Our sages taught that there is a connection between different parshiot appearing together in the Chumash. Hence parshat haMeraglim is juxtaposed to parshat Behaalotcha: the meraglim were given the opportunity to learn from Miriam not to speak lashon hara; nevertheless, they did not learn this lesson and said unpleasant things about the Land (Rashi, Bamidbar 13:2).
Many raise a question: how could the meraglim be expected to learn from Miriam speaking about Moshe, the foremost of all the prophets? How can vilifying Moshe Rabbeinu, which was a deed of extreme severity, be compared with their comments relating to trees and stones (i.e. inanimate objects – in the Land of Israel)? Surely speaking bad of trees and stones is far less severe?
It transpires that what Miriam said concerning Moshe Rebbeinu was not to his detriment at all. “Did G-d speak only with Moshe; did He not also speak to us?" – Miriam suggests they try to understand why Moshe separated from his wife, with the intent to rectify the situation. Or she suggests that, since Moshe Rebbeinu, a prophet, separated from his wife, so should we, as prophets separate from our spouses…
Nevertheless, we learn, from G-d's reaction to Miriam and Aharon, what was in fact the lashon hara which Miriam spoke about Moshe: “Not so, My servant Moshe, he is faithful throughout My house ….Mouth to mouth do I speak to him, in clear pictures and not in allegories."
G-d rebukes Miriam and Aharon: Moshe Rebbeinu is not like the rest of the prophets and it is invalid to equate him with other prophets because he is unique and exalted. The very act of equating Moshe Rebbeinu to the other prophets itself exemplifies lashon hara.
The meraglim repeated this very mistake in that they equated Eretz Yisrael to other lands. They should have learned from Miriam's mistake: in the same way as there is a distinction between Moshe and other prophets, so there is a distinction between The Land that G-d chose and other lands.
This mistake repeats itself in our parsha: Korach made claims against Moshe and Aharon, “that all the congregation is holy so why do you lord yourselves above G-d's holy congregation?"
The midrashim regarding Korach's questions are well known: "Does a talit which is completely blue require tzitzit? Does a house containing only Torah scrolls require a mezuza?" With these questions, Korach reiterates his claim: “Behold all are holy so why do you set yourselves up as princes over G-d's people?"
In our parsha, G-d proves to Korach and his supporters that there are different levels among the Jewish people and likewise among nations. In the same way that “Am Yisrael” is unique amongst the nations, so Eretz Yisrael is chosen from among the lands. Moshe Rabbeinu is the chosen one amongst the prophets, so also is the tribe of Levi and in particular Aharon and his sons are chosen to carry out “Avodat HaShem” in an everlasting covenant. And thus the essence of the protest against the institutions of Kehuna, harks back to the sin of Miriam and to that of the meraglim.
May we merit that each of us recognise the good qualities of his comrades and may HaKadosh Baruch-Hu remove from our midst all hatred and jealousy.