In this parasha, Moses is told to send out twelve spies, princes of Israel (each the Prince of a Tribe) to request that they spy out the Land of Israel before the Israelites enter it. The spies returned and all but two gave out an evil report on the land; Joshua Bin Nun and Caleb Ben Yefuneh said that the Children of Israel certainly are able to go up and acquire it.

In the desert, the supervision and guidance was heavenly.

We need to understand the nature of the sin of the spies, as they were not simple men but important men: "the heads of the Children of Israel." To help us understand this, we must realize that there is an essential difference between the supervision and guidance by G‑d in the desert and between His supervision and guidance in the Land of Israel. In the desert, the supervision and guidance was heavenly. The bread descended from Heaven, refined and pure, with no need to refine it further. The clouds protected the Nation of Israel and cleaned and pressed their clothing, and they drank water from Miriam’s well. This generation is called the Generation of Understanding (da’at), and the fulfillment of the mitzvahs was mostly by way of spiritual service.

This was not the case in the Land of Israel. The supervision and guidance by G‑d is seemingly according to Nature and not a visible Heavenly supervision. Once they arrived there, the Manna ceased to fall, and they ate bread that grew from the land. The fulfillment of the mitzvahs in the Land of Israel is also by way of physical planting, plowing and harvesting especially the mitzvahs dependent on the Land, such as Shemitah (the 7th year in a cycle, where the land lies fallow) and Tithes.

After the "Breaking of the Vessels", the Holy Sparks fell into the material, physical realm. We elevate them to Holiness through mitzvahs and their blessings. There is another unique and special result that when a person refines the good from the evil and elevates the good to Holiness, the person himself thereby also becomes refined.

...fruitfulness...come in a place where one has to exert effort to refine something...

Joshua Bin Nun and Caleb Ben Yefuneh were from souls connected to the Land of Israel. Regarding Ephraim, it is written that his father, Joseph, called him by this name upon his birth from the term, "Elokim has made me fruitful [in Hebrew, 'Hifrani'] in the land of my affliction." All (beneficial) increases and fruitfulness specifically come in a place where one has to exert effort to refine something, not to just receive from what is already prepared, the form of service of Torah and mitzvahs in the Land of Israel. About Caleb, the Holy Ari writes that he was a reincarnation of Eliezer, Abraham's servant, who was from Canaan; therefore, Caleb too was connected to the Land of Canaan, which became the Land of Israel.

Therefore, Joshua and Caleb said that the Land flowed with milk and honey. Milk represents chessed and Honey represents gevura, as opposed to the Manna, which was "like coriander seed, (pure) white," only chessed, without the service and effort of refinement.

The rest of the spies preferred the heavenly control and guidance that existed in the desert so that they could continue studying Torah without material worries. They didn’t understand that the desert existence was just a prelude to the ultimate service of elevating the material and physical to Holiness through fulfilling the mitzvahs in the Land of Israel.

Delivered orally; translated by David Devor from his notes and extensively edited by staff.

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