The Parshah tells us how Moses selected twelve emissaries and sent them on a mission to ascertain the strength and weaknesses of the Canaanites, preparatory to fulfilling G‑d’s command to conquer Canaan. Caleb and Joshua were true to their mission, but the other ten brought back distorted reports in an attempt to discourage the Jews from proceeding to the Holy Land. They raised three basic objections to the attempt to conquer the land.

The first was a general objection: the overwhelming strength of the Canaanites. Though G‑d had shown them miracles in the past, would divine aid be powerful enough to overcome these mighty nations?

Second: was Israel worthy of miracles? The spies pointed out the presence of the Amalekites, who had previously attacked Israel when the Jews demonstrated an unworthy lack of faith.

Third: though G‑d might show miracles at the conquest of the Holy Land itself, would He do so in the preparatory stages to the conquest, at the approaches to the land where the Hittites, Jebusites, etc. lay in wait?

Hearing the remarks of the ten spies, the Jews began to seethe with rebelliousness. Caleb then reminded them that G‑d had (a) split the Red Sea, (b) brought down for them the quails and (c) given them the manna. In these few simple words there lay profound answers to all three discouraging claims!

Red Sea: At the Red Sea, the position of the trapped Israelites appeared hopeless before the superior forces of the Egyptians. However, Caleb reminded them, Moses “split for us the Red Sea,” and no war ensued; G‑d Himself fought on their behalf. He could do likewise with the mighty inhabitants of Canaan.

Quails: As to the “Amalek claim” of the Jews’ unworthiness, Caleb reminded them that even when they capriciously asked Moses for meat, and were simply looking for trouble, G‑d nonetheless miraculously supplied them with the quails. Now, too, G‑d would show them miracles despite their unworthiness.

Manna: The Israelites’ journey through the desert was only in preparation for, and incidental to, their entry into the Holy Land. Yet the Almighty performed for them the daily miracle of the manna, refuting the spies’ claim that G‑d might not show miracles on the approach to Canaan.

Every one of us is an emissary of G‑d to transform his environment into a “holy land.” We, too, face discouraging “reports” from our own evil inclination. In some, it induces the fear that one’s environment is particularly materialistic, more so than anywhere else; one’s surroundings are therefore uniquely inimical to the spread of Torah (“the inhabitants of the land are mighty”).

In others, the evil inclination evokes a feeling of unworthiness to pursue so sacred a mission (“mentioning Amalek”); while to yet a third, the inclination makes it appear that there are hindrances to prevent even the approach to the object of his life’s mission.

Our response to the evil inclination is clearly indicated by Caleb’s reply. Though the environment is strongly materialistic, though we are not perfect and have sinned, though there are extraneous distractions and hindrances, the Almighty nevertheless gives us—individually and collectively—the strength to break all barriers, overcome all obstacles and fulfill our life’s mission.1