Lessons from the Torah

            August 2012    
Search the Jewish Magazine Site: Google

Search our




Building Self Confidence through Contemplation in God

By Mendel Wiess

The Torah (in Numbers 13) describes the shocking story of the spies who were sent by Moses to scout out the promised land of Israel. Upon returning from their mission, they explained that indeed the land is beautiful as God had told them. However, the people who were living in the land were so gigantic that the spies themselves felt like small and insignificant grasshoppers in their presence.

Furthermore, they lived in huge fortified cities which would not be possible to penetrate. In the final words of the report they said the shocking statement "we will not be certainly not be successful in entering the land because the nation which lives there is more powerful than us” (Numbers 13:31) and in this manner slandering the Almighty God Himself (see Rashi).

Upon hearing the frightening report, the Jews cried in despair and accused God of intentionally bringing them into a place they would surely be killed. They decided that their only chance of survival would be if they appointed a new leader who would take them back to Egypt where they would certainly be safe.

Just on the surface the story seems to be quite perplexing! How is it possible that the Jewish nation could think that these people were more powerful than the very Creator of the universe!? These Jews personally witnessed the awesome miracles which God revealed at the time of the exodus and the splitting of the sea!

A great sage, the "Chafetz Chaim", suggests that the Torah has alluded to the source of the problem. The Torah tells us that the spies said "we were in our eyes like grasshoppers, and so too we were like grasshoppers in their eyes" (Numbers 13:33). That is to say that because the spies lacked confidence and were little in their own eyes, therefore they felt that the dwellers of the land also perceived them to be insignificant.

It was this lack of self-esteem which caused them to lose their faith in God because they perceived that they were not worthy of so many great miracles which would be required to defeat these great nations. Thus, it was not that they really thought the nation which dwelled in the promised land was greater than God, rather they thought that they did not merit that God would do miracles for them as He had done for them in the past.

What was the reason for their lack of confidence? Perhaps the reason was due to the their previous failure when they made the idol, the golden calf, at the very time when God wanted to give them the Torah. Since they did not maintain their side of the covenant (their agreement with God to be His holy people) how could they expect God to perform miracles for them.

In truth the Jewish people were supposed to have understood that they are the very children of God Himself and just as a father does not reject his most beloved child even if he is not perfect and makes mistakes, so too God's love for His children is not minimized even one drop because of their imperfections.

Once God had told them that even after their failure at the time of the golden calf, that He had overlooked their failings and never the less they were to go straight into the promised land. From this they should have gained the confidence that they had nothing at all to fear from failing. Why? Because they are the children of God.

A true display of the proper faith in God is portrayed in the monumental battle between the giant Goliath and king David. As the book of prophets describes, Goliath was a giant and clad in plate armor from head to foot. King David came to fight against him with no armor protection at all – just bearing a mere sling at the end of his staff with several stones in his hand.

As they faced each other, it became clear that each one was completely perplexed by the actions of the other. Upon seeing David's approach, Goliath became enraged – "am I dog that you chase away with a staff!?" He could not understand how David had the audacity to approach him as if he were a helpless dog, did David not recognize that he was standing before the great undefeatable Goliath!?

In response to the outburst of Goliath, David made it clear that in his eyes Goliath was even less than a dog! He responded "You are coming with the power of a sword and a spear and I am coming to you with the power of The God of Israel!" In the end, God caused one of David's stones to pierce the helmet of Goliath as well as his head. It was at this point his dead giant body fell at the feet of David.

When the Jews in the desert heard the bad report concerning the conquest of the Land of Israel from the spies, they should have responded that there is absolutely nothing to fear because they are the children of God, who are coming with the power of the very God who created the very heavens and the earth and has demonstrated His very mastery over not just the nature elements but also over the most powerful nation at that time, Egypt.

The Rabbis teach us that the entire story occurred in the Jewish month of "Av" which in Hebrew means "father". This itself is a hint that at this time the Jewish people needed to express their faith in God as their Father in Heaven. Just like a father would not abandon his son, so too they should have understood that certainly God would not abandon them.


from the August 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

Material and Opinions in all Jewish Magazine articles are the sole responsibility of the author; the Jewish Magazine accepts no liability for material used.