A Taste of Torah in Honor of Shabbat
by Rabbi Avi Weiss
June 19-20, Sivan 26, 5758
In this week's portion, Moshe (Moses) sends out spies to scout out the land of Israel. In
reporting to the people, the spies insisted that it would be impossible to conquer the
land. The spies insisted they saw giants and they
exclaimed, "we were in our sight as grasshoppers and so were we in their sight."
On its simple level, this phrase may consist of two independent thoughts. The spies noted
that compared to the giants, they felt like grasshoppers. Independent of their own
feelings, says the Midrash, they actually heard the inhabitants say, 'there are
grasshoppers on the ground.' In the words of Rashi, "we heard them (the giants)
saying, there are grasshoppers who look like humans in the vineyard."
Another thought comes to mind: Perhaps the two clauses can be viewed as a single unit with
one phrase resulting in the other.
The way we see ourselves often results in the way we feel others perceive us.For example,
if a person feels lowly, it is not uncommon for this individual to sense that others look
upon him/her as lowly. Conversely, if we feel good about ourselves we perceive
others to see us in the same light.
With this in mind the sentence can be understood. The spies, as a matter of
fact, proclaimed "we were in our sight as grasshoppers," as a consequence of
which, "and so were we in their sight." (Numbers 13:33)
Sometimes it is the case that if we feel negatively about ourselves it becomes a
self-fulfilling prophecy. Part of the message of the story is that the spies, having
experienced God first hand, should have had more self-
confidence. Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, of blessed memory, distinguished between
gei'ut (self confidence) which is a positive characteristic and ga'avah (haughtiness)
which is negative. While it is important to be humble, human beings, as created in
the image of God, have every right to feel self-confident. As has been noted, "God
does not make junk."
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