Within the letters of the word shlach lies the story of the spies. They first chose out of free will to see a land despite the fact that there were already guarantees. Reversing the word shlach, we arrive at the word chalash, weak. In this case, the free will decision was an exhibition of weakness as God already promised a land that would stand as their home. Certainly man should exercise his free will, the greatest gift bestowed upon us, but not when the Almighty already gave promises. Then, the final straw was the report which was tinted with their own interpretations. They were on a fact finding mission, not a mission to offer their opinions and personal judgements about what was possible. Rearranging the word shlach, we arrive at the word lachash, to remain quiet. Their failure was in their not silencing their imaginative thoughts regarding what they saw.
Despite the destruction caused by the spies, perhaps leading to the forfeiting of the land, our merciful God delivered the mitzvah of giving challah when we enter the land. All was not lost after all.
Furthermore, my uncle, Rabbi Genack, points out that God gives the mitzvah of tzitzit at the end of the parsha as a tikkun for the meraglim. In both occurrences the words, reitem (to see) and taturu (to spy) are used. In the mitzvah of tzitzit we are told not to spy after our eyes, but rather to “see” God’s grandeur through the tzitzit by looking at the techeles which reminds us of the heavens above (see the beginning of Yerushalmi, Brachos).
Let us celebrate the “second chance” doctrine offered by God to give us a land despite our imaginative belittling of it and giving us a tikkun for a sin that had major historical consequences.
By Steven Genack