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The spies’ report upon their return from reconnoitering the Land of Israel described a fantastic land that cannot be conquered (see Bamidbar 13:31-33). The spies concluding barb is most interesting “And there we saw the Nefilim, the sons of Anak, who come from the Nefilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so were we in their sight.” (BaMidbar 13:13)
Rashi ZT’L ZY’A poses the obvious question how did the spies know how the those living in the Land of Israel perceived them? Citing from Sota 35a the Nefilim were overhead saying “It seems there are human ants [here] in the vineyards” Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev ZT’L ZY’A asks why if scripture talks about grasshoppers does Rashi speak about ants? Rabbi Levi Yitzchak notes the difference is significant. The Talmud opines in the event G-D chose not to reveal the Torah one could learn proper behaviors from the animal kingdom. The ant does not take from others it is neither a thief or conqueror. Therefore the Nefilim were saying these folks are like ants, they are not thieves or a warlike people. These people pose no threat to us. Rabbi Ovadiah Seforno ZT’L ZY’A echoes this idea and adds it was because of the Nefilim taking such a dismissive attitude towards the spies was why they were left alone. Bene Yisrael a nation of several million were on or near the border were not seen as any type of threat at all. Simply insects to be swatted down.
The Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Alter Hanoch Henoch Liebowitz ZT’L ZY’A cites a Midrash the G-D forgave the spies saying “ . . . we were in our own sight as grasshoppers . . . .” but He could not overlook “ . . . and so were we in their sight.” G-D argued ‘How do you know they did not consider you as being like angels?” As an aside this does not necessarily contradict Rashi or the Seforno particularly in light of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s understanding the spies and Bene Yisrael were not seen as threats because of their refined and exalted status.
The Rosh HaYeshiva asked why did G-D overlook the first comment and not the second when both at first blush seem to have the same source, a lack of trust in G-D’s protective power and faith that G-D had made them akin to angels.
However that would be incorrect though what the spies said sound like a breach of faith yet each statement is quite separate and distinct. Seeing oneself as a grasshopper expresses the spies’ experience, that they were on their own without G-D’s protection. However declaring the Nefilim also saw the spies as grasshoppers is something else all together. Concluding how another sees oneself denies the possibility that G-D could cause a miracle an alter that perception. G-D did not hold the spies responsible for their emotional reaction. Even a believer can falter when responding to a situation emotionally. Confronted by giants and other awesome sights the spies felt they could not succeed they felt like they and the nation would be no more than bugs, grasshoppers to the Nefilim. Yet to say the Nefilim believed them to be of no consequence like grasshoppers is to deny the possibility G-D could cause the Nefilim to see angels and not grasshoppers represents an cognitive breach of faith, a lack of belief in G-D’s ability and providence. What one thinks, what one believes one can control therefore G-D took the spies to task for what the spies thought how the Nefilim saw them.
The Rosh Hayeshiva observes the great distance between head and heart for at the same time one can believe that G-D has raised one the angelic heights while at the same time feel one is no more than a grasshopper. There exists an apparent disconnect between what one knows intellectually and what one feels. One can have academic knowledge of how intimately G-D is connected to His creation and His limitless capacity and so on and yet not fully absorb the ideas in to one’s being on an emotional level.. The Rosh HaYeshiva concludes one’s task in life is to join together one’s knowledge with one’s emotions, fusing head and heart. Through the regimen of Mussar study one’s intellect is trained to influence one’s heart thereby spanning the divide.
There would be another benefit realized from joining together head and heart The individual who succeeds in joining head and heart will rise above the swirl of events and remain serene at all times recognizing that whatever one encounters is the product of providence and for one’s good to have the tools to achieve success fulfilling those unique tasks that only that person can contribute in serving G-D’s purpose in creation. Such an integrated personality does not measure one’s life by anyone else’s standards or opinions only G-D’s who is only interested in one’s success. .