The Grasshoppers and the Giants

One of my favorite Torah portions relates that Moses sent twelve political leaders, one prince per tribe, on a fact-finding mission, a junket if you will, into the Promised Land. On their return after 40 days they gave similar objective reports to what they saw, but with opposing subjective understandings of the experience. First the majority, a fullminyan of the mission members, offered their analysis and said that conquest would be impossible. Caleb (and Joshua) refuted this report and said "We can do this!" The majority countered this positive response and sowed panic among the people and said "No way! There were giants there, and we were like grasshoppers in our own eyes!" The ancient sages suggested at this point of the exchange the Holy Blessed One took offense and said, "How would they know how I made them looks in the eyes of everyone else? Perhaps I made them look like giants!" At that point the Holy Blessed One knew that none of the adults of that generation save the two leaders, Caleb and Joshua, would ever enter the Promised Land, even if it would take 40 years. And so it was that everyone over the age of twenty at the Exodus died in the Wilderness. Entrance into the Promised Land was reserved for those who were too young to have been indelibly damaged by the experience of Egyptian slavery.

I feel that the Torah and the Sages are offering us a timeless and timely message with this tale. As individuals, as congregations, and even as a people, sometimes we might feel overwhelmed by the challenges in front of us; feeling beaten down by circumstances and/or events we might see ourselves as lowly little grass-hoppers. The message for us is that when we are tempted to sell ourselves short and succumb to despair, we need to remember to stop and give ourselves some credit as due and not to limit ourselves based on the presumed negative perspectives of others. Just because we might feel ourselves to be grasshoppers, it still might be that we are perceived with good reason by others to be giants. We need to remember that each of us brings a unique perspective and ability to the world. Even if we are "like grasshoppers" in one way, in some balancing way that we ourselves might not even necessarily be able to recognize we are equally giant.


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