When the spies returned, and delivered their pessimistic report, the people were distraught. Not knowing better, they lost faith in what would become of them, and by losing faith, they lost all they had going for them.
Disappointed in what the people had become, God told them that they would be a lost generation; they would wander for 40 years, and die in the wilderness. They did not deserve the privilege of the Land of Israel, but their children would.
When the people heard what their fate would be, they refused to accept it at first:
וישכמו בבקר ויעלו אל ראש ההר לאמר הננו ועלינו אל המקום אשר אמר ה כי חטאנו – They rose early the next morning, and set out toward the crest of the mountain, saying, “We are prepared to go to the place that Hashem has spoken of, for we were wrong.” (14:40)
Rabbi Shlomo Farhi explains that the language used in telling how this show of faith is a chiasm that echoes the story of Avraham.
Avraham’s ultimate act of faith was rising early in the morning, and going to the crest of the mountain in the place God spoke of. His faith is absolute, when he says הנני- Here I stand.
But it fails. What worked for Avraham does not work here, because Avraham was authentic, and this time it was not. Avrahams act of faith was corrupted into a show of faith.
Avraham had faith before he knew where he was going. The comparison they were trying to evoke was false. They could say הננו, but that’s not where they truly stood.
There is a difference between fracturing something, and breaking it. Each situation calls for something different. Their mistake was thinking that their mistake caused a fracture, and not a break.
Introspection requires intellectual honesty to understand how to move past our mistakes. Think of the last person you hurt. What would it take to move your relationship past it?