Living In The Clouds
Six-hundred thousand men from age twenty to sixty entered the desert with Moshe (Moses). Only two made it to the Holy Land.
They are blamed for testing G-d ten times.
The two greatest blunders are the Golden Calf and the Sin of the Spies. The Golden Calf was an ordeal between Man and G-d and the spies was an ordeal between Man and his fellow. Scholars associate these two sins with the destruction of the two Temples that happened for similar reasons.
It is actually quite remarkable for an entire generation to do only ten things wrong.
Two of the ten shortcomings were done by only a pair of people.
The vast majority of the lost generation were indeed great people. Throughout their darkest days of the Egyptian exile they never gave up on their heritage. They all spoke Hebrew, had Hebrew names, and dressed in Jewish-styled clothing.
Despite the failures, they succeeded in laying the foundation for the rest of Jewish history. They were judged by a very high standard.
Their life was on a different plane than ours.
G-d used open miracles to provide for their physical needs. Water came from a traveling well. Manna fell from the sky. It tasted like whatever you wanted it to be. Nothing came down on Shabbos (the Sabbath) but a double-portion came down every Friday. They were surrounded on all four sides by clouds. Clouds served as their roof and their carpet. It was air-conditioned inside. The clouds even washed their clothes. They led the way by day. A pillar of fire lit up the night. The miracles go on and on.
Within a very short period their lives went from the despair of harsh slavery to a super-life. They rapidly came out of dependent slave-life and they were on their way to become independent land owners. No nation had ever lived on the edge of miracles before. It wasn't exactly clear how much of the super-life they were going to bring with them into Israel. How were they going to transition into farmers?
It is therefore quite natural for them to feel a bit anxious about the journey to the Promised Land and this probably affected their judgment. They were faulted for not managing their anxiety. They could have demonstrated more faith in G-d.
They lost Moshe and Aharon, too.
The Oral Torah sheds some light on this. Had Moshe entered the Promised Land, then the Jewish people would have never been able to be exiled. Had he built the Temple, then it would have never been destroyed. By then, G-d had foreseen a need for the exiles and destructions.
Although they all died in the desert, their journey is far from being over. There is a view in the Talmud which says that during the Messianic Era they will all come back to life. Moshe will finally lead them into the Promised Land.
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