By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
While the Torah details the sin of the spies in Parshat Shelach, Moshe Rabeinu recounts their sin in Parshat Devarim. Moshe Rabeinu reminds the nation of their reaction to the spies’ negative report: “You sulked in your tents and said, ‘It is because the LORD hates us that He brought us out of the land of Egypt, to hand us over to the Amorites to wipe us out.’” (Devarim 1:27) One would expect the nation that was miraculously redeemed from bondage in Egypt, received the Torah on Mt. Sinai, and consumed the heavenly manna, to feel loved by God. Why on earth did they feel hated? Additionally, God had promised to bring them into the Promised Land. Why would they think that God’s intention was to have the Amorites wipe them out?
Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin explains (see Seforno for similar explanation) that the generation that left Egypt had no doubt that God’s intention was to make their descendants God’s treasured nation in the Land of Israel, and that God had tremendous love for their descendants. However, they felt that God hated them for being idolaters in Egypt. They thought that God had only spared their lives temporarily to assist in bringing the next generation for entry into the Promised Land. Now that they were about to enter the land, they feared God still hated them for their idolatrous past and would have the Amorites wipe them out. Moses attempts to prove to them that, in fact, God loves them and intends to bring them into the Promised Land, but they refuse to accept his words.
The generation that left Egypt could not find it within themselves to believe that God loved them despite their idolatrous past. The core of their mistake is actually a flawed and limited notion of God. They are limiting God’s kindness, love, and compassion by assuming that their sinful past limits God’s ability to love them. It is true that we strive to gain favor in God’s eyes by avoiding sinful behaviors and performing mitzvoth. Nonetheless, when we fall short of perfection, we should never give up on receiving love, compassion, and goodness from God. True faith dictates that one recognizes that God is so compassionate that even though one may have made mistakes, God still loves and cares deeply. Giving up hope of receiving goodness from God because of our imperfections is a lack of faith in God’s infinite kindness. Despite our many imperfections, let us constantly hope and believe in God’s infinite kindness and love, and in the merit of our trust and faith, may God bring the final redemption speedily in our days.