“We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” — Numbers 13:33
The Torah portion for this week is Shelach, which means “send,” from Numbers 13:1–15:41, and the Haftorah is from Joshua 2:1–24.
Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t--you're right.” What we believe to be true about ourselves often becomes our reality.
When the spies sent by Moses to scout out the land of Canaan returned to the desert, they described what they saw. They saw great produce and a land flowing with milk and honey. But – and this was the key word – the people were unconquerable. In describing the inhabitants of the land, the spies said that they saw the Nephilim. According to the Jewish sages, these were actual giants. The spies explained that in the eyes of these giants, they appeared to be little grasshoppers.
But wait a second! How did the spies know what the giants were thinking about them? After all, they were spies in the land and shouldn’t have spoken to anyone along the way! How could they be so sure that they looked like grasshoppers, like insignificant, vulnerable bugs, to the inhabitants of Canaan?
The truth is that they didn’t know. However, as the verse tells us, the spies saw themselves as grasshoppers: “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes.” Once the spies saw themselves that way, they assumed that the Nephilim saw them that way, too.
What the spies and the Israelites didn’t realize is that the Nephilim did not see them as grasshoppers. In fact, they were scared out of their wits by the children of Israel! Remember, the Israelites had just decimated the Egyptians, the superpower of the ancient world. The wonders that God had done for the Israelites were the talk of the neighborhood. Had the Israelites marched into Canaan, the inhabitants would have fled and given up the land without a fight!
Yet, tragically, this is not how history unfolded. Because the spies saw themselves as grasshoppers, as less than they really were, they lost the opportunity to enter the Promised Land. Their assessment became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It would take another four decades and an entirely new generation to walk into the land promised by God.
If the spies lost the opportunity of a lifetime because of their misconception of who they were, what opportunities are we passing up? As Henry Ford indicated, how we see ourselves will ultimately determine our abilities. Do you know that you are a treasured being created in the image of God? Do you know that you are capable of amazing things? Or are you stuck in the grasshopper mindset? Do you see yourself as small, irrelevant, and inconsequential?
Only once we see our own greatness in God’s eyes will we be able to achieve great things for Him.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President