"You shall send one man from each tribe to represent his father's tribe." (Num. 13:2)

Moses knew that it was not necessary to spy out the Land: On another level, however, Moses knew that despite G‑d's promises of supernatural assistance, it was proper to approach the entry into the Promised Land in a natural way, for there is never any guarantee that miracles will occur, or to what extent. By preparing ourselves maximally in the natural way, we pave the way for G‑d to bless our efforts in a miraculous way, and even elicit this divine favor. In this context, Moses approved of sending out spies to see how the land could be conquered naturally.

G‑d wants us to fulfill our divine mission with our own understanding, not just out of pure faith….

Furthermore, Moses knew that G‑d wants us to fulfill our divine mission with our own understanding, not just out of pure faith. When we understand the particulars of what G‑d wants us to do, we do it with greater enthusiasm and involvement. He therefore thought that it was proper to send men both to report on the land's quality and to spy out how to conquer it, for that way, the people would be more enthused about entering it and more confident that it could be conquered.

This is also why G‑d left the final decision of whether or not to send spies up to Moses. By doing so, the whole venture became an expression of this ideal of letting the people take the initiative rather than allowing them to rely solely on G‑d's explicit instructions.

The spies' error, in this sense, consisted of going beyond the scope of their mission and drawing conclusions. They were not being deceptive: Moses had asked them to see how the land could be conquered naturally, and they felt it could not. But they should have recalled that Moses only asked them to see how the land could be conquered, not if.

The lesson for us is that even when we employ our own understanding, we must remember that we are doing so because G‑d wants us to, that we are doing so on His behalf.

Conquering the Land of Canaan…means conquering the body and animal soul….

The verse says that Moses should send out men. Allegorically, conquering the Land of Canaan and transforming it into the Land of Israel means conquering the body and animal soul, sanctifying them and transforming them into holy entities.

The espionage mission spoken of here is the first of such operations recorded in scripture. The mission of the spies sent by Joshua is the third. (This mission is read as the Haftorah of this parasha.) There were two basic differences between the two missions. Firstly, while Joshua's mission was dictated by G‑d, Moses' mission was left to Moses' discretion. Secondly, Moses' spies canvassed the entire land, wile Joshua's were sent specifically to Jericho. These differences reflect the spiritual variations inherent in the two missions.

The seven nations that inhabited the Land of Canaan signify and embodied the seven basic emotions. G‑d does not command us to "spy out" and conquer our seven emotions, since the average person is not able to completely control and transform his seven emotions, i.e. his inner self. Such a mission can only be undertaken on Moses' discretion, since it can only be accomplished by someone whose divine consciousness is on the level of Moses', a tzadik.

The average person has complete control only of his outer self, i.e. his soul's means of expression: actions, words, and thoughts. These means of expression are signified by the city of Jericho. Jericho means "scent", and scent is an external aspect of a person's being; it therefore signifies his behavior - thought, word, and deed - which are external in contrast to his emotions. The soul's means of expression are its "garment": we can change our modes of thinking, talking, and acting, just as we can change our clothes. Joshua's mission, therefore "canvassing Jericho", is appropriate for all, since anyone can examine and rule over his "Jericho". Thus, G‑d directly commanded Joshua to send spies to Jericho.

…we must also strive to achieve Moses' level of divine consciousness.

The account of Moses' mission is relevant for the rest of us in that we must also strive to achieve Moses' level of divine consciousness. The more we meditate on the futility of materialism and the awesomeness of G‑d, the more we develop ecstatic love for G‑d and antipathy for anything that opposes divinity. To the extent we succeed in this, so may we inspect and conquer our seven emotions, as well.

Nonetheless, our primary task is to inspect and conquer our modes of expression. This is in fact the key to our ultimate conquest of our emotions (the seven nations) and intellect (the additional three nations), just as Jericho was the "key" fortress that "unlocked" the way into the Land of Israel. This is because the source of expression is deeper in the soul than is intellect or emotion, and therefore, harnessing our modes of expression and reorienting them towards holiness indirectly affect our emotions and intellect in the same way, just as our choice of clothing affects our self-image and perspective on life.

Adapted from Likutei Torah 3:51c; Sefer HaMa'amarim Melukat, vol. 2, pp. 311-314
© 2001 Chabad of California/www.LAchumash.org