Do you remember your first steps?

At first, father or mother would hold your hands in theirs and walk you across the room. Then, one day, he or she squatted before you, still holding your hands. Suddenly, he took a half-step back, let go, and you were on your shaky own.

You rushed to your parent. Perhaps you made it to her arms. Perhaps you fell flat on your face. In either case, you never really left her embrace, because all along her arms encircled you but inches from your body, prepared to let you fall, but also prepared to break or slow your fall if it were truly necessary.

But you probably did not notice those encircling arms. How could you notice them, when every muscle in your tiny body and every cell in your puerile brain was concentrated on the effort of putting one little foot before the other and reaching your father?

Who has not experienced this harrowing, helpless feeling in the course of his life? Who has not felt abandoned by G‑d, aimlessly adrift in a hostile world? But G‑d, said Chassidic master Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, is only acting as a benevolent parent teaching his child to walk. We never leave His embrace, though, at times, we do not notice His encircling arms. Indeed, how could we, consumed as we are by the daunting task of placing one toddling human foot before the other in the goal of reaching Him—on our own.

Imagine Moses' shock when G‑d said to him: "I'm not telling you what to do. Do as your own understanding tells you."

G‑d had already spoken many, many times to Moses, but always it was to tell him what to do. Go to Pharaoh, Moses. Tell him this and threaten him with that. Bring on the plagues, split the sea, gather the manna each morning—but remember, double portion on Fridays, none on Shabbat. I Am the L-rd you G‑d. Thou shalt not have any other gods before Me. Honor thy father and thy mother. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not cook a kid in its mother milk. Journey there. Camp here.

And then, one day, the children of Israel had this idea. Let us send spies, they said to Moses, to tour the land of Canaan, which G‑d has commanded us to conquer.

"G‑d didn't say anything about sending spies," said Moses.

"But we think it's a good idea. Ask Him."

So Moses asks, and G‑d says to him: "I'm not telling you what to do. Do as your own understanding tells you."

The people of Israel sent those spies in the end. Their mission was a fiasco. The Jews' entry into the Holy Land was delayed for forty years, and the entire course of Jewish history was altered.

The two year old nation was beginning to walk.