The spies returned from their 40 day tour of the land of Israel. As they are relating to the Bnei Yisrael what they saw, they exclaim, “We saw the… sons of the giant… and we were like grasshoppers in our eyes… and so we were in their eyes!”
Our sages ask why this double expression. Why did the spies go out of their way to explain how they themselves felt, and how they were looked upon, surely they could have kept to the point and just said we were so small we were like grasshoppers?
The Baal Yesod HaAvoda brings a story that is told in the times of Napoleon war. The French were advancing onto Russia, and the Russian defence was deteriorating.
The head command office was situated well behind the front lines. There were a group of Russian captains supervised by a Russian General coordinating the defence. Messengers would arrive from the battle fields and relate to the captains team, the state of affairs.
As the battle raged on, the first messenger arrived, relating the bad news that one of the strongest battalions on the front line had been wiped out.
Six hours later, other messengers arrived stating that three more battalions had been defeated, and the remnants of the Russian army were fleeing.
A few more hours passed and further messengers arrived. The captains’ face was already depressed and his face showed it all.
“What good news do you have for me?”
“Unfortunately no good news, the Russians are now in full retreat, fleeing the mighty French army, they should be arriving at this base shortly.”
The General who had not been present this whole time, came into the office and seeing the sad look on his captains asked if he had heard the latest and most serious news?
“What now, what could possibly be worse than the situation we are already in” asked the captain?
The latest news is that the commander in control has lost all faith! (If the captain in control of the whole war effort were to lose faith then that would be tantamount to real surrender).
The captain understood what his General was implying, and infused extra strength and courage in order not to give up hope. They revitalised the army and from that point on the war took a different angle.
There is an old joke about the Chassidic Jew with long Payot, Tzitzit hanging out, long beard and long black coat, who has just arrived home on the train.
“How was the journey” his wife asks him
“Oy Yenta was I sitting opposite some anti-Semites. They were cursing and complaining about Jews the whole way home”
”Nu Yankel so vat did you do?”
”What could I do? I pretended I wasn’t Jewish”
Being Jewish is something we should be proud of, yet at times we seem to shy away from the realities.
The spies toured the land of Israel. They saw giants, it might have been scary, but these spies had experienced Hashem’s Hand through the plagues and at the Kriat Yam Suf. Nothing should be impossible for Hashem. Yet they showed a lack of faith in Hashem, by being frightened and incited by the sight of these giants.
What led them to this was their low self esteem. They viewed themselves as inferior from the outset.
The Torah could have simply said “We were like grasshoppers in THEIR eyes…” but it chose to first tell us about the spies perception of themselves- OUR eyes.
It is only because they themselves felt like tiny and insignificant grasshoppers, that the giants perceived them as that.
In order to succeed in life, we must know our true value. Am Yisrael might be small in number, but our historical achievements far outmatch many nations.
We might be downtrodden, we might experience abuse for being Jewish but at the end of the day if we know our true value then it doesn’t matter what the others say. Every Jew has that special connection with Hashem – an infinite spark that connects us directly to the Almighty.
May Hashem grant us the opportunity to always feel that connection, and help us show it to all those around us.