“There we saw the Nephilim, the sons of the giant
from among the Nephilim; and it came to pass that in our eyes
[we were] like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.” Bamidbar, 13:33
The military reconnaissance of the Land presaged a battle that appeared hopeless as it would pit the weak and small against the strong and mighty. The spies – meraglim – in answering the questions posed to them upon their return, seemingly did no more than state the obvious danger; yet we know that they committed a grave sin in so doing. What can we learn from this tragic event in order to avoid the errors of the meraglim?
The first step is to understand the nature of their failing. The commentators acknowledge that the meraglim recognized Hashem’s power but suggest that the spies thought that Hashem was going to limit Himself and act in accordance with nature and therefore B’nei Yisrael would be unable to triumph.
Yehoshuah and Caleb, men of complete faith, demonstrated what it takes to remain men – anashim – even in the face of vastly stronger and more powerful enemies. Yehoshua faced the distraught assembly that was weeping and entreating Moshe to return to Egypt and told them a simple but profound truth. He did not deny the obvious size and strength of the giants, but exhorted that “If Hashem is pleased with us then will He bring us into this land and will give it to us . . . and you , you should not fear the people of the land for they are our bread; their protective shadow is departed from them as G-d is with us . . . “ (Bamidbar 14: 8-9).
It all depends on the lens through which we view the test. The meraglim saw the inhabitants of the land as being too daunting and the land as being unconquerable, because they used their own personal discernment, Yehoshua and Calav viewed the inhabitants of the land through the lens of daas Torah and thus perceived them as presenting no meaningful obstacle.
Unless a Jew sees himself as a representative of G-d who is All Powerful, he will see himself not as a person facing his adversary, but rather as a “grasshopper” facing a “giant”. The way in which we perceive our relationship to Hashem is the deciding factor in how we view ourselves.
Referring to the spies’ encounter with the giants, the Torah says “vanehi b’eineinu k’chagavim” and “and in our eyes [too] we were like grasshoppers.” “Nehi” connotes weeping or crying and suggests a diminished, disheartened and despairing emotional state. Although the meraglim were initially described as ‘anashim’ righteous men — heads of the tribes of Israel, their lack of faith now surfaced transforming them from human beings into a more demeaning form of life.
As is all too apparent from our experiences during this long difficult galus, if our belief in Hashem weakens, our Jewish self esteem is diminished undermining our ability to see and appreciate our unique mission in this world.
The Kotzke Rebbe explains: The spies had no right to consider how the giants viewed them. As Jews and emissaries for the Jewish people, they should have thought only of their mission, not of what anyone else thought of them. How many times do we become discouraged because of what we feel or perceive that other people think?
When, in that diminished psychological state, if we should be confronted by a difficult challenge, it takes on the hugeness of a giant in our eyes and as such has the power to discourage us from achieving our true potential and fulfilling our destiny. How can we overcome this challenge?
First we should realize that there is no barrier so large or overwhelming that we cannot hurdle it, if it is Hashem’s will that we do so. The Maraglim saw themselves as grasshoppers. Why grasshoppers? Perhaps to teach us that every challenge gives us the opportunity to choose our direction and destiny in life. When threatened, the grasshopper can jump away, as did the meraglim who counseled the nation to jump far away from their “giant” challenges. The grasshopper however has another option. It can leap over the barrier that lies before it. When we take up a challenge for Hashem’s honor, He will empower us to easily hurdle the barriers in our path.
The Torah is teaching a profound lesson in attitude and choice. Does challenge bring with it retreat and despair or does it elicit feelings of courage and optimism? It all depends on our connection to Hashem and His will.
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