Manufacturer’s Instructions

June 12, 2017 at 2:14 AM , , ,

“…We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we…” – Bamidbar 13:31

לֹא נוּכַל לַעֲלוֹת אֶל הָעָם כִּי חָזָק הוּא מִמֶּנּוּ – במדבר יג, לא

Moshe sent spies to the Land of Israel, instructing them, “See the land, what is it: are the people who inhabit it strong or weak? Are they few or many? And what of the land they inhabit: is it good or bad? And what of the cities in which they reside: are they in camps or in fortresses?” (Bamidbar 13:18-19)

When the spies returned, they reported, “The people that dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified, and very great.” Thus, concluded the spies, “We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” Their report caused the people to weep, saying that they would rather return to Egypt. As a result, G‑d delayed Bnei Yisrael’s entry into the Land of Israel for forty years. The ten spies were punished and died in a plague.

But what was the spies’ crime? Had Moshe not instructed them to determine those exact details?

Manufacturer’s Instructions

The answer is that their offense was not in their report, per se, but in the mistaken conclusion that they drew based on their findings. Seeing the natural challenges that they would face, the spies concluded that fulfilling G-d’s command was simply beyond Bnei Yisrael’s abilities.

Moshe, on the other hand, asked about the land and its inhabitants, but only for tactical purposes—in order to chart the most feasible route for a natural victory. If it would ultimately require miracles, Moshe trusted that G-d would intervene. He was certain, however, that G-d’s command to conquer the land would be fulfilled. It was only a question of the best way to make it happen.

The story of the spies and their tragic mistake underscores the importance of having “Moshe’s approach” to all the mitzvos commanded by G-d. For even a human being would not instruct someone to perform a task that he knew the other person was incapable of performing. All the more so the Creator, who knows the precise abilities with which He created us, and before Whom there are no miscalculations. We can therefore be certain, that if G-d instructed us to observe the mitzvos, they are all undoubtedly within our reach.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 13, pp. 39-40


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