“Moshe sent them to spy out the land of Canaan…” (Bamidbar 13:17).
Despite the fact that Hashem had promised the Jewish nation, “I will bring you up from the affliction of Mitzrayim…to a land flowing with milk and honey,” they wanted to send spies to investigate conditions in Eretz Yisrael.
The Medrash Tanchuma says that Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu, “I swear that because of their lack of faith, they will err and will not get the land.”
The Medrash further states that Avraham Avinu left Ur Kasdim and went to Eretz Yisrael on the mere command of “lech lecha” – without analysis, investigation, or a promise that the land would be flowing with milk and honey. His descendants, however, who merited to witness the great miracles of yetzias Mitzrayim, kri’as Yam Suf, their victory over Amalek, and Matan Torah, were not willing to go to Eretz Yisrael without first surveying the land.
When the meraglim returned from their mission, they didn’t tell the people lies. They did something worse; they spoke half-truths that engendered despair and disillusionment. And because the Jewish people lacked emunah, they became troubled and confused.
The meraglim first spoke of the good of the land – they testified that the land was flowing with milk and honey, but then they tried to balance their report by speaking of negative aspects of the land that they perceived. By doing so, though, they lowered the morale of the Jewish nation and induced panic. Each family moaned and lamented until 600,000 people were crying bitterly.
When the meraglim reported that the “land devours its inhabitants,” the people no longer wanted to enter Eretz Yisrael, and it was decreed that the entire generation would die in the midbar. Although Yehoshua and Calev tried to encourage the people that the land was exceedingly good, the people didn’t believe them.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 100b) states, “Do not introduce anxiety into your heart, as anxiety has killed mighty men.” The Kotzker said that when a situation calls for great courage and strength, a person should think of Tehillim 29:1, “Deliver to Hashem, you sons of the powerful.” A person who is seeking to come close to Hashem should keep in mind that he is a “son of the powerful” – i.e. Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov – and is endowed with great fortitude and tenacity.
One Erev Shavuos, HaGaon R’ Shalom Mordechai HaCohen, the Maharsham of Brezhan, asked the general of the army stationed nearby to allow his Jewish soldiers leave to celebrate the Jewish holiday. Usually the general would readily accommodate the rav’s request, but this time he stubbornly refused, explaining that a major military exercise was scheduled for the next day and everyone’s presence was mandatory.
Rav Shalom Mordechai reminded the general that the king had promised to allow his soldiers to follow their religion. The general responded, “Even if the king himself made this request, I wouldn’t say yes. Even if the creator Himself asked, I wouldn’t change my mind.”
The rav was surprised at his adamant response and said, “The Creator doesn’t have to ask; it is within His ability to send a huge storm tomorrow that would force you to cancel the event.
“Honorable rabbi,” said the general, “you’re forgetting that we’re is the middle of the summer. The skies are clear, and nothing will prevent this event from happening.
“If Hashem brought hail in Egypt out of season, He can bring the rains here out of season,” replied the rav.
It was a clear night when everyone gathered for tikkun leil Shavuos. The rav then made an unusual request. He asked the congregants to say Tehillim that it should rain. Later that night, rain came down in torrents, completely flooding the fields. The exercise, of course, was cancelled.
On Shavuos morning, the general summoned the rav. “I know it was the honored rabbi who did all this,” he said.
“No, it wasn’t me,” replied the rav. “It was the Creator. A person should always know that everything is in Hashem’s hands, and there is little reason for us humans to worry.”
The general promised that in the future he would honor the rav’s every request. He did not even have to ask personally; he could send a messenger.