1) Moshe’s Approval of Mission?

Ramban’s question (Bamidbar 12:2) is the classic question of all the Rishonim: How could Moshe the miraglim’s mission as, “v’eitav b’eini, it was good in my eyes” considering it’s disastrous ending?! They were sent to spy out the land, and they came back saying lashon harah. All ten of them, excluding Yehoshua and Kaleiv, influenced the nation to question Hashem’s abilities. We know that it caused tremendous calamity for Klal Yisrael.  So, what was Moshe thinking to approve of this, ultimately, very tragic mission?


Says Ramban the classical idea that he stresses in many places. Hashem operates the world through tevah, natural means, and there was very good justification to state that: Yes, we know that Hashem is all capable. We know that He will bring us into Eretz Yisrael.  Anyone that learns through sefer Yehoshua will see the miracles that Hashem did to bring the Jews into Eretz Yisrael, but there was also tevah there as well in the sense that military strategy was initiated on part of the the Jews as well.

Moshe justified the request to send miraglim and understood that the motivation of the Jews was l’Sheim Shamayim. They were asking in order to fulfill their obligation to do hishtadlus, and, therefore, he sent out the spies with the understanding that they were going as tzaddikim and great people, like Rashi tells us, and that they were going to go and make a kiddush Hashem and do what was right. This is our natural of going about the world, of preparing, of this reconnaissance mission to get data and information about where we’re going, and then Hashem is going to lead them through.

Cry For Naught

What went wrong was that the men really had negative intentions, as Rashi states that the Nesiim sabotaged the process due to fear of losing their leadership role once the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael. Klal Yisrael, many of them, were in a bad place emotionally and didn’t believe that Hashem was capable of taking them in, despite all that Hashem had done in taking them out of Egypt. Because of their cry for nothing brought so much destruction to Klal Yisrael, and so that’s what Moshe was thinking: that, hey, this is your hishtadlus, and no one can argue with that,

Ask Da’as Torah and Be Honest

Hishtadlus is a personal thing.  How much histadlus should I make?  Should I work?  How much time?  Should I learn?  How much time?  Each person needs to ask da’as Torah, but also needs to be honest with themselves,

Yehoshua Also Sent Meraglim

To prove the Ramban’s point, we find when Yehoshua led the Jews into Eretz Yisrael, and he took over, he also sent spies. Granted he sent two tzaddikim that he knew would not mess up.  He sent Kaleiv, who had a good track record from this parsha, Yehoshua, was a collegue of his, and he sent Pinchus.. He still did that hishtadlus before entering Eretz Yisrael and conquering. it

2) Meraglim Didn’t Answer Moshe’s Questions

Moshe had asked very specific, intelligence gathering questions of the meraglim: whether hami’at hu? Is it a small army? A small place?  Im rav?  Or, is it large. The meraglim never answered this question.

Ramban (13:27) says that’s because they weren’t interested in giving factual reports about this. They just wanted to announce to everyone that it’s eretz ocheles yoshveha he, and they wanted to say their diba. When a person is focused on saying their negativity, they’re not interested in giving back honest reports; they’re interested in just promoting their own agenda, and really they were saying that the nation was small, but they didn’t want people to get distracted by that, and to get hopeful, and so they perverted the answer and they said: But, it’s “eretz ocheles yoshveha”.  It’s a dangerous place, and they’re very, very strong and we’re going to be in big trouble.  And, we see that when we get in a negative place we sometimes exaggerate things and say very hurtful things.

3) Kaleiv Vs. Meraglim

In perek 13, pasuk 32, so the Ramban discusses that Kaleiv tried to gather everyone back in and said: No.  “yachol nuchal lo”. Hashem is totally capable and able, and some of the people started to get swayed by his opinion, and to say: Yeah, he’s right.  Of course, Hashem is capable, and then there were others that were reliant on their own koach and their own gevurah, but didn’t believe in Hashem, and said: No. If we’re not able to do it on our own, then the meraglim are right.  

What happened was that the meraglim then went around, Chazal tell us, and they convinced everyone, started to rally everyone against Moshe and against Hashem to say that no we’re not able to go into the land and Hashem is not able to do it, and that, ultimately is what swayed many people.  And, so, again, we see the power of positive influence versus negative influence.  When there is negativity we’re in big trouble.

Name Change

We know that before Yehoshua had gone on the trip, Moshe had davened for him, “Kah yosheacha m’atzas hameraglim.  We’ve talked about this based on the Ramban earlier that really Yehoshua’s name had been changed to Yehoshua long before.  We’ve talked about this in the past, but, nonetheless, the pesukim tell us explicitly that Moshe certainly prayed for Yehoshua that he should not fall influence to these people, and it’s not a very easy thing to stay away from negative influences.

Negativity Causes Tragedy

We always have to be careful to see who we’re hanging out with because even people that were convinced to rethink their ideas based on Kaleiv’s intreaty, nonetheless, many of them were reconvinced by the meraglim who made their rounds and specifically got the nation to give up hope in Hashem’s abilities which was the tragedy that befell the Jewish nation.

4) “Sar tzilam mei’aleihem”

Ramban (14:9) mentions a very famous concept which is that on the night of Hoshana Rabbah, leil hachosam, when the judgment of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Aseres Yemei Teshuva is sealed, we know Chazal tell us that on Hoshana Rabbah it’s a day of great tefillah because on Rosh Hashana it’s written down, and on Yom Kippur it’s signed, and on Hoshana Rabbah the messengers are sent out to carry out the will of the king.  So, if a person doesn’t have a tzeil, a shadow on his head, that is a sign, G-d forbid, that he will die in that year, and he says that’s the p’shat in the pasuk that it says, “Sar tzilam mei’aleihem”.  Kaleiv and Yehoshua said: They have lost their shadow.  These people, they’re ours.  Now, again, the Jews did not want to believe, and they were not interested.

Hoshana Rabbah Shadow

This concept is a fascinating concept.  Rabbeinu Bechayeh elaborated on many words of the Ramban. He was a talmid of the Rashba who was a talmid of the Ramban.  So, he was a very authoritative person in understanding Ramban as a Rishon, and he elaborates, and he says: On leil hachosem which is Hoshana Rabbah, as we explained, it’s the twenty-sixth day of briyas haolam, and if a person does not have a shadow over his head, which, again, you have to be a kabbalist to see this, then that means that he is going to die, G-d forbid, on that year, and this is a very, very kabbalistic concept which is elaborated on by other people, beyond the scope of my understanding, but certainly a very famous Ramban that I like to try to point out if people are familiar with this Ramban.

5) Moshe’s Omission

Ramban (14:17) points out that when Moshe asks for mercy he evokes certain names of Hashem from “Hashem, Hashem Keil rachum v’chanun”, but he did not ask for midas haEmes. He did not say that word. Why didn’t he say truth?  Because middas ha’emes, according to truth, they would have been chayiv to die, and, therefore, Moshe did not want to go there because they were certainly guilty,

Zechus Avos

Moshe also didn’t say, “Notzeir chesed la’alafim”, that Hashem holds onto kindness for thousands of years because that would have implied that Moshe was trying to evoke zechus avos, that: come on Hashem, You hold onto kindness from the avos, and in that merit please save them.  However, they were not accepting the present that the avos had tried to bequeath them.  The avos, their entire goal was to build Klal Yisrael, and to serve Hashem, and to get Eretz Yisrael as the legacy of our Jewish nation, and the meraglim rejected that, and so it wouldn’t be appropriate for Moshe to evoke their zechus when it actually would have been a kitrug, a prosecution against them to mention that.

6) Kaleiv’s Vs. Yeshoshua’s Reward

“V’avdi Kaleiv” (14:24).  What beautiful words that Hashem said!  My servant Kaleiv.  Don’t we want Hashem to say those words about us. “My servant.” We know that Moshe is described as an eved Hashem as well.  So, Kaleiv will get rewarded.  And, the pasuk tells us the reward that he would get.  He would inherit an extra piece of land, so says the Ramban: Why is it that Yehoshua is not mentioned in this pasuk and his reward is not mentioned?

Various Rewards

Says the Ramban a very interesting thing.  I’m not sure where he gets this from, but most of his words are based on Chazal, but I was not able to track this one down clearly, but he says that it was specifically in this place, that because Yehoshua showed himself to be such a tzaddik and such a great person, that this is why he was chosen to be the one who would take over after Moshe, and so it wasn’t appropriate to say that explicitly here that Moshe was going to die and that Yehoshua was going to take over, but that is a very big reward that Yehoshua go because of his behavior in this situation.

Why Yehoshua?

What is left to be understood, which is a question I’ll leave you with: Is why is it that Yehoshua was chosen and not Kaleiv.  What’s the difference between the two?  Obviously, I understand that there can only be one leader, and Kaleiv certainly was one of the sages of the Jewish nation, but why is it that Yehoshua was chosen even more so than Kaleiv.  An interesting thought left to think about, but that says the Ramban is why it’s not said here explicitly because it wasn’t appropriate.

6) Techeiles means “Tachlis Hamaros”

Ramban (15:31) talks about tzitzis, and it has a strand of techeiles which is turquoise or blueish, and the Ramban says a very interesting thing.  Why is the word techeiles called techeiles?  A very strange name.  So, he says it is tachlis hamaros.  It is the epitome of all colors. 

Says the Ramban an interesting, philosophical, intellectual idea: That when you look at things from afar and you see things from afar, you can’t make out many colors what they are, but, says the Ramban, most colors kind of blend into this blueish hue, that kind of looks like this blueish color in the distance and that’s why it’s called techeiles.  It’s the tachlis of all colors.

Tzitzis Reminder

What does that mean? In my understanding, when we look at the tzitzis, it’s supposed to teach us about our tachlis, about our purpose, about our essence about what we’re here for.  We’re here to serve Hashem, and the tzitzis are on all four corners to remind us to grab onto Hashem.  And, tzitzis, yes, they’re a begged that are supposed to remind us, and, of course, the tzivui is for men to use them and to have them.  

They’re a mitzvas asei she’hazeman gerama; women are patur from tzitzis.  The minahag of Klal Yisrael is not for women to wear tzitzis because women understand how to connect with Hashem even without that physical reminder.  They have other reminders, ways to connect to Hashem, and for a man, his name is zachar, he’s a male, he has to remember, he has to remind himself that he’s a lot more forgetful when it comes to his responsibilities to himself and G-d, but the women, she holds it inside herself, inside her heart a deep commitment and connection to Hashem.  

Ramban says that it’s called techeiles because it’s the tachlis of all colors, and I believe that this is hinting to that it’s supposed to remind you of the tachlis of life.  The purpose of life is to serve Hashem, to connect to Hashem and to know that Hashem runs the worlds and is guiding the world, and this is what helps a person stay away from aveiros, which is what the tzitzis help for, and it’s what surrounds a person with kedusha and tehara.  The tallis is used in Jewish marriage, when someone gets married they put it on.  It’s something that they wrap themselves in a connection, creating a bond with G-d, sanctifying their body, sanctifying the world around them to be able to serve Hashem fully.  That is the tachlis of it all.

May we be zocheh to live life with that awareness and that growth.


Rabbi Yosef Tropper is a rav and psychotherapist. Learn more and subscribe at ParshaThemes.com