While the stage was set for the tribal leaders to lead the Jews into the Promised Land after returning with their report, Parshat Shelach describes the tragic negative report that led to the Jews being kept in the desert for 40 years until the next generation was ready to claim their Promised Land. As the Lubavitch Rebbe asked; roughly a year after the miracles in Egypt, the splitting of the sea, the giving of the Torah and many other miracles, how could the tribal leaders suddenly doubt G-d’s ability to help us occupy the land that was promised to us? The Jews’ doubts are even more difficult to understand if you take into account Rachav’s description of Yericho’s residents’ fear of the Jews as they neared (Joshua 2:9-11).
The Rebbe answered his question by saying that the leaders didn’t fear failure, they feared success. While in the desert G-d was close and intimate with His people. The leaders knew that when we entered the land we’d need to fight battles, create an economy, farm, and have other distractions. However, the Torah was built to thrive within society, and is a moral guide which is to be used for engagement with the world. While being close to G-d alone in the desert is an amazing experience, using the Torah to guide us within our world is its true purpose.