Hoppin’ Mad: Shelach Lecha 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: When, if ever, have you done things that you later determined were “beneath your dignity”? Did you do those things because you thought too much of yourself, or not enough of yourself?The 10 wayward scouts in our Torah portion see themselves as pitiful creatures compared to other people who live in the Promised Land:

The Pitch: “‘[We] saw the Nephilim there – the Anakites are part of the Nephilim – and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.’” – Numbers 13:33

Swing #1: “[On this verse] Rashi writes of ants instead of grasshoppers. Why did he not abide by the Scriptural text? We are told in the Book of Proverbs (6:6): ‘Lazybones, go to the ant; study its ways and learn.” From this we gather that the lowly ant can teach man how to accept the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven. By making an evil report about the Promised Land, the spies cast off that Divine yoke. It is for this reason that Rashi here reminds us of the ant, from whom the spies, and anyone else for that matter, could learn much about obedience to God.” – Kedushat Levi

Swing #2: “This was one of the sins of the spies. ‘We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves’; this is a reasonable reaction. But when we say, ‘and so we must have looked to them,’ what is going on? What possible difference could it make for you [to know or even care] how you appear in the eyes of others!” – Menachem Mendl of Kotzk

Swing #3: “The spies are filled with awe before the invulnerable, the vertical; they sense themselves as humiliated at their own grasshopper dimensions, their sheretz reality. This splitting-off, the incapacity to bear the tension of their own equivocal existence, leads to a real despair, an acceptance of the lowest human profile … The spies see themselves reflected in the eyes of the fantasy giants: an intimate vision of self is corroborated at every turn.” – Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Beginnings of Desire

Late-Inning Questions: Why do our commentators believe that the scouts are so negative about the prospect of conquering the Holy Land? Is it notable that the scouts describe themselves as an insects as opposed to another animal or object? Do the scouts think less of themselves or of God’s ability to deliver the Israelites from danger? In general, is it more dangerous for one’s self-esteem and confidence to be too high or too low?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We are grateful that, at tonight’s healing service, we will be joined by congregants of Emanuel AME Church. We will hear from one congregant who will reflect on the two-year anniversary of the tragedy and how we can come together for a hopeful tomorrow. Thank you in advance to the Mintzers for hosting tonight’s services and dinner. Tonight’s program begins at 6:00PM.

The Big Inning at the End: As major-leaguers continue to belt tape-measure home runs, observers have begun asking whether the ball is “juiced” – in other words, whether baseballs have been purposely altered in order to make home runs more likely. Is it better to have more high-scoring games, regardless of what means are used to make them possible?

Shabbat Shalom!