In the beginning of Sefer Devarim, Moshe recounts the incident involving the spies’ slandering Eretz Yisrael. Moshe explains that all of Bnei Yisrael ran to Moshe and requested the sending of spies. When the spies returned, Bnei Yisrael went crazy, once again running to Moshe, this time asking why he had been lying to them about Eretz Yisrael. We all know the rest.
The exact wording Moshe uses to describe the manner in which Bnei Yisrael approached him is (1:22), “Vatikrevun Eilai Kulchem,” “And you all came near to me.” Moshe could have simply said, “Bnei Yisrael came to speak to me,” so why does he say it in this manner, which implies a disorganized, excited mob?
Kli Yakar answers our question by comparing Bnei Yisrael’s actions here to their reaction to Matan Torah. At Matan Torah, Bnei Yisrael were so relaxed that they overslept! This contrasts with Bnei Yisrael being overly wild and enthusiastic by the incident of the spies. However, the opposite should have been true. Bnei Yisrael should have been enthusiastic and excited for Matan Torah, but instead they were sleeping. This showed that they did not care about the spiritual part of the Brit Bein HaBetarim. When it came to the physical aspect of the Brit Bein HaBetarim, the land, Bnei Yisrael cared too much. Through this contrast, we see that Bnei Yisrael neglected to give the Torah the respect it deserved. Therefore, when Moshe said “all of you,” he was implicitly rebuking Bnei Yisrael for not giving the Torah the proper respect.
Another reason for the strange wording might be a result of the Cheit HaEigel, the sin of the golden calf. While Moshe was on Har Sinai, the people had the audacity to build an idol! After all the trouble this sin caused, anyone who led us to participate in the sin died. When Moshe said that all of the Jews wanted the spies, and all of the Jews came crying to him, he was commenting on how even after the Cheit HaEigel they could sin again. Moshe had thought the people would have learned their lesson, but he saw he was mistaken. Hence, when Moshe said “all of you,” he was rebuking the Jews for going downhill – not only did they fail to learn from Cheit HaEigel, there was also the added element of everyone participating.
Moshe’s emphasis on the fact that all of Bnei Yisrael were so enthusiastic and united in their sin serves as an important lesson to us. Very often we see that everyone else ignores a certain Halacha or Mitzvah, and we are very tempted to simply go along. In situations like these, it is vital that we stand strong in our beliefs and do not just follow the crowd. Only if we learn from past mistakes and make our own decisions will we be able to improve ourselves and Klal Yisrael as a whole.