The Parshah begins with the twelve individuals who were tasked with spying out the land of EY. In describing these men, the Pasuk says איש אחד איש אחד למטה אבתיו תשלחו כל נשיא בהם. If one would read the simple reading of the Pasuk, the words כל נשיא בהם would mean that they sent every Nasi that there was by Jews. But that obviously can’t be, because the Pasuk says איש אחד איש אחד למטה אבתיו תשלחו. Also, these are not the only Nesiim because we know the official Nesiim have been mentioned in Parshas Naso. Therefore, when the Pasuk says כל נשיא בהם, it can’t mean all the Nesiim by the Jews.
Because of this issue, the Rashbam and אבן עזרא both explain that the word כל goes back. Meaning that one person was sent from each שבט and each one that was sent, meaning כל, was a נשיא בהם. That each one was someone who was נשא את לבם ללכת, כל אחד נשיא להתנדב ללכת, meaning they volunteered for the mission. The Rashbam points out that the trup on the word כל is a טפחא which functions as a closing trup, so the word כל is not connected to the words נשיא בהם therefore indicating that everyone one of them that was sent, was a נשיא בהם. The תרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל on this Pasuk says גברא חד גברא חד לשבטא דאבהתוי תשלחון מן קדם כל אמרכול דבהון. It would seem that he is learning that the כל נשיא בהם is every Nasi, but it’s referring to the Nesiim mentioned in Parshas Naso and they each sent איש אחד למטה אבתיו תשלחו. This could explain the תשלחון that it was the Nesiim who sent them and the כל נשיא בהם is going on the senders and not the individuals who were sent. The חזקוני actually says explicitly כל נשיא ישלח איש אחד משבטו that it was each Nasi who sent someone from their tribe.
Rashi at the beginning of the Parshah quotes the Medrash Tanchuma saying למה נסמכה פרשת מרגלים לפרשת מרים, לפי שלקתה על עסקי דבה שדברה באחיה, ורשעים הללו ראו ולא לקחו מוסר. The fact that the Medrash asks למה נסמכה indicates that this was not the chronologically correct place for this event but yet it was put here to teach us a lesson.
However, Parshas בהעלותך ends with Klal Yisrael journeying from חצרות and encamping in פארן, and in the beginning of Parshas Shelach, the Pasuk says the Meraglim were sent from מדבר פארן. It would seem very clear that the episode with the Meraglim happened right after the incident with Miriam and therefore the way the Torah has it is the correct chronological order?
Rashi in the beginning of Parshas Devarim explains that Moshe hinted to Klal Yisrael their shortcomings by mentioning the places where these troubles occurred. Rashi writes regarding חצרות, that’s where מחלוקתו של קרח occurred. According to this, it’s possible that the next event chronologically after the incident with Miriam speaking Lashon Hara about Moshe was the dispute with Korach as it took place in חצרות. But it could also be that it took place before the מעשה מרים, because all we know is that they both took place in חצרות but we don’t know which happened first. So if the story with Korach happened after the מעשה מרים, then the question למה נסמכה is a good question because we should have the story with Korach immediately following the story with Miriam. Because of this, Rashi gives his explanation.
But we could still ask, that the story of Korach is much more connected with the story of Miriam because both of them have to do with going against Moshe, whereas the Meraglim was just about talking Lashon Hara against EY?
It could be that if the Parshah of Korach would be here, then we wouldn’t have asked the question of למה נסמכה, because it belongs here and we wouldn’t have learned the lesson that when you see something, you are supposed to learn a mussar.
But more than that, the lesson the Torah is trying to teach us that when you see something, you should learn a lesson, is not limited to a direct message like learning from Miriam that Korach should’ve learned not to speak against Moshe from her. But you should learn even a roundabout lesson, that when you see Miriam was punished was far talking badly about Moshe, you should that one should not even talk badly against the land. Therefore, the Torah puts the story with the Meraglim right after the story with Miriam to teach us that a person should be a רואה ולוקח מוסר even from things that are not so obvious.
In the back of the sefer דרך פקודיך written by the בני יששכר, there are a few chapters that he wrote on in נ"ך. There he brings, in the name of Reb Herschel Zidetchover, the reason that he is called “bin nun” and not “ben nun” is because they took 2 נקודות out of the three that were under the ב of בן and put it under the י of הושוע. Being that the נקודות under the י from שרי would not have sounded out the י of יהושע correctly, so two of the נקודות that were part of the סגול for בן were taken and put under the י leaving the ב in בן with just one נקודה making it “bin nun”. But the Rav asked that it can’t be because much earlier in the torah it says ויקרא משה להושע בן נון יהושע so you the see the “bin” was in the has been, because it has been before he got the י for יהושע. See the Ramban in Parshas כי תשא when Moshe refers to Yehoshua as a נער, there he explains why it says “bin”.
After the sin of the Meraglim, Moshe pleads on behalf of Klal Yisrael and he recites some of the י"ג מידות הרחמים and the Pasuk says ויאמר ה' סלחתי כדברך. We mention this Pasuk throughout the days of Slichos and on Yom Kippur. It’s interesting to note that these words are used in describing Hashem forgiving Klal Yisrael for the חטא העגל, yet they appear here and were never said by the חטא העגל.
The דעת זקנים בעלי התוספות, the פירוש הרא"ש, and the רבינו בחיי both raise this question and they answer that the Pasuk of ויאמר ה' סלחתי כדברך is Hashem responding to Moshe saying that I forgave them at the חטא העגל like you requested but now I am not going to forgive them But one could ask why was it that regarding the חטא העגל they were forgiven, yet by the Meraglim they weren’t? It would seem that the חטא העגל, assuming it was Avoda Zarah was far worse than the sin of the Meraglim?
It could be that sometimes, the large and grave sin doesn’t really sum up a person and because it was so beyond it could be interpreted as a fluke, but not that it really defines who he is. As opposed to the smaller sin, it can be more defining of who and what a person is all about. Like the Gemara in Ksubos 54a says regarding an אלמנה who does certain things causes her to lose her מזונות:
אמר רב חסדא: זינתה - אין לה מזונות. אמר רב יוסף: כיחלה ופירכסה - אין לה מזונות. מאן דאמר זינתה, כל שכן כיחלה ופירכסה; מאן דאמר כיחלה ופירכסה, אבל זינתה - אית לה, מאי טעמא? יצר אנסה.
The reason why כחלה ופירכסה, where she puts on makeup, could be worse than זנתה is because by זנתה, it was יצר אנסה but not that it is telling about the person’s character. However, by כחלה ופירכסה, it is more defining of who she is, and therefore she loses her מזונות.
Similarly, we say in Slichos וסלחת לעוננו כי רב הוא which is based on the Pasuk in Tehillim chapter 25:11, וסלחת לעוני כי רב הוא. Usually, the word כי means because and the simple explanation of the Pasuk is in spite of, as explained by the Meforshim in Tehillim. But based on the above, we can explain that we are pleading with Hashem that since you see that our sins are so big it can’t be that’s who we really are. Rather it must be just a fluke and a onetime mistake. Therefore the רב הוא is a reason why Hashem should forgive us just like he forgave us for the sin of the חטא העגל which was such a big sin.
When the Meraglim are giving over their report, they say ונהי בעינינו כחגבים וכן היינו בעיניהם. Rashi says שמענו אומרים זה לזה נמלים יש בכרמים כאנשים. Why did they describe themselves as grasshoppers in the eyes of the giants if they overheard them saying to each other describing them as ants? The רא"ם answers that it’s a טעות סופר and the Maharal in Gur Aryeh gives an explanation for the text as we have it.
Perhaps another explanation could be because as low as they felt they were, they still had some sense of pride. Therefore, even though they overheard the giants saying ants, they said to themselves we are at least the size of grasshoppers, which are larger than ants. (AJ Kaplan mentioned to the Rav to see the Chasam Sofer who says a similar idea.)
After the sin of the Meraglim, the Torah describes the מעפילים who after the גזירה decided on their own to go up and fight Amalek and they were not granted permission and they were killed.
Reb Tzadok in the צדקת הצדיק פרק מו, talking in a spiritual sense, says that the fact that the Pasuk says והוא לא תצלח (יד,מא) indicates that it is a מהלך that can succeed but at this time it won’t. But how could that be, because how could one go against the word of Hashem? It should not have said והוא לא תצלח because it’s completely not a מהלך that it would need to sayוהוא לא תצלח because it would seem that such a מהלך is irrelevant.
Reb Tzadok explains that you see even when the word of Hashem is one way, there is a בחינה of כל מה שיאמר לך בעל הבית עשה חוץ מ´צא. Meaning, that a person can be an עקשן and push his way in. So Moshe was telling them that at this moment in time, it’s not going to work. But since he said it as והוא לא תצלח, he was hinting to the fact that although this time it won’t work, there are other times that it will work, referring to the עקבתא דמשיחא. Reb Tzadok continues writing referring to his times, which was in 1848, that the Gemara in the end of Sotah describing the עקבתא דמשיחא, that חוצפא יסגא. Although we usually interpret that to be a bad thing, he writes that even those who are told to leave and are not allowed, will be allowed in with the כח of עקשנות.
Since we know that things in the material and physical sphere are a reflection of the spiritual sphere, it could be that Reb Tzadok is hinting to the fact that in עקבתא דמשיחא, even people that are not ראוי will be able to fulfill the עלה נעלה וירשנו אותה.
Regarding the נפילים that the Meraglim saw, Rashi says ענקים מבני שמחזאי ועזאל שנפלו מן השמים בימי דור אנוש. These were mythological beings who fell from heaven. In the Zohar, Parshas Breishis דף כה, it says that these angels who became human were the angels that said, at the time of the creation of man, מה אנוש כי תזכרנו as brought in the Gemara in Sanhedrin 31a.
The sefer Beis Yaakov, written by the Ishbitze, in the Maamarim on Yom Kippur writes that this קטרוג of מה אנוש כי תזכרנו became part of the human personality that every person has within himself. The question of who are you? You are unworthy and inadequate and should not have even been born.
Now it is understand that when the Meraglim were exposed to these giants, it’s no wonder they began to have such feelings of feeling like חגבים because these were the giants that made humans feel inadequate and unworthy.