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Which sin banned Moshe from the Land?

Written by d fine

Pasuk 37 of the first perek of Devarim requires much explanation. In fact, it seems to turn parshas Chukas, the sin of the spies, and Moshe’s hitting of the rock completely on their various heads. The pasuk is brought in the context of Moshe berating the people for the sin of the spies, and reads ‘HaShem was also angry with me because of you, saying ‘you shall also not go there.’’ In other words, from this pasuk it seems that the reason Moshe was not allowed into Eretz Yisrael is because of the sin of the spies, not the hitting of the rock. Yet the psukim in Chukas clearly say that it was the hitting of the rock that saw Moshe refused a Divine entry visa into the land? There is much discussion amongst the commentaries here; conscientious students should have a look at the Ramban and Ohr Hachaim here. We shall give an answer by combining something that Rav Moshe Shapira said with the Ohr Hachaim here.
Rav Moshe notes that in essence the sin of the spies meant that Moshe would not be allowed into Eretz Yisrael. The depth of the gravity of the sin of the spies was, as the Maharal writes, that had the sin of the spies not occurred, our entrance into and settling in Eretz Yisrael would have been of a completely different nature. He explains that the initial plan was that the Exodus and the entering into Eretz Yisrael was to be one process. This is why one expression of the redemption from Egypt is ‘I shall bring you (ve’heiveisi) to the Land I promised to give to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov and I shall give it to you as an inheritance, I am HaShem’ (Shemos 6:8); HaShem told Moshe before He took us out of Egypt that the Exodus and going into the Land of Israel was to be one process. What this means is that Moshe would have led us into Eretz Yisrael (just as he led us out of Egypt) and our entrance into Eretz Yisrael would have taken on the same status as the Exodus, meaning that just as the Exodus remains with us forever and cannot be taken away from us, so too would our entrance into Eretz Yisrael have remained forever, in that no enemy nation would ever be able to exile us from the Land. Furthermore, had the spies come back with a positive report about the Land, (and would have taught the people the unique spiritual lessons housed in Eretz Yisrael) we would have undone the sin of the golden calf and the first set of tablets (the ones smashed by Moshe as a result of the sin of the golden calf) would have been returned to us. However, we did sin with the sin of the spies, and so the Exodus was divorced from our entrance into the Land of Israel; they became two processes, which meant that Moshe did not lead us into the Land and it would now be possible for an enemy to (temporarily) exile us from Eretz Yisrael – galus was now a possibility. That’s the sin of the spies.

However, the greatness of the Kiddush HaShem that could have been achieved at Mei Merivah had Moshe listened to HaShem’s instructions regarding the rock, would have corrected the sin of the spies, and Moshe would have regained that entry visa into the Land of Israel. However, Moshe failed to produce this top-notch Kiddush HaShem at the rock, and thus did not manage to correct the sin of the spies – with the result being that he was still not allowed into Eretz Yisrael. Had Moshe spoken to the rock, he would have shown Bnei Yisrael that the world of nature is a mirage, and ultimately HaShem’s will dictates what happens here. This would have had the effect of undoing the damage of the sin of the spies, whose root cause was the belief in the world of nature and statistics – that the giant people of the Land are too strong for the Bnei Yisrael to conquer.

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