Dvar for Shelach (Numbers 13:1-15:41)
Among the questions about the land of Canaan that Moshe commanded the twelve spies to investigate was “does it have trees or not?” and then added “you should take from the fruit of the land.” Rashi cites a midrash explaining that this question was not literally about trees, but rather whether there were upright people in the land whose merit might protect the inhabitants. The Satmar Rav (quoted in Talelei Orot) asks a question on the Midrash: How were the spies to determine if there were upright individuals in the land? We all know that there are plenty of phonies around and sometimes the person with the most pious exterior is disguising a rotten core.
The Rav explains that “you should take from the fruit of the land” was Moshe’s advice on how to investigate the true character of the Canaanites. Look at their “fruit,” their children and their students. A person can easily fool the casual observer, but children and students are acutely sensitive to hypocrisy. If there were truly upright and righteous people among the Canaanites, the spies would find upright and righteous children and students; but if there was no proper “fruit” to be found, then the “trees” were absent as well. May we merit to have the sincerity and integrity to be “trees” that produce the proper fruit.