Rabbi Oury Cherki
Devarim - A New Order
Translated from Hebrew. Published at the Noahide World Center website and in Shabbat B'Shabbato.
The story of the scouts is repeated in the Torah portion, revealing a unique trait of Moses. The people decided that they would not be able to conquer the land because of the existence of the giants, and they said: "Because of G-d's hatred for us, He took us out of Egypt to deliver us to the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us." [Deuteronomy 1:27].
Moses replies in a way that is in its very essence different from the reply of Kaleb, who said, "Let us rise up and we will take possession of it, for we will be able to do it" [Numbers 13:30]. What Moses said was, "And I told you: Do not be dismayed and do not fear them. Your G-d, who goes before you, will wage war for you, as He did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes" [Deuteronomy 1:29-30]. Moses attempted to calm the people by telling them that just as miracles took place in Egypt and in the desert, so there would be miracles in the Land of Israel. Have no fear, he said, the war will be a simple matter.
It would seem at first glance that this behavior by Moses was a bit strange. After all, the most important factor in our entry into the Land of Israel was to go through a natural process. The sanctity of the nation of Israel and the sanctity of the Shechina (the Holy Presence) which dwelt within them are revealed by natural ways and not by miracles. Our sages have taught us that we should never depend on miracles (Pesachim 64b). A miracle is an after-the-fact event. If there is no alternative, when the person is too weak to cope himself with the challenges that confront him, then the Holy One, Blessed be He, performs a miracle. But this is not the most desirable path as a positive choice. Why did Moses react the way he did? The answer is that he felt that the nation was too weak. But then we can have a legitimate criticism of Moses – Why didn't he encourage the people to fight in a war, just as Joshua and Kaleb did in the Torah portion of Shelach?
And here Moses describes a very strong Divine reaction: "And G-d heard your words, and He became angry and took an oath: No individual from this evil generation will see the good land which I have promised to give to your fathers, except for Kaleb Ben Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give to him and to his sons the land on which he walked, because he followed my path." [Deuteronomy 1:34-36]. And this is followed by a very harsh verse: "G-d was angry with me too because of you, saying, you will also not go there" [1:37]. We usually see the reason that Moses was not allowed to enter the land as the sin of striking the rock at 'Mei Merivah' (the water of controversy) but here we see that there was another entirely different issue. Moses did not have faith in the power of the nation to fight without depending on miracles.
We see from this that in order to stand strong at the "Protective Edge" of the Land of Israel, without any weakening of our hold on the land, we must not depend on miracles. Rather, we must believe that G-d is with us as we follow the path of nature, and that He will support us in all of our natural wars.