The portion of Shelach tells us the story of the spies. They returned from their tour of Canaan and reported, "That the nation that is settled in the land is strong..."1 For this reason, they claimed that the Jewish people shouldn’t enter the land to engage its inhabitants in war because "they are mightier than us."2 Our sages say that the spies were saying that they are mightier (heaven forfend) than G‑d: "If it's possible, the Owner of the house [i.e., G‑d himself] can't even get His belongings out of there."3 And thus they frightened the Jewish people.

It is difficult to understand how the people could have possibly be frightened by the words of the spies after all the miracles G‑d had done for them.

They were in a desert, living with miracles. They were protected by the Clouds of Glory and witnessed daily how the clouds killed the terrifying snakes and scorpions that were in the desert.4 They ate manna that fell from heaven, they had the Well of Miriam which traveled with them, and more.

They also witnessed miraculous victories over powerful nations like Egypt, and they saw amazing miracles5 such as the Splitting of the Sea. So how is it possible that they were frightened by the report of the spies?

Even a bigger question is Caleb's response, who unlike most other spies encouraged the congregation to enter the land. Why didn't he mention any of the miracles? Wouldn't it have been the best proof that they shouldn't be afraid? All he said was, "Ascend, we will ascend, and we will inherit it."6 Why didn't he mention anything about the miracles?

One might think that the 31 kings of Canaan, all of whom were strong and powerful,7 may have been more powerful than Egypt, and that is why they were afraid. But it wasn't so, because Egypt was the superpower of the world at the time, ruling all of civilization and the Canaanite kings paid homage to Egypt.

When Egypt was destroyed, the Jewish people all sang together at the Song of the Sea: "All the inhabitants of Canaan melted."8 And this lasted until the conquest of the land 40 years later, as the spies that Joshua had sent to Jericho heard from Rahab, "...that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away because of you. For we have heard how G‑d dried up the water of the Sea of Reeds for you when you came out of Egypt..."9

The Alter Rebbe explains that the reason why the spies didn't want the people to go into the land is because they didn't want to deal with the physical world.10

In the desert they were living a totally spiritual life; they were higher than the world. Their food was bread from the heavens, their water was from the Well of Miriam and their clothing grew with them. They didn't have to deal with the physical world. They were able to be separate, with no one to bother them and could bask in the light of Torah.

Once they would enter the land, the bread from the heavens would be no more; they would have to toil to make bread from the earth, which took a lot of work, sowing, planting, etc. That is why the spies said, "The land eats its inhabitants,"11 because the involvement in the land is all-consuming. That is the nature of the physical world: to make a living sometimes takes all of your effort. They would also become subsumed by the land, preoccupied with the physical, and there would be hardly any time for spirituality.

When they would enter the land, the Well of Miriam would stop giving water and their clothing would stop growing with them. In other words, their involvement with the physical would be consuming. They would no longer enjoy the spiritual pleasure associated with being cut off from the world.

In truth, the spies were making a mistake. The main purpose of the Torah and the Jewish People is to make the lowest level, the physical world, into a home for G‑d.12 Life in the desert was only a preparation for the work of making a home for Him in the physical.

The spies were of the opinion that the miracles that they experienced were because in the desert they were above nature. But they would enter a reality of settling the land, and there would be no room for miracles because the will of G‑d is that nature should rule. It is as if G‑d had imposed on Himself that He shouldn't be able to act above nature and do miracles there. And being that this is the case, they thought it appropriate to take into account the natural strength of the Canaanites in comparison to theirs. That is why they said, "They are mightier than us," and "The Owner of the house can't even get His belongings out of there." G‑d Himself can't help us (if one can say such a thing).

To that, Caleb answered, "If G‑d wants us,"13 if it's His will, then we will surely succeed: "they are our bread ... G‑d is with us, don't be afraid." G‑d is with us—and He will bring above nature into nature. Hashem is above nature and He is also involved within nature. He is able to mesh the two, bringing above nature into nature, which means doing miracles within and through nature, which is a greater feat than a miracle that breaks nature.14

And how would they do it? "Ascend, we will ascend, and we will inherit it." Why does he say “ascend” twice? And why does he say “inherit”? Shouldn't he instead have said, “conquer”?

We will ascend twice and join G‑d by going above nature and then withinnature. Therefore we would be able to conquer the land.

This was, in fact, the case; when conquering the land 40 years later,we experienced miracles through nature and within nature.

Now we will understand why he said “inherit.” Because when we were conquering the land, G‑d put us in a position to carry out His work, privileging us with greater responsibility, as a son who naturally fills his father's position15; This is true for a Jew’s work within the Land of Israel and in the rest of the world. That means that we can affect nature by infusing it with holiness from Above, making this world into a home for G‑d. We can do it because we are with G‑d, bringing the beyond into nature.

And how do we do it? Through our actions, by the performance of mitzvot and through doing our daily, mundane activities for the sake of Heaven.16 This began when they entered the land. The time in the desert was only a preparation for the work of making a home for G‑d, the most important task.

And this was the mistake of the spies. They meant well, but it wasn't what G‑d wanted.

That is why we have to be connected to the Moshe of the generation, who knows what Hashem wants. Even with the best of intentions, we can be lead to doing the wrong thing and sometimes it can be destructive, as it was in the case of the spies.

We are all guilty of this at one time or another. With the best of intentions and sometimes with righteous zeal, we do things that are wrong, hurtful or destructive. That is why we need a good guide to tell us the proper way. Sometimes the difference is in the way we think, and the right way is very subtle, but it makes all the difference.

When it comes to Judaism and religious matters, we have to turn to the Moshe of our generation. Even a tzadik (righteous person) is not immune to failure, as the spies were all tzadikim, hand-picked by G‑d.

And this is true in marriage as well. With the best of intentions, we can hurt the one we love most. It might be very subtle, but it is hurtful nonetheless. No one is immune to this and it works both ways; sometimes it is the husband that is the hurtful one, and sometimes it's the wife.

That is where communication comes in. A husband and wife have to learn to communicate with each other and have the difficult discussions that will put them on the path to a happier marriage.

If you are having a difficult time communicating, you should know that it's the most common problem between husband and wife, and a good marriage counselor can help. Please don't be ashamed or hesitant to go to a marriage counselor. Just about everybody goes, and you will be happy that you went.

May we merit to see the coming of Moshiach, which will come when we finish “conquering” the world with our mitzvot and good deeds, and make it into a home for G‑d. And may we all have good and happy marriages, a little taste of Moshiach. May he come soon.17