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June 4, 2010 3:52 pm

Shelach: Insects and Giants

avatar by Simon Jacobson

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We were in our own eyes like tiny grasshoppers. Photo: Uğur Başak.

We were in our own eyes like tiny grasshoppers, and so were we in their eyes – Numbers, Shelach 13:33
If the scouts objectively were like midgets compared to the huge giants they encountered, why did they just not simply say “and we were like locust compared to them?”

Well, here is the first reference to what psychology today calls ‘projection.’ How you feel about yourself is what you project to others. How you feel about yourself is how others will feel about you.

Moses sent the scouts to inspect the Land of Israel and determine how best to conquer the land. The grave mistake the scouts made was that they did not suffice with a report on the best strategy to conquer the land, but they went beyond their mission and came to a conclusion: that we CANNOT conquer the land.

They violated the most sacred quality of life: the confidence that we can face all life’s challenges. They abused the most essential question in life: Can we overcome every dilemma before us?

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We all know that life is difficult and challenging. Yet, belief in G-d means that we have the power to face and overcome every challenge. We never ask the question WHETHER we can do it; we only ask: HOW we can do it?

When our inner confidence erodes or is lacking then the forces around us begin to look formidable. When the scouts saw themselves as insects, then the giants around them also saw them that way. The scouts themselves exposed their own weakness: Not that we truly cannot conquer the land; we only PERCEIVE that we cannot do it, and when you think you cannot, that then becomes your reality.

Conversely, when you are confident that you can face the challenge no matter how formidable, that empowers you and your surroundings to actually accomplish the task.

It’s all about your confidence.

But how does one gain such absolute, unwavering confidence, how do we acquire the strength to face every challenge?

We gain the power by connecting to that which is above us – to G-d. We must become aware of our essential connection to our life’s mission, to the Divine calling which each of us has been charged with. Our absolute faith in this connection instills in us the complete certainty that we have all the abilities and resources that we need to fulfill our mission. Our absolute faith in G-d and His promises to us infuse us with the firm confidence that we can face every challenge before us.

Joshua and Caleb were the only two scouts that did not partake in the mutiny of the scouts. They returned and said we CAN DO IT, we can enter the Land as G-d promised us. Why were they different than the other scouts? They connected their mission with special prayers to G-d for success. Moses prayed for Joshua, and Caleb went to the Cave of Machpelah in Chevron to pray at the gravesite of the patriarchs and matriarchs.

Only through prayer and through our connection to the past do we have the power to overcome the challenges of the present. When you are stuck in a pit overwhelmed by difficulties, you cannot solve the problem alone. “One in fetters cannot release himself,” the Talmud teaches. Being in the pit you cannot free yourself. By connecting to our ancestors, by praying to G-d — we attach ourselves to a force beyond ourselves and beyond the difficult here and now. And this connection allows us the ability to transcend the immediate hardships and overcome the present challenges.

As Chassidim say, “When you are bound above you do not fall below.” We may be small, but a midget that stands on the shoulders of a giant – when we stand on the shoulders of the generations before us – we can see farther than the giant.
No message is more appropriate today. Our biggest question today is: What does the future hold, and do we have the power to face the challenges ahead of us? As we face an uncertain future – having encountered enemies of humanity killing innocent people both in Israel and America, and we continue to wage a war whose future is unknown, a war that has destabilized the world – our most compelling question is do we have the absolute confidence and certainty to overcome anything that will come our way?

This week’s Torah portion teaches us that the question is not whether we can do it, but how we can.

We have a choice to be overwhelmed or confused by the difficulties around us or to overcome and grow through them. Will you see yourself as an insect, or as a messenger of G-d? That is up to you.

As we continue our journey toward the Promised Land – both collectively and personally, as we move forward in reaching our ultimate goals – we must know, that no matter how daunting the challenge, by connecting to G-d, we have the power to enter and settle the land.

Know that you control the process. How you see yourself is how the world will see you.

Travel with confidence and strength of purpose, and the world will support your cause.

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