DIVREI TORAH

SHELACH – GRASSHOPPERS OR GIANTS: WHAT DO WE  WANT TO BE?

OHR TZVI ON THE PARSHA: SHELACH – GRASSHOPPERS OR GIANTS: WHAT DO WE  WANT TO BE?

Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

Sponsored in honor of Rabbi Weber by Menachem & Miriam Matlin.

Sponsored In honour of Shimon Klugmann by his parents, Michoel & Aliza Klugmann

“Hashem said to Moshe ….send men to scout out the land of Canaan.”[1]

“Yehoshua sent...spies...to go and see the land.”[2]

These two sets of spies – the first of which appear in our parsha, the second of which appear in Sefer Yehoshua – are strikingly similar.

Both sets were sent to scout out Eretz Yisrael so as help us eventually conquer Eretz Yisrael.

Both sets were sent on their mission by the current community leader. The first set was sent by our first leader, Moshe. The second set was sent by our second leader, Yehoshua.

All of those spies were exceptionally distinguished individuals.

The earlier spies were tribal princes.[3] The later spies were Kalev and Pinchos, both of whom were exceptionally distinguished people.[4]

Yes, those two sets of spies are so similar.

Surprisingly, though, they were also dissimilar.

Most of Moshe’s spies didn’t believe that our armies would prevail against Eretz Yisrael’s inhabitants: “And …[the spies] said we won’t overcome the nation...because it is stronger than us.”[5]

Yehoshua's spies, on the other hand, believed that our armies would prevail. “And …[the spies] said Hashem has given the entire land into our hands.”[6]

Most of Moshe’s spies didn’t believe that the land was good. They, rather, saw a “land... that destroys it inhabitants.”[7]

Yehoshua's spies, by way of contrast, believed that the land was good.

Kalev’s belief in the land was enunciated earlier - when he was part of Moshe’s spying mission (Kalev, had also been part of Moshe’s mission). Back then, Kalev reported: “the land... is a very, very good land.”[8]

Pinchos's appreciation for Eretz Yisrael is also manifest – even if it isn’t as textually obvious as Kalev’s. That manifestation occurs through Eliyahu who, as harbinger of Moshiach and our return to Eretz Yisrael, is a paradigm for appreciating Eretz Yisrael.

Eliyahu – as per the rabbinic dictum “Pinchos is Eliyahu”[9] – reflected Pinchos's values. Given that reflection, Eliyahu's appreciating Eretz Yisrael is, then, a manifestation of Pinchos's appreciation.

Most poignantly, Moshe’s spies didn’t just fail to believe in their ability to prevail against the Canaanite armies.

They also didn’t believe in themselves.

That disbelief tinges the following statement: “[The spies] …said…its people are giants …and we were [in comparison to them] in our own eyes like grasshoppers.[10]

By comparing themselves to grasshoppers, these spies were saying that they considered themselves to be weak and insignificant.[11]

Moshe’s spies didn’t believe - not in their mission, not in the land and not in themselves. And so they fell.

Yehoshua’s spies, on the other hand, believed - in their mission, in the land and in themselves. And so they rose.

And do you know who abetted Yehoshua’s spies’ self-confidence?

It was Rachav - the Canaanite woman who hosted Yehoshua’s spies, during their mission to Canaan.

While hosting those spies, Rachav recounted the Canaanite perspective on the advancing Jewish armies.

She said: “I know that Hashem has given you this land and that all the inhabitants have melted in front of you.”[12]

Rachav’s recounting must have boosted the spies’ self-confidence.

Yes, Rachav strengthened those spies.

And she may have even strengthened Yehoshua.

How so? Because Rachav’s powers may have complemented Yehoshua’s effacing nature, a nature that displayed itself: In how Yehoshua is called “Moshe’s assistant.[13] In how, we state that: “Yehoshua’s face is like the moon”[14] – seemingly to note that like the moon, which reflects the sun’s light in lieu of promoting its own light, Yehoshua self-effacingly reflected other people’s lights, rather than promoting his own. And in how Yehoshua was repeatedly commanded to “be strong”[15] – indicating an otherwise “soft” nature.

Hashem, of course, appointed Yehoshua as leader. Hashem, therefore, wanted a leader who was an exemplar of self-effacement. Hashem, though, may have also wanted that self-effacement to be complemented by Rachav’s self-confidence. Which may be why Hashem had “Yehoshua convert [Rachav] and marry her.”[16]

This isn’t just about what Rachav implanted in people around her, there and then.

This is about what we implant in people around us, here and now.

This is about unearthing every child’s particular strengths and then building their self-confidence by developing those strengths.

Once armed with such confidence, life’s challenges - the class bully, the failed business, the sick child – won’t be as challenging.

This is about reminding our spouses of their talents Once reminded, they will accomplish more – for them and for us - at shul, at work and at home.

Like Rachav we can turn grasshoppers into giants.

And like the spies, we can turn giants into grasshoppers.

What do we want? Grasshoppers? Or giants?

Rabbi Weber is founder of Ohr Tzvi Montebello-Monsey. Please visit his website, ohrtzvi.org, to sign up for his weekly email message or for information on his live or zoom shiurim.

[1] Bamidbar 13:1-3

[2] Yehoshua 2:1

[3] Bamidbar 13:3

[4] Bamidbar Rabba 16:1

[5] Bamidbar 13:31

[6] Yehoshua 2:24

[7] Bamidbar 13:32

[8] Bamidbar 14:7

[9] Midrash Aggadah, Bamidbar 25

[10] Bamidbar 13:32

[11] Ma’ayanah Shel Torah, ad loc.

[12] Yehoshua 2:9

[13] Shemos 24:13, 33:11

[14] Bava Basra 75a

[15] Devarim 3:28, 31:7, 31:23, Yehoshua 1:6, 1:7, 1:9

[16] Megillah 14b

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