If asked, “What were the worst sins that the Jews ever committed?” most people would probably answer “Meraglim and Chet HaEigel.” Certainly, the sin of the Meraglim, the highlight of much of Parshat Shlach, deserves to be on this list, since it caused the untimely deaths of approximately 600,000 people and prevented Bnei Yisrael from entering Eretz Yisrael for thirty-eight years. However, Chet HaMeraglim (or at least the sending of the spies itself) can also be looked to nowadays for a positive message: it may hint to the coming of Mashiach.
The path that Moshe commanded the Meraglim to follow is seemingly bizarre. Bemidbar 13:17 states, “Moshe sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and he said to them, ‘Ascend in the south and ascend the mountain.’” Rashi comments on this Pasuk that the Negev was the inferior part of Israel. Moshe commanded the Meraglim to start there because that is the custom of merchants: to show the bad merchandise first, and the better merchandise at the end.
One of the core tenets of Judaism is the belief in a Mashiach. This Mashiach will save the Jews from all oppression and take us back to the great heights that we previously reached. The manner in which Hashem brings the Mashiach to save us is very similar to the ways of merchants and the way in which the Meraglim traveled the land of Israel. Hashem first causes oppression and battles, which is the inferior part of our existence, but they will end with the help of the Mashiach – the better goods, so to say.
This connection between Meraglim and Mashiach, though subtle, is very encouraging. The subtle hint which Moshe dropped in the Torah helps us get through all perilous times, including the current intifada. Also, the fact that Mashiach is hinted at by one of our worst sins shows that Hashem will never forget about us or abandon us, no matter how far we stray.