By the 29th of Sivan, 2449, the Jewish people had reached the border of the Land of Israel. Some of the people asked Moses to send spies to scout out the land. Moses consulted with G d, and G d agreed to this plan. Moses chose 12 men, one from each tribe, for this mission. These men were among the most distinguished leaders of the Jewish people. However, all but two of them – Caleb, and Moses’ chief disciple Joshua – made the mistake of overstepping the limits of their mission.
The Limits of Reason
שְׁלַח לְךָ אֲנָשִׁים וְיָתֻרוּ אֶת אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן וגו': (במדבר יג:ב)
[G‑d told Moses,] “Send out men, if you wish, who will inspect Canaan.” Numbers 13:2

G‑d wants us to understand as clearly as possible the goals of our Divine mission and the methods by which He wants us to carry it out, for this helps us fulfill it more enthusiastically. Moses therefore thought that it was proper to send out scouts to spy out how best to conquer the land. That way, the people would be more enthusiastic about entering and conquering the land.

The spies’ error consisted of going beyond the scope of their mission and drawing conclusions. Moses only asked them to see how the land should be conquered, not if it could.

The lesson we learn from the spies’ error is that even when we employ our own understanding in fulfilling our Divine mission, we must keep in mind that we are doing so because G‑d wants us to – that we are doing so on His behalf. This way, we can be sure that we are using our intellect solely to arrive at the objective truth, rather than to supply ourselves with evidence that bolsters some conscious or subconscious subjective agenda.1