Devarim – Merciful Consequences
“Because of you God has rebuked me as well, saying that you too will not come there.” (Deuteronomy 1:37)
Moses was speaking of the nation’s reaction to the report of the spies. The people had despaired, and the consequence of that despair was forty years of wandering in the desert. Nobody, other than Joshua and Caleb, survived from the adults of that generation. They all passed on during those forty years. Moses too, would not survive the forty years, and here he is laying the blame upon the nation.
As far as we know Moses and Aaron lost the privilege of entering the promised land when Moses struck the rock. The Torah explicitly states that, “Hashem said to Moses and Aaron, since you had no faith in Me, to sanctify Me in the midst of the Children of Israel, therefore you will not bring this people into the land that I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12)
So which one is it? The cause of Moses being barred from entering the land seems to be a matter of dispute between God and Moses. God pinned it upon Moses’ failure to follow His instructions to speak to the rock, and Moses here is pinning it upon the episode of the spies and the people’s despairing reaction.
The sages say that the episode of the spies was a watershed moment for the nation of Israel. Moses was to bring the people into the land. Under his leadership the Temple would have been built, and a Temple built by Moses would have been eternal, lasting forever. The people’s loss of faith upon the report of the spies, however, set a problematic trend. It illustrated, nay, it instigated, a pattern wherein the people would succumb to poor judgement and failure to observe their commitments to God. Actions are followed by consequences. This is inescapable. The people would have to bear the consequences of their failings.
A Temple built under Moses’ leadership would be untouchable. It could not be destroyed. The burden of the consequences would perforce fall upon the people themselves. The nation would not survive the consequences of their failings if those consequences would fall upon them.