This week’s Torah reading relates that Moses sent spies to explore the Land of Israel before the entry of the Jewish people. They returned with a frightening report, telling how the inhabitants of the land were giants whom they feared they could not conquer.

The Jewish people became disheartened and stated that they did not want to enter the Holy Land. When G‑d heard this, He told Moses that He would punish the people by granting them their wish. They would not enter the land. Instead would wander in the desert for 40 years.

This narrative raises a question. Moses handpicked the people sent on this mission. The Torah describes them as men of wisdom and spiritual stature. How could such people commit such a gross error?

Chassidus explains that their error came about precisely because of their lofty spiritual stature. In the desert, they did not have to concern themselves with material affairs. They ate manna, received their water from Miriam’s well, and were protected by the clouds of glory. They could focus their entire energy on spirituality.

When they would enter the Land of Israel, this would stop. The people would have to work the land and reap its harvest. There would be less time to study, less time for contemplation. “So why do it,” said the spies. “Why not remain in the desert and perpetuate the present situation as long as possible?”

Why then did G‑d desire the people to enter the Holy Land? First of all, because miracles do not last forever. He would not continue to sustain the people in the desert indefinitely.

But more importantly, because keeping the people in the desert would run contrary to His intent in the creation of the world. He created our world to have a dwelling among mortals, that people - as they are involved in their material concerns - would make a place for Him in their lives. Had He desired a spiritual framework of existence, He would have created one. The fact that He desired that His dwelling be created in a material setting should inspire us to focus on that purpose.

This implies two contrary thrusts. On one hand, we must occupy ourselves in the material concerns around us instead of seeking to divorce ourselves from them. On the other hand, we should not see these material concerns as ends in their own right, but merely as mediums to carry out G‑d’s intent in establishing a dwelling.

This approach will prepare us and the world at large for the time when we will again enter the Land of Israel, led by Mashiach ; may this take place in the near future.