Parshat Shlach contains the famous story of the spies that are sent in to check out Canaan, which would later become Israel. The decision to send the twelve spies, however, was made by the people, as G-d previously assured the Jews that He would take care of everything. But they insisted on seeing for themselves, and were instructed to send the spies of their own accord (13:2). The tribe leaders went in to spy, and came back with an awful report, scaring the Jews into wanting to go back to Egypt. What happened? What happened to the faith in G-d, and with all His open miracles? What happened to the spies that they didn’t realize that everything they saw in Canaan was actually a blessing (1 – They saw huge fortresses, but that really meant that people in them were scared of something, 2 – They saw people dying, but G-d made it that someone died when the spies came, so that the inhabitants would be preoccupied with burying them and not notice the spies, etc.)?
The answer lies in their very first mistake.. they wanted to see the land through their own pessimistic eyes, and that’s what they got to see. Seeing things without the proper perspective can make even positive things look bad, even if you’re a tribe leader that people depend on and look up to, even if you’ve witnessed countless miracles in your life, and even if G-d just told you that He’s on your side. What seemed like a harmless request turned out to be a disaster that cost the Jews 39 more years in the desert! They could have done it right had they done what Yehoshua (Joshua) did: put G-d’s name first (Yud, the letter representing G-d added to the beginning of his).
We too can look at the world and at our lives, and see living without G-d and the Torah, and it may not seem so bad. Inevitably we’d end up wandering in circles, only to realize that it was our decision to be “free” that caused us to be slaves to nature and to our desires. Conversely, we can find our Torah goal, hang it where we can see it, and despite the challenges and through it all, we’re guaranteed to “see” it through.