The Mission

INSIGHT: Of Tourists, Scouts, and Spies

The Mission

The day? The 29th of the month of Sivan, not long after the giving of the Torah.

The year? 2,449 years since Creation, a bit over a year since the Grand Exodus Out of Egypt.

“My fellow Jews,” Moshe announced. “The moment we have all been waiting for is drawing near. Soon, we will enter the Land of Israel – Eretz Yisrael!”

Shouts of joy rang out throughout the crowd of thousands. But mixed with the happiness was plenty of worrying.

“We are in for big trouble!”

“How will we ever conquer a land that is filled with so many mighty nations?”

“He is absolutely correct. We’re much too weak to fight them.”

“Perhaps it’s better if we don’t even try!”

Someone else suggested, “Hey, I have an idea. Let’s send some of the finest, most intelligent scouts ahead of us to check things out. They can report back about how strong the enemy is, and tell us the best way to attack.”

The idea caught on quickly.

“Yes! Super idea!”


Absolutely amazing!

“Yes! Let’s demand that Moshe send scouts right now!”

They crowded around Moshe, all talking at once.

“Scouts! Scouts! Scouts!”

“Scouts you say? Hmmm,” Moshe hmmmed (is hmmmed a word? It is at Shazak!) “Who needs scouts? HaShem promised us the Land of Israel, and He will fight our battles for us! There is absolutely nothing to fear.”

“We want scouts! We want scouts!” the people chanted.

And then one voice was heard amongst the crowd, “Moshe, we want SPIES and we want them now!”

“Spies?!” thought Moshe. “Who ever mentioned the word spies? I have a bad feeling about this whole business, but I can’t show them that I am afraid.”

“Well… let me ask HaShem,” Moshe said. He was worried.


Shazak insight

Of Tourists, Scouts, and Spies

Now for some definitions from the Shazak dictionary:

Tourist: People who travel to foreign lands to enjoy the sights and experiences that the land has to offer, as in, “The tourists couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the Niagara Falls falling!”

Spy: A person sent on a secret mission to gather information about the enemy. As in, “This suspicious, sneaky spy secretly saw the enemy’s secret plans.”

Scout: One who is sent ahead to gather information, as in, “The Boy Scout went ahead to find the easiest trail for younger kids.”

So what’s the connection between tourists, scouts, and spies with Parshas Shlach?

A lot! In the beginning HaShem’s instructions were clear – LaSur Es HaEretz. With an Israeli or Sephardic pronunciation, it would be LaTur Et HaEretz – “To Tour the Land.” This was the message from HaShem, “Trust in Me. I said the Land of Israel is very, very good. But if you insist… go. However, go like tourists and come back like tourists, telling your fellow Jews all about your adventures.

But then, things changed… for the worse. They switched roles, deciding on their own to become scouts – more than just tourists. Investigating. Oh, no!

Then another switch… even worse! They acted as spies, with a secret mission (perhaps even dressing like spies – with trench coats, upturned collars and dark sunglasses.)

This was their sin… changing the mission, and as we shall see, they failed miserably and caused a major delay in arriving in Eretz Yisrael – in fact, a 40 year delay.

Now let’s take this one step further:

Our Sages call this sad episode, the Chet HaMeraglimThe Sin of the Spies. Wait! Not one place in the Chumash does it mention the word spies!

But perhaps this is what our great Rabbis were pointing out – the sin was the fact that they considered themselves Meraglim – spies!