Parshat Shelach Lecha is perhaps the most tragic parsha of the Chumash. The march of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel came to a sudden standstill--one that would last a long forty years.
Who should get the blame for the meraglim fiasco? Was it the report of the spies, or the lack of faith of the people that did us in? Might it be possible to question Moshe’s judgment in sending spies in the first place? And might we even question G-d who, knowing the fickle nature of His people, allowed them to fail? When leaving Egypt, G-d “did not lead us the way of the Philistines, although it was the shortest route, because G-d said perhaps the people will lose heart when they see war and will return to Egypt” (Shemot 13:17).
Sefer Bamidbar describes not only the physical locale of the Jewish people, but their spiritual state. Wandering in the desert, they could not be self sufficient, neither physically nor spiritually. The book, like the desert, is one depressing story after another. While Bamidbar makes for fascinating reading and its lessons are crucial for community building, for those in the desert, little came of their aimless wandering.
Of the 12 leaders sent to Israel to help prepare the people for their imminent entry into the land, only Yehoshua is previously known to us. He was Chief of Staff during the Jewish people's first war, when Amaleki terrorists attacked the women and children of Israel soon after the Exodus.