Moses asked the spies, "…does the land have trees or not…?" The Holy Zohar says that the Hebrew word for "trees" utilized here, "etz", refers to the Tree of Life, the Etz HaChaim, as it is written, "It is a tree of life to all whom hold fast to it". (Proverbs 3:18) Moses wanted them to pay particular attention to the nature of the Land. Was it a holy land suitable for supporting a nation dedicated to Torah study and spiritual growth? They only saw the physical nature of the land…

Their answer: they returned with a giant cluster of grapes and enormous figs. They only saw the physical nature of the Land and their interpretation was that everything about the Land was abnormal.

Speaking negatively about the Land of Israel is a grave matter. The Meshech Chochma points out that G‑d has more concern for the Land of Israel than for Himself. After the Children of Israel made the Golden Calf, G‑d was ready to grant them forgiveness, i.e. "My presence will [still] go forth and lead you". (Ex. 33:14)

But after the mistake of speaking negatively about the Land of Israel, G‑d said, "Because you complained about me, your corpses will fall in the desert…your children will be herded from place to place for forty years…I have spoken and there is no way I will not do all this to the evil community that has banded against me..." (Num. 14:29-36)

Once, a repentant known to us only as Reb Adam, came to Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk looking for a path of return to holiness. He had already adopted a program of self mortification, including fasting, rolling in the snow and other physical deprivations. He had a ghoulish, haunting look about him and it was clear to Rebbe Elimelech that his self-imposed path of repentance was not fitting. Rebbe Elimelech began to speak…about the goodness of the Creator, and…the entire Creation is for our benefit…

Immediately, Rebbe Elimelech called for one of his disciples to take Reb Adam and wash him up and dress him in clean new clothes, to prepare a good meal for him, and then give him a bed to rest in. It was only after a few days of this treatment that Rebbe Elimelech agreed to see Reb Adam again. Now Rebbe Elimelech began to speak to Reb Adam about the goodness of the Creator, and about how the entire Creation is for our benefit, that we may enjoy this world and derive strength and inspiration for serving its Creator.

As Rebbe Elimelech spoke, Reb Adam began to weep profusely. Rebbe Elimelech placed a prayer book before him opened to the Confession prayer ("Viduy"). "We have been guilty…" Reb Adam blurted out, and fainted on the spot. They afforded him time to revive, all the while continuing the royal treatment. The next day he came again before Rebbe Elimelech. Like on the previous day, Rebbe Elimelech expanded on the theme of the goodness, kindness and compassion of the Creator of the world, and about the beauty of the Creation and it's incredible harmony and balance. Again the penitent man began to weep and Rebbe Elimelech placed the prayer book opened to the Confession prayer in front of him. "We have acted treacherously…" he stammered and again fell in a dead faint.

This scenario repeated itself day after day until after a month had passed, Reb Adam had repented on every element of the Confession prayer. He became a joyous, radiant individual. He had learned that a Jew needs to surrender his self-conceived notions about who and what he should be, and to simply strive to appreciate G‑d, the Creator, who sustains all living things. If only they would have looked at the land with a kind and approving eye…

That was the task that Moses gave to the spies. They were to look for the good in the Land of Israel and to come back with a report that would inspire and encourage the nation to continue on in the path to the Land to which G‑d was leading them. After all, G‑d had promised them a land flowing with milk and honey - a symbol that the Land lacked no resources for sustaining its people.

For this reason Moses, even though he was not permitted to enter the Land of Israel, was at least allowed to have a look from afar. G‑d made a point of showing Moses the Land before his death. (See Deut. 34:1-4.) The Ramban says that G‑d knew the great love that Moses had for the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. Therefore he gave him the opportunity to see the Land from border to border from afar before his death in order that he should have the joy of seeing the bountiful land the Jewish nation was going to inherit. And Moses' gaze at the Land was certainly a blessing for the Children of Israel.

The spies also had the opportunity to bring a blessing to the nation and to lead them quickly into the Land of Israel. If only they would have looked at the land with a kind and approving eye. Like Reb Adam, they needed to learn to simply appreciate G‑d for the abundant goodness that is prepared for us each and every day.

Parashat Shelach is an opportunity each year to consider and reconsider our own attitudes towards the Land of Israel. May G‑d help us to see only the good in the Land of Israel and in all of the Jewish People!