THE GIANT GRASSHOPPER
“Why does it bother you what someone else thinks about you”.
It says in this week parasha “Then we saw the Nephilim, the sons of the giant from among the Nephilim; we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes”.
The Sefat Emet makes a fascinating observation. The Posuk associates the fact that the Meraglim felt like grasshoppers, together with the fact that indeed the giants actually considered them like grasshoppers. Explains the Sefat Emet, the Torah is teaching us an important lesson in life. The way you view yourself, that is the same way others will view you. Precisely because they felt small and insignificant as grasshoppers, that is the reason the giants actually perceived them as such. Would they have had the confidence and self esteem to recognize their true value, even if their physical size, they would have portrayed themselves much bigger and larger than their actual size.
The Kotzker Rebbi comments on this Posuk, that this declaration by the spies was the root of their sin. The fact that it bothered them how the giants viewed them, was wrong. As the Kotzker Rebbi put it;
“why does it bother you what someone else thinks about you”.
While we can understand that the spies should have been focused on their mission and should not have considered how they were regarded by the giants, why would this be the root of their sin? This sounds a little too harsh.
The Nefesh Hachaim famously writes in Shar alef that Hashem created a person with unlimited powers in the universe. When a jew does a Mitzvah the ripple effect of that good deed unleashes tremendous powers all the way up to heaven. The Mitzvah creates angels and all sorts of spiritual buildings beyond our comprehension. When one does an sin, Chas Visholom, the opposite is true. With his vast powers he destroys and creates incredible spiritual destruction in the universe.
A Jew must never underestimate his power. The Chazon Ish once noted, when two people walk down the street, and one is a Talmud Chochom while the other one is a simpleton, to the bystander they both seem the same, but in reality there is a vast difference. The Talmid Chochom is walking with angels above him and tremendous sources of spiritual powers accompanying him at all times are being affected by his every holy move. The same cannot be said about his companion.
Had the Meraglim truly understood the vast powers they held by being emissaries of Hashem, they wouldn’t have felt small and insignificant in contrast to the giants. To the contrary they would have felt themselves like giants. Obviously they were lacking in this respect. They didn’t recognize their true power and control. This caused them to observe everything in a small minded way. Of course now everything was problematic. The fruits were too big and the land was too strong, and people were dying everywhere.
This is what the Kotzker is telling us. The root of their sin was the fact that they didn’t believe in themselves. They didn’t believe that a Jew is much more than his limited physical powers. Had they recognized this, they wouldn’t have perceived Eretz Yisroel in such a bad light.
The Parsha ends with the Mitzvah of Tzitzit. What connection does the Mitzvah of Tzitzit have with the story of the Meraglim? My brother R’ Avrohom Kalman suggested the following connection. We know the Gemara tells us that the Mitzvah of Tziztit, which biblically includes Techeilet; a blue string, is because blue is similar to the sea, and the sea is similar to heaven. In this way, the Techeilet reminds us of our connection all the way to the Kisei Hakovod (G-d’s glorious ‘throne).
Specifically after the sin of the Meraglim, in which they were lacking in their belief in the tremendous connection and power a Jew has, and that he is connected all the way till the Kisei hakovd, now is the time to focus on the Mitzvah of Tziztis which is a constant reminder how unique we are. We aren’t just physical people; we are so much more. We are linked all the way up. Our actions are reinforced by much more than our physical power.
This should be a motivation for us to always try to rise to the occasion and try to conquer more then we believe we can. At the same time this should be used as prevention. Every Aveira(Sin) does immeasurable damage as well.
So next time we embark to do a Mitzvah and the Yeitzer Hora puts a giant in our way to deter us; remember that he is the grasshopper and we are the giant.
By R’ Boruch Yechiel Schreiber
facts of life: take this serious
They spread an [evil] report about the land which they had scouted, telling the Bnei Yisrael, “The land we passed through to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants and all the people we saw in it are men of stature.”
Much has been written about the episode of the meraglim/spies and to describe in specific terms what sin they actually committed. After all, Moshe sent them to scout the land and they were given detailed instructions what to look for and report back; what then was their error and misjudgment upon their return?
Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt’’l, the last Lubavitcher Rebbe explains brilliantly that as long as Bnei Yisrael were in the desert (midbar) life was about serving Hashem but in a completely controlled spiritual climate one which was surrounded by spirituality (ruchniyut). The mon, clouds of glory, and the well of Miriam were all there to create an environment of total spirituality, making the nation worthy of receiving the Torah and satisfying all their physical needs without any human intervention.
The meraglim saw the land and understood that upon entering Eretz Yisrael Bnei Yisrael’s role would now change dramatically. They would now labor and toil with the land and were concerned that this lifestyle would interfere with their ability to dedicate themselves to serving Hashem. They argued,and they said “the land would ultimately turn its inhabitants into, people of the land, involved in materialistic pursuits and robbing them of the spiritual enclave the midbar offered, enabling them to be one with Hashem.” They reasoned that being involved with the land and serving Hashem are contradictory ideas which have no commonality?
And this is where the meraglim were mistaken. The whole purpose of life in the midbar was a preparation and a sort of training camp for an existence where they would be charged to create an environment in which people endeavor to reveal the G-dliness in the nonspiritual. As the Midrash Tanchuma says “At the time Hashem created the world he desired for there to be a dwelling place down on earth similar to that in the heavens. Hashem created a world in which He wishes for us to seek him out and uncover His holiness down on earth as the pasuk says in Mishlei, “in all your paths know Him.” There lives a spark of spiritual essence in all of Hashem’s creation and it is upon us to expose the hidden divine presence that waits to be discovered and made holy.
But the meraglim and Bnei Yisrael were not satisfied with this approach and believed that remaining in their current status was far more important than the risk of becoming overpowered by the materialistic pursuit of working and settling the land. “Calev silenced the people to [hear about] Moshe, and he said, “We can surely go up and take possession of it, for we can indeed overcome it.”
Calev attempted to gain control over the people and calm their concerns by telling them that ruchniyut and gashmiyut can be partnered together as the pasuk uses the duplicate form of, We can surely go up, symbolizing that both ruchniyut and gashmiyut can be joined and play a role in our avodat Hashem. This is what Hashem intended for us. To find the spiritual sparks in the ordinary by raising them up, giving them a greater and holier purpose, and giving Him a place down here, a בתחתונים דירה .
They said to each other, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Mitzraim!”
The narrative of the meraglim continues with Bnei Yisrael viewing their situation as hopeless in which they conclude with the idea that perhaps returning to Mitzraim will be their solution. One could ask what was it that they sought to overcome by returning to Mitzraim? If they perceived their situation as impossible now, would it be any better in Mitzraim? Besides, Mitzraim was completely destroyed and no remnants of the country they were enslaved in remained. Why would have returning now to a place in which they had suffered for years benefit them in any way?
Perhaps their plan to go back to the physical Mitzraim was never truly suggested. Mitzraim, as its name implies, was about boundaries or narrowness. A place with a culture steeped in a hierarchical power structure with the upper class ruling and dominating the lower classes of society which represented the inability to go beyond one’s immediate environment they were born into. The culture of Mitzraim had imposed on the nation a perspective of constraints and limitations. To this, the people wished to return. They rationalized “let us return to the Mitzraim which did not require us to think beyond the status quo, which required no movement or growth. We are satisfied with ourselves and comfortable with the present environment of the midbar. We seek no change in our existence and don’t want to be bothered with altering our way of life.” Being told that entering Eretz Yisrael would allow for an existence of even greater spiritual heights was not desirable for them as they enjoyed the narrowness and limits that offered a comfortable way of living, being fed and clothed without any exposure or liability.
Some are fortunate to experience several years spent hidden away and protected by the four walls of the Yeshiva Bait Midrash which is the modern day midbar and serves as the foundation for our future spiritual growth. This time is designed to prepare us for our eventual entering into a world in which ruchniyut and gashmiyut( Gashmiut(physical pleasures) and Ruchniut (spiritual pleasures) are merged. This is a world of opportunity which allows for the application of all those years of preparation. The intended goal is to build-up the gashmiyut and both use it to sweeten our own ruchniyut but perhaps primarily and more importantly to bring forth the hidden G-dliness found in this world. Hashem wants to live among us and it is our obligation to make His world holy by elevating and giving spiritual meaning even for the seemingly mundane materialism.
After shul one Shabbat morning, David Silverman grunted, “Oy did the chazzan schlep this morning.”
His wife Miriam commented, “And the Rabbi’s speech was way too long.”
Their seven-year-old son Moishie, ever the optimist piped up and added, “But you’ve got to admit it was a pretty good show for free.”
Avi Spitz was tense because his mother was planning a visit and she would always needle him about his smoking habit. A couple of hours into their visit, Mrs. Spitz noticed he hadn’t once lit up a cigarette. “So Avi, are you trying to kick the habit?” she asked.
“Not really Ma,” Avi replied nonchalantly. “I have a cold, and I don’t smoke when I’m not feeling well.”
“Oy,” Mrs. Spitz sighed, “you know, you’d probably live longer if you were sick more often.”
something to think about
One Step At a Time
And they shall place upon the tzitzis of each corner a thread of turquoise wool. (15:38)
The weekly Torah portion concludes with the commandment of tzitzit, the commandment that helps one focus on his duties to God. As the Rabbis explain, the blue strand of wool reminds one of the ocean which is blue, which then reminds one of the sky, which is reminiscent of God’s throne of glory. The question is why we need all these steps. We should put some resemblance of God on the tzitzit and go straight to the top. With all these steps we might never get to the top – we’ll lose focus along the way!
As a baby matures it goes through various stages: turning over, sitting up, crawling and finally walking. Many times, if the baby goes straight from the sitting stage to walking, they’ll still teach it how to crawl. Any stage that it misses can greatly affect its capabilities later on in life. Every stage the baby goes through is necessary in developing another part of the brain.
The Torah is teaching us that the same concept exists in spirituality. Growth needs to be systematic. One needs to go through every stage, step by step, until he can get to the top. In every stage he develops skills which are needed to make him a complete person.
Quite often one gets inspired and wants to become great overnight. In order for it to really last, a person needs to move at slow increments until each step becomes a part of him. For example, if he wants to improve his prayer and have stronger concentration, he needs to start with one small segment until he masters it, then moving on, as opposed to trying to master the whole thing at once. Growth is made up of lots of small steps, eventually leading to greatness.
By Rabbi Eli Scheller
First aliya: Moshe sends the Spies on their mission.
2nd Aliya: The Spies return carrying the massive fruits of the land. They deliver their negative report and the nation loses its faith in G-d and Moshe.
3rd Aliya: Moshe successfully argues for the life of the nation, and Hashem issues the 40 year decree of wandering and dying.
4th Aliya: The Spies die, and the nation is informed of their own punishment.
5th Aliya: The laws of the Mincha – meal offering are stated.
6th Aliya: The laws of separating Challah – the dough offering, and the communal sin offering are stated.
7th Aliya: The individual sin offering; the incident with the man who transgressed Shabbos by gathering sticks; his punishment; and the Mitzvah of Tzitzit, conclude the Parsha.