Defining Perfidy

Sivan 25, 5782
June 24, 2022
Candlelighting Time 8:14 PM

            Even though our legacy was besmirched by the ignominy of the Golden Calf debacle, however the nation was still poised to enter into the Land of Israel. Hashem guaranteed that the promised land would be unparalleled in beauty and worthy for the chosen people. There was now a caveat presented to Moshe. The people wanted to first scout out the land and investigate its environs. Surely the guarantee of Hashem was satisfactory but seeing is believing and an onsite report would certainly be appreciated by the nation. Therefore, twelve scouts were selected to return with a description of the new land that would reinforce what they had been told! Although Hashem was displeased by this development, however, it was sanctioned, albeit begrudgingly. As we know, ten of the spies can back with discouraging news about Israel which through the entire camp into a frenzy about entering into the promised land.

            There seems to be confusion about how to label the violation that occurred. Rashi in the beginning of the parsha explains the proximity of this event with the previous incident when Miriam slandered Moshe. These evil people saw how Miriam was punished for her disparaging remarks about Moshe, yet this did not deter them from denigrating the land of Israel. Their slurring of the land of Israel was categorized as loshon hora, or a malicious smear about the land.

            However, when Hashem spells out their iniquity, they were accused of straying away from Hashem in their pursuance of criticizing the land of Israel. It seems that they sinned because they instigated the nation’s insubordination of Hashem’s word. Certainly, a serious indictment against them, however not the same as slander, loshon hora.

            Furthermore, the Torah also levels against the spies another accusation. Their contempt for the Land of Israel was also a factor that goaded them to falsify their report about the promised land. Would they have loved the Land of Israel as they should have, then their attitude would have been positive. Had their perspective been upbeat, they would have seen the land in a different light. Alas, they scorned Hashem’s paradise and ruined this grand opportunity for an entire generation.

           Rashi also cites a Midrash that the actual decree against the generation was already in progress due to the Golden Calf fiasco, however, this incident warranted the decision to punish them. Is there a connection between the two or is it possible that two random events enjoined to castigate the nation?

            S’fas Emes has a fascinating insight into the minds of these ten great men who represented the nation in their mission to scout the land and provides us with a truly inspiring message for all generation. The people who were led out of Egypt and accepted the Torah on Mt. Sinai were a special breed. They were essentially the precursors of all generations that would follow. They carried tremendous responsibility to ensure that the nation would successfully develop and promote the message that they received from Hashem for all time. The atmosphere in the desert was unlike any other period in our history. The entire nation witnessed miracles of tremendous significance daily, the Clouds of Honor hovered above them, the well of Miriam accompanied them and they ate the same ‘food’ that the angels ‘consumed. To compromise that level of closeness to Hashem and settle into a lifestyle outside of this cocoon of intense spirituality did not seem to be appropriate. Although perhaps foreign to us  but their intent to remain loyally subservient to Hashem precisely was their  demise. In the final analysis, our adherence to Hashem’s will determines our success or failure in life.


We are commanded to sanctify Hashem’s Name and when one defiles Hashem’s honor and violates that mission, he invites the severe punishment of ‘Koreis’ a total estrangement from his nation.