The narrative of this week’s Parsha is fascinating, and demands an explanation. I hope we can present the story here in a way that makes some sense.
The fledgling nation was yet in its childhood. It had passed its infancy but was far from mature. Moses’ goal was to ultimately wean them from their dependency on him and on G-d’s overt miracles. This was necessary to prepare them for independent life in the Promised Land.
As our sages note, and is evident from the recounting of the story in Deuteronomy, it was neither G-d’s nor Moses’ initiative to send spies into the land before crossing with their families and possessions. This was an initiative of the people. Moses recognized this request as a step toward independence and he welcomed and supported this spirit arousing within the people. Here they were making their first democratic, strategic decision on their own. They assumed leadership, set up a committee and were ready to launch the responsible and independent endeavor of sending spies to the land they were to shortly enter.
At the same time, Moses recognized the danger inherent in this mission. He did not miscalculate or overlook the discomfort of the chosen spies in their mission. They were clearly not excited to enter the Promised Land and their reports would inevitably reflect this mood. Moses even took steps to protect his disciple Joshua from falling under the influence of the others, altering Joshua’s name to one that reflected G-d’s protection from the designs of the spies.
Despite these forebodings, Moses went ahead with the mission. He knew that maturity comes at a price, and in order to grow mistakes must be allowed to occur and lessons taken from them. The nation was capable of making mistakes, and learning from them.
During the last few weeks, our baby Moshe learned to walk. Learning to walk includes taking many falls – that is a necessary part of learning to walk. As a parent, we had to let go of Moshe’s hand. Our responsibility was to determine that his falls would not hurt him more than necessary. We wouldn’t let him walk near steps which he could fall down, or with obstacles strewn on the floor. We made sure the living area is relatively childproof, with no sharp edges or tripping hazards. Moshe would have to do the rest by himself. And he did. He is becoming increasingly steady on his feet. We can safely allow him to navigate more difficult terrain as he polishes his walking ski