This week we are privileged to read the portion of Shlach. The portion begins with tragic event which brought about so much sorrow to Klal Yisroel, the spies that slandered Eretz Yisroel. Twelve spies were sent to explore the land and report to Klal Yisroel. All but two, came back with negativity. Yehoshua and Koleiv were the two that stood out and tried convincing the Jews that our land is very very great. It was then decreed that the Jews would have to wander in the desert for forty years. The entire generation (who were over the age of twenty during the exodus of Egypt) passed away in the desert aside from the two spies who defended the Holy Land, Koleiv and Yehoshua. Moshe once again begged of Hashem to forgive the Jewish people. Hashem forgave but the punishment remained. We later learn about adding libations (nisochim) to all the offerings. The Torah also discusses the mitzvah of challah, which needs to be separated from dough. The portion ends with mitzvah of Tzitzis.
There’s an obvious question which should disturb anyone who learns this portion. Why is it that by the sin of the golden calf (cheit ho’eigel), which seems much worse than the sin of the spies, Hashem accepted their atonement and forgave them, however here we find that the nation was sad and mourned, and still they needed to stay in the desert for forty years and no one except for Koleiv and Yehoshua survived. Why so much harsher ?
I’d like to offer an insight which perhaps will shed some light on the difference between the approach of the two methods of Tshuva. One can do Tshuva, regret the sin and feel remorse to a great degree, however, there’s no point on dwelling on sin, move on! Others may sit and dwell and be depressed over the terrible sin they committed and that remains the focus. This is not the right approach. One needs to be happy that Hashem gives us the opportunity to rectify the wrong and repent. The Torah tells us in Bamidbor 14/39, when Moshe repeated Hashem’s harsh punishment - vayisablu ho’om meoid - the nation mourned greatly. Depression and sadness has no place in Judaism, regret is ok remorse is ok, but one needs to move on and get closer to Hashem, not stay in the mud. This is perhaps why we are left with Tisha B’av as part of the remnants of this sin, you want to mourn, Hashem will give you what to mourn for. Tshuva needs to be done with Simcha and joy, that one can open a new page and Hashem will accept him under his wings.
The Rebbe of Kotzk gives a different explanation. The content of the sin of the golden calf, was the pursuit of spirituality, however the content of the sin of the miraglim (spies) was the pursuit of materialism. The sin of the golden calf although it was greater than the sin of the spies, it was however in pursuit of spirituality, therefore it can be atoned. A sin for pursuing materialistic gains, is much harder to atone.
The Baal Shem Tov adds another dimension that although they did Tshuva they referred to it as, Asher Omar Hashem ki chotonu - G-d said we sinned (Bamidbor 14/40). They didn’t recognize it deeply on their own they just referred to it as, Hashem said we sinned.
May we merit to rectify the sin of the spies, by always appreciating what Hashem gives us and thereby bring the ultimate redemption.