One of the most enigmatic events in the history of our people is related at length in the Torah portion of this week.

As the nation stood on the threshold of Eretz Yisrael and Moshe told them that it was time for them to conquer it (Devarim 1:21), a pivotal incident took place. Twelve of the truly great leaders of the nation, one from each tribe, went to survey the land — and all of them to the exclusion of Yehoshua and Kalev came back with a report that demoralized the people and caused them to lose faith in their ability to occupy their Divinely ordained inheritance. As a result, the entire generation was sentenced to death in the wilderness and Israel’s entry into the Land was delayed for nearly forty years.

The affair of the spies presents many questions, and much has been written to answer them. There is, however, one issue that I would like to discuss because of its relevance to a Chasan and Kallah, who, like the Jewish people of that era, are also preparing to enter a new world and a new land which they need to conquer to make it a place for G‑dliness.

The difficulty I am referring to is this: How was it possible that ten men who the Torah itself describes as “anashim” — “distinguished men” — should within merely a few days err so grievously and discourage an entire people and cause a national hysteria with such far-reaching consequences?

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chassidut, offers the following explanation in his Likkutei Torah writings on the weekly Torah portions.

In the wilderness the Jews had no association with material and earthly matters. They ate manna from heaven, water was provided from Miriam’s well, and the Clouds of Glory cleaned and ironed their clothing. And their young, too, as they would grow, their clothing would grow with them (see Devarim 8:4, Rashi). Upon entering the land of Israel, all this would change. The Jews would have to be involved in the daily activities of plowing and planting the fields, commerce, etc.

The spies, therefore, considered it better to remain in the wilderness and be totally immersed in Torah study and spiritual matters than to enter the land of Israel, where they would have to pursue mundane affairs.

Their fatal error was that retreat from mundane affairs is contrary to Hashem’s intention and purpose for creating this earthly world. It was G‑d’s intent that the Jew be exposed to dealing with the material and by associating it with the spiritual — Torah and mitzvot — elevate the material realm to exalted heights.

Of course, at times being involved with materialism can be a risky venture with serious negative consequences on the Jew. However, when he makes an effort to stay in the right path, he need not fear the influence of his surroundings. Yehoshua and Kalev told the people, “Do not fear the “am ha’aretz” — “the people of the land” — Hashem is with us, do not fear them” (14:9).

The Gemara (Sotah 17a) says that in the word “ish” — “man” — Hashem put a yud, a letter from His holy four letter Name the Tetragammaton. Likewise, in the word “ishah”–“woman” — He put a letter hei from His holy Name. When the husband and wife merit it, the Holy Divine Providence is together with them.

The reason for these two letters specifically is that they represent Olam Hazeh — the physical world and Olam Haba — the World to Come. This is derived by the Gemara (Menachot 29b) from the verse “be’ya-h Hashem tzur olamim” — “In G‑d Hashem is the rock” — i.e. the strength, of the worlds. The Torah could have written ya-h without the prefix beit. The Gemara says that the beit was included so that it should be expounded “be’ya-h” — “with the letter yud and the letter hei” Hashem formed worlds. This world was created with the hei and the World to Come with the yud.

Thus, already at the time of Creation of man and woman, it was the supernal plan that the two of them together deal with the mundane world, and by infusing it with spirituality they will earn their share in the World to Come.

The upshot of all this is that the ten meraglim — spies — were shortsighted. After having lived a purely spiritual life, the huge fortified cities, dreadful terrain, and great warriors frightened them to the extent that they feared an encounter with the modern world an insurmountable task. Yehoshua and Kalev, on the other hand, perceived that though we cannot do it on our own. However, if it is G‑d’s plan, then with His help we can conquer the land and make it an abode for Divinity.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, it may not be an easy task for a young couple to succeed in making this world an abode for Divinty, but, I am confident that if you remain attached to the Torah education you received and values your parents inculcated you with, you will, with G‑d’s help, build a beautiful Jewish home in modern day world. May I paraphrase to you, the words of Kalev “aloh na’aleh veyarashnu otah” (13:30) — “may you go from strength to strength conquer it” may you succeed in making your home and surroundings a place that G‑d will be proud of.