaken philosophy and approach of the holy Meraglim.

4. The proof of righteousness of the Meraglim even at the time of their sin:

The fact that the Meraglim were truly Tzadikim throughout the episode can be proven from several sources.

1) The source of a Minyan: The Talmud[20] states that the source in scripture for the law that a Minyan is made up of 10 men, and that one needs a Minyan in order to recite a Davar Shebekedusha [i.e., Davening, Kedusha, Kaddish, Barchu] is learned from a verse discussing nonother than the Meraglim! Not the Meraglim before the sin, but the Meraglim after the sin! After the sin of the Meraglim the verse[21] states “Ad Masaiy Leida Harah Hazos/Until when will we suffer from this evil group” and the Sages used a Hekesh to learn from here that an Eida, a Minyan, is made up of ten men just like the group of the Meraglim who sinned. Now, why would the source for a Minyan be learned from such evil people, especially in light of the fact that according to Halacha it is questionable[22] as to if the heretical Meraglim could even join a Minyan? Accordingly, one must conclude that in truth the Meraglim were, and remained, Tzaddikim even after the sin.[23]

2) The fast day of the 17th of Elul: In chapter 580 in Shulchan Aruch, a list of fast days is given for scrupulous Jews, commemorating different events that warrant fasting, most of which are fasts commemorating the death of Tzaddikim. The Tur and Shulchan Aruch[24] after listing several days of fasting for the deaths of Tzadikim, list that the 17th of Elul is a fast day commemorating the deaths of the Meraglim! The Mefarshim[25] are puzzled, and question why one would fast on this day, implying something bad occurred, when in truth it is a day of rejoicing, as states the verse “Rejoice with the loss of Reshaim.” Various answers are offered, and of these answers, some Mefarshim[26] state that in truth the Meraglim were Tzadikim and therefore we fast just like after the death of any other Tzadik listed there. According to this approach, the Meraglim remained Tzaddikim until their death, to the caliber that it is worthy to fast on that day just like it is worthy to fast on the day of passing of Moshe, Miriam, Nadav Veavihu and others!

We will now explore exactly what the mistake was of the Meraglim, and how nevertheless they remained Tzaddikim despite it.


5. The sin of the Meraglim: They desired to spy the land of Israel-not tour it:[27]

After a careful analyzation of the verses, one notices that nowhere in scripture does it mention that word Meragel, or spy. Moshe never told the delegation of men to spy the land, and they are never called Meraglim in the entire scripture! Where did the term Meraglim come from? The Sages! The Sages in various areas refer to them as Meraglim, and hence this became their widespread name of reference. Why however does the Torah avoid this term? The reason is because this was precisely the mistake of the Meraglim. Moshe never intended that the Meraglim spy the land, but rather that they simply tour the land and give over a factual description of what they saw! The difference between a spy and a tourist is that a spy needs to connive a scheme of conquering the area and report not only on what he saw, but also on his opinion of how the conquest and mission can be accomplished. A tourist, however, is there simply for sightseeing and leaves the conclusions to the people who he is reporting to. The Meraglim were appointed to tour Israel and report what they saw, and not what they thought of what they saw and what conclusions they make of it. This was their initial mistake. To begin with, even before they left, they defied Moshe’s intent of their purpose of travel, and Moshe was aware of this. This was viewed as a minor disagreement as to their function, and due to their great stature of righteousness, Moshe nevertheless agreed to send them. [This answer’s the first group of questions mentioned above.] However, Moshe prayed for his student Yehoshua not to get caught up in their plan, as Moshe did not desire to hear conclusions from them. This intent of the Meraglim, although a diversion from the intent of Moshe, was not considered a sin, and hence the verse vouches for their righteousness upon being chosen and beginning their travels. This intent however eventually led to sin, as it brought them to a drastic conclusion that they in truth could not conquer Eretz Yisrael, in light of all that they saw. When they reported to Bnei Yisrael what they saw and then added their conclusion, that is when they sinned. They sinned for adding their opinion of the inability to conquer the nations, and not for reporting on the might of the nations. Even in their initial report, which was seemingly free of any opinionated conclusions, they hinted that they could not conquer the land, as they stated “Efes Ki Az Ham.” These words do not just mean that the nations are strong, but that “Efes”, they are unconquerable. The moment they said this, they trespassed their line of duty and triggered Kalev to fight against their report.[28] [This answer’s the second group of questions brought above.]


6. Why were they still considered righteous after they reported their conclusions?

The above explanation, although it settles the first two group of question stated above, it does not explain how the Meraglim, who were Tzadikim, could come to such a mistaken conclusion, and how they could remain Tzadikim even after they expressed such heretical beliefs that even Hashem can’t conquer the land. Some Mefarshim[29] explain that the Meraglim did not truly believe in this conclusion that Hashem can’t conquer Eretz Yisrael, and simply said it to dishearten the nation from entering Eretz Yisrael, due to ulterior reasons for which they desired to stay in the desert.[30] The Alter Rebbe however gives an innovative approach, with which it is understood why they concluded that even Hashem cannot conquer the land, and despite this belief they nevertheless retained their righteousness.  


7. The move to Eretz Yisrael begins a new order in Judaism-The Meraglim disagreed and believed the purpose of Judaism is to excel oneself in his personal closeness to G-d:[31]

The Meraglim did not want to enter Eretz Yisrael due to the disturbances it would create in their Torah learning and Divine service. In the desert, the Meraglim, as well as all the Jewish people, had no troubles or worries and had ability to dedicate 100% of their lives to personal growth in Torah learning and Divine service which brings closeness to G-d. They had all their food provided free of work, with the Mun falling from heaven and the water from the well of Miriam and the laundering of clothing by the clouds of glory. They were likened to a son in-law who was being supported to learn Torah and had all his needs taken care of by his wealthy father in-law.      When they were told that the support would end and they would now need to fetch for their own sustenance, they became deeply troubled. This would mean they could no longer devote the time to attach themselves to Hashem and learn His Torah. The entrance to Eretz Yisrael would begin a new phase of physical involvement in the world. No more Mun, no more free laundry service; every man will have to work by the sweat of his brow to put food on the table. The order of miracles will end, and they will now have to work with the natural order of the world. No wonder they had reservations about entering Eretz Yisrael! Now, one may ask on this that the entire purpose of Hashem bringing them into Eretz Yisrael and bringing the Jewish people into a world of natural order, was for them to begin fulfillment of Mitzvos. In the desert, most Mitzvos were not applicable and could not be fulfilled. Entering the natural order of the world in Eretz Yisrael would initiate the full performance of all 613 commands. Why then did the Meraglim not look forward to Mitzvah performance, if that is the entire purpose of their Torah learning and service of G-d? 

8. Why the Meraglim did not look forward to Mitzvah performance:[32]

There exist two forms of service of G-d, one is learning Torah and the second is doing Mitzvos. Learning Torah contains certain clear advantages over the performance of Mitzvos, such as the quality of unity with Hashem that is experienced when learning Torah, as well as the conscious enjoyment one feels in being active in understanding G-d’s wisdom. This is in contrast to Mitzvos, which provide a lower-level unity, and do not contribute any conscious effect on the person performing it. Furthermore, Mitzvos involve the physical world and require a person to mingle with the materialism and coarseness found within it. The Meraglim wanted to pursue a life of pure Torah learning and spiritual service, without needing to demote themselves to the performance of physical Mitzvos, which, as explained, touches a lower level. It is for this reason that they desired to remain in the desert, as in the desert they were exempt from performing many Mitzvos, and thus could pursue this form of life. In truth, however, the Meraglim made a grave mistake in their understanding of Mitzvos, as explained next.

The true purpose of Judaism-To elevate the world and make G-d a dwelling place:[33]

The Meraglim made a grave mistake in their perception of the importance of Mitzvos. While Mitzvos certainly involve the physical world, which is a low state of spiritual refinement, nevertheless, it is specifically the performance of these Mitzvos that allow a person to fulfill the original intent of creation, which is to make for Hashem a dwelling place below. Furthermore, the power and greatness of Torah learning is only effective when one precedes it with the performance of Mitzvos. It is impossible to release the G-dly revelation affected through Torah learning without the performance of Mitzvos, and hence not only were the Meraglim missing out on the effective tools for performing a Dirah Betachtonim but were lacking in the basic necessities required for their Torah learning to be affective.

In other words-Leah versus Rachel:[34] The Meraglim were rooted in the level of Leah, the world of thought, and did not desire to enter Eretz Yisrael, and thereby lower themselves into the world of Rachel which is Dibbur. Leah, thought, represents a high spiritual level that involves Divine service of the mind and heart, without resorting to performance of mere physical tasks included within the Mitzvos. Rachel, which is speech, represents action, which is from a revealed perspective, a diminished form of spiritual service that does not involve one’s mind or heart and simply requires one’s power of action in its performance. The Meraglim made a grave mistake, as the entire purpose of creation is for exactly this purpose, for the Divine light of Or Ein Sof to be delivered into this physical world and make for Hashem a dwelling place below.

9. A second perspective:[35]

Alternatively, one can explain the Meraglim mistaken perception as follows: The Meraglim understood that the performance of Mitzvos in Eretz Yisrael has ability to draw down a level of G-dly light, called Or Ein Sof, into this world, and they felt that doing so would be counterproductive. The coarseness of the world was unbefitting for such a revelation, and they thus felt that drawing it down would jeopardize their existence and their continued ability to serve Hashem. It is for this reason that they did not desire to enter Eretz Yisrael and begin the performance of Mitzvos, and they thus stated to Bnei Yisrael on their return from the trip that “The land eats its inhabitants.” Meaning to say that the new method of Divine service which we will greet in Eretz Yisrael will threaten our existence as independent beings who can serve Hashem. They therefore desired to remain in the desert and draw down the G-dly light only into the spiritual world of Malchus, in which their existence will not be threatened. In truth, however they made a grave mistake, as the entire purpose of creation is for exactly this purpose, for the Divine light of Or Ein Sof to be delivered into this physical world and make for Hashem a dwelling place below.


10. Why the Meraglim didn’t believe in Hashem’s abilities to conquer Eretz Yisrael:[36]

Based on all the above, we can now address the question brought of how the Meraglim, who were Tzadikim, could make a heretical claim that even Hashem cannot conquer Eretz Yisrael. The Meraglim had no issues in Emunah, and knew full well that Hashem is Omnipotent, and can do what He wants and as He sees fit and no one can stop Him! If Hashem could conquer Egypt, the world’s greatest superpower, then certainly he could conquer a few small nations in Eretz Yisrael! They however believed that this ability of Hashem is only possible if Hashem performs miracles and breaks the natural order of the world. If, however, Hashem decides to stop the performance of miracles, and requests a natural conquest of the land, then Hashem is limiting Himself to His own rules of order, and it is no longer certain that they would be able to conquer the land. The entrance to Eretz Yisrael, as explained above, would usher in an era of natural order where miracles cease, and man must work and toil for natural accomplishments. Accordingly, the Meraglim stated it is not possible to naturally conquer the land, and if Hashem limits Himself to the natural order and abstains from the performance of miracles, then even He, so to say, cannot be successful. Accordingly, it is understood that the Meraglim intended no heresy in their statement, and nevertheless remained Tzadikim even after their claim. [This answer’s the third group of questions brought above.] Nonetheless, in truth, they were mistaken, as even within nature, Hashem has ability to affect the supernatural. This is called “above nature within nature”, that Hashem naturally arranges miraculous results without breaking any rules of nature. [This was vividly seen in the eventual conquest of the land, as well as the Chanukah and Purim miracle.]


11. Why Hashem fulfilled the request of the people:[37]

The last question that still remains to be addressed, is why Hashem punished the people by giving them exactly what they requested, to remain in the desert. As explained above, the mistake of the Meraglim, and the generation influenced by them, was that they desired their personal growth of closeness to Hashem rather than the fulfillment of Hashem’s ultimate plan of having a dwelling place below. While, in the ultimate purpose of things, this was considered a mistake, it is a true perspective for temporary service of G-d. In order to reach the ultimate goal of making G-d a dwelling place below, and desire to fulfill this purpose, one must first excel in his personal growth. Once one excels in his personal growth to the point that he now realizes the true focus and purpose of his Avoda, he can then begin tackling it. This is why Hashem made the Jews remain in the desert for 40 years under good conditions. Hashem saw the Jewish people were not yet on a level where they understand or desire to fulfill the true purpose of their Avoda, and hence he had them remain 40 years in the desert, under the greatest spiritual environment, for them to eventually reach this level and then be ready to enter Eretz Yisrael.


12. The story of Mekosheish Baeitzim:[38]

Based on all the above we can now also explain why the Torah chose to tell us the story of Mekosheish Baeitzim in the end of this week’s Parsha. The Mekosheish Baeitzim was an episode of a Jew who desecrated Shabbos through collecting wood and was subsequently put to death for doing so. The Torah tells us this story here, in the end of Shlach, as chronologically, it occurred right after, and as a result of, the story of the Meraglim. Tosafos[39] explains that the man purposely desecrated Shabbos in order to show the Jewish people that even after the event of the Meraglim, they are still obligated to perform Mitzvos. Since the Meraglim’s entire argument against entering Eretz Yisrael was in truth an argument against performing the Mitzvos, it was possible to misunderstand, that Hashem’s decision to have them stay in the desert, rather than enter Eretz Yisrael, granted them their request and freed them from the need to fulfil Mitzvos in the desert. Accordingly, the Mekosheish Baeitzim performed a public transgression to debunk this misunderstanding and emphasize the need to perform Mitzvos even in the desert.


13. Does the Dor Hamidbar and Meraglim have a portion in the world to come?[40]

After all is said and done, notwithstanding their righteousness and good intentions, the Meraglim and their generation made a grave mistake for which they were punished severely. The Mishnah discusses whether they will have a portion in the world to come:[41] Rebbe Akiva is of the opinion that the generation of the desert does not have a portion in the world to come. Rebbe Eliezer is of the opinion that they do have a portion in the world to come. Prior to bringing this dispute, the Mishnah [according to some versions[42]] plainly states that the Meraglim do not have a portion in the world to come. It is however unclear if Rav Eliezer, who argued on Rebbe Akiva, is also arguing on this point, or only on the point that the generation of the desert has a portion in the world to come, while the Meraglim do not. Practically, how do we rule? Whenever there is an unsettled dispute in the revealed part of Torah we turn to the esoteric parts of Torah for arbitration.[43] The Zohar[44] states in several places, as well as the Midrash[45], that the generation of the desert has a portion in the world to come, and due to this, Moshe Rabbeinu did not enter Eretz Yisrael, in order so he can escort them in the future after Techiyas Hameisim. Furthermore, it is implied from the Zohar that even the Meraglim have a portion in the world to come.[46] The Kabbalists[47] bring an original interpretation to the statement of Rebbe Akiva who states they do not have a portion in the world to come, stating this means that they are of such a high level, that they do not even need Olam Haba.


Lessons of the Sicha:

· In life, we face a great dilemma entering the responsibilities required for living in a physical world. We need to get married, monetarily support our wife and family, dedicate emotional support to them, and be involved in various mundane activities required in life. All this severely impairs our ability of religious growth, to excel in study of Torah and Divine service, and focus on the true purpose of life. We learn in Yeshiva for many years and are brought up in an environment free of worries which allow us to pursue our spiritual beliefs and desires. Getting married and entering the work force suddenly places all that to a halt. This phase change can be shocking for many individuals and leave them in confusion in how to combine their religious beliefs and pursuits with the time-consuming ordeals of a physical life. Some view that the two cannot work together, and its one or the other. They enter the work force, due to lack of choice, and give up on excelling in any spiritual achievement, and turn religion into a robotic form of life. Others cannot bear the thought of giving up their religious aspirations and refuse to accept life’s responsibilities and either avoid marriage or avoid entering the work force. Others enter the work force due to lack of choice but lead a depressed and unfulfilled life due to their dying aspirations of spiritual growth. From the story of the Meraglim we learn that all the above perspectives are mistaken. The Yeshiva Bochur who is surrounded with only spiritual service and responsibility is similar to the generation of the desert. Leaving the system and entering the world by getting married, making a living, and combining it with a more limited spiritual orientation, is similar to the plan for the Jews to enter Eretz Yisrael. Life in the Beis Midrash is a temporary phase to prepare one for real life, to serve Hashem together with his physical responsibilities. That is his true purpose, and was the entire intent of his years in Beis Midrash. One who runs away from entering the responsibilities of the physical world, becomes depressed upon doing so, or gives up on spiritual service as a result, is repeating the same mistake of the Meraglim and Dor Hamidbar. Religious society must recognize the phase after the Beis Midrash and view it as entering a greater phase in service of G-d and not Chas Veshalom as a demotion of one’s religious service. The working-class religious Jew is not a second-class citizen, but a citizen of honor who fulfills Hashem’s will just like the Torah learner. If we educate our youth that carrying physical responsibilities is no contradiction to our religious growth, and on the contrary, is its purpose and culmination, it will encourage them to enter these responsibilities with a head held up high and continue their spiritual growth in the best of their ability.  

· One of the great lessons from this Sicha is how one can never judge a book by its cover, and never judge a story simply by what one is told, even in Tanach. Discern into the story, and you will see the matter is not as simple as it seems, and the sin is not as literal as perceived. We can also use this for our daily lives in how we judge others, that we should not give superficial judgment of mistakes and transgressions that we see, and truly inquire the details prior to voicing an opinion on the person. 


[1] Bamidbar 13 with commentary of Rashi

[2] Seder Hadoros year 2449; Chizkuni 13:25

[3] Rashi 13:2 based on Deavrim 1:22; Sota 34b

[4] Rashi 13:3 “At that time they were Kosher people”

[5] Rashi 3:16; Sota 34b

[6] Seder Hadoros ibid; Chizkuni 13:25

[7] Sota 35a; Rashi 12:31

[8] Rashi 14:33

[9] Michaber 580:2

[10] See Rashi 14:37; Sota 35a; Beis Yosef 580 that the punishment and suffering began immediately

[11] These questions are brought in Likkutei Sichos 2:28; 33:78

[12] Sota 35a; Rashi 13:26

[13] These questions are brought in Ramban 13:2

[14] Devarim 9:1-2

[15] These questions are brought in Likkutei Sichos 4:1041; 18:173; 28:85; 33:82; Derech Mitzvosecha p. 181

[16] This question is addressed in Likkutei Sichos 33:87

[17] M”A 580:2 in name of Shelah Hakadosh [However, see Shlah Hakadosh Al Hatorah where he clearly writes they were Reshaim. Vetzaruch Iyun]; Rav Shmuel Vital in Shaar Hapesukim Shlach; Likkutei Torah p. 72; Likkutei Sichos 33:85; Semuchin Lad Shlach; Tiferes Yonason Shlach in name of Shlah; Toldos Adam Shlach in name of Rav Yitzchak of Varka

Other Mefarshim: Most of the Mefarshim view the Meraglim as Reshaim. [See Bies Yosef 580; Bach 580; Shlah Al Hatorah; Igros Moshe 3:14]

[18] Likkutei Torah p. 72

[19] So is evident from all the above sources!

[20] Megillah 23b

[21] 14:27

[22] See Beis Yosef 55 in name of Rashba; P”M 55 A”A 10; Igros Moshe 3:14

[23] Likkutei Sichos 33:85

[24] 580:2

[25] See M”A 580:2; Beis Yosef 580; Bach 580

[26] M”A 580:2 in name of Shelah Hakadosh [However, see Shlah Hakadosh Al Hatorah where he clearly writes they were Reshaim. Vetzaruch Iyun]

[27] Likkutei Sichos 33:80

[28] Ramban 13:27

[29] Zohar 3:158, brought in Shlah Hakadosh Al Hatorah; Rav Shmuel Vital in Shaar Hapesukim Shlach; Semuchin Lad Shlach; Tiferes Yonason Shlach in name of Shlah; Toldos Adam Shlach in name of Rav Yitzchak of Varka

[30] The Zohar ibid explains that the Meraglim, who were tribal leaders, feared they would lose their position after entering Eretz Yisrael, and hence did not desire to enter. [See for explanation on this: Shlah ibid; Shem Mishmuel Shlach; Sefas Emes Shlach]; Rav Yitzchak of Varka ibid explains they did it in order to show Klal Yisrael the dangers of disrespecting Eretz Yisrael, and they thus desired to be a living sacrifice to show the consequences. Rav Shmuel Vital, and other Mefarshim ibid, explain they did not want to enter Eretz Yisrael because they knew Moshe would die prior to entering, and they wanted Moshe to live, and learn under him, for as long as possible.  

[31] Likkutei Torah p. 72; Likkutei Sichos 4:1041; 18:173; 28:85; 33:86; Sefas Emes Shlach

[32] Likkutei Torah p. 72; Torah Or Vayigash p. 44a; Likkutei Sichos 4:1041; 18:173; 28:85; 33:86; Sefas Emes Shlach

[33] Likkutei Torah p. 72

[34] Likkutei Torah p. 72 based on Eitz Chaim; Torah Or p. 22b

[35] Likkutei Torah p. 72

[36] Likkutei Sichos 4:1041; 18:173

[37] Likkutei Sichos 33:87

[38] Likkutei Sichos 28 Shlach p. 93

[39] Tosafus Bava Basra 119a

[40] Likkutei Sichos 23:96

[41] Sanhedrin Mishneh 108a; 110b

[42] It is not written in the Mishneh in Yerushalmi and is missing from some prints of the Bavli Mishneh [se Likkutei Sichos ibid footnote 63]

[43] See Sdei Chemed Klalei Haposkim 2:13

[44] Zohar 1:113; 2:157; 3:168; Zohar Chadash Bereishis 14

[45] Tanchuma Chukas 10; Bereishis Raba 19:13

[46] Zohar 3:276

[47] Asara Mamaros Chikur Din 2:8; Migaleh Amukos Shlach 14; See also Kedushas Levi Shlach for a similar interpeprtation.

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