Sunday, June 22, 2014

Shlach Lecha- Finding Balance

V’sham ra’inu et-haN’philim b’nei Anak min-haN’philim va’n’chi v’eineinu kachagavim v’khein hayinu b’eineihem.
And there we saw the N’philim, the sons of Anak [who come] from the N’philim, and we were, in our eyes, like grasshoppers, and thus we were in their eyes. (B’midbar 13:33)
 As observers, we are given little insight into any instruction the spies might have received when sent into Canaan to scout out the land. We only see the results of their ill-fated mission. Nonetheless, the text provides us with clues as to the state of mind of the spies as they walked the land. Va’n’chi v’eineinu kachagavim v’khein hayinu b’eineihem; we were, in our eyes, like grasshoppers, and thus we were in their eyes. It is not an interview with the N’philim that tells us this. No, the spies assume that their own self-image is projected into the eyes of others. “We were in our eyes,... and so in their eyes.” The Kotzker Rebbe gives us a response to this attitude. In God’s voice, he asks, “Why are you so concerned with how others see you? It distracts you from your sacred mission.” It is a valid question. Unfortunately, our concern with how others see us is a very real issue. We know self-esteem can be valid predictors of health and well-being. Our ability to complete a project or do well in an interview is directly proportional to self-image. How we feel effects how we dress and present ourselves, which, in turn, effects how others see us. Is it fair then to expect the spies to put aside their feelings of image? Is it even possible?
Two of the spies came back with a different attitude. Joshua and Kalev were unfazed. The saw the same land flowing with richness. They saw the same giants inhabiting the land. But their reaction was wholly different. Instead of seeing themselves as grasshoppers, bugs to be stepped on, a scourge in the land, they focused on God. Their reality was no different than that of the other ten spies. What was different was how they felt in the situation. The ten were still focused on their history. They were still slaves, worthless or worth little, easily crushed. Joshua and Kalev were bolstered by faith. Their faith informed their self-worth. To them, their value did not come from what others did to them, but from the value they gave themselves.
It is never easy to let go of the negatives on our lives. They are part of us. Nevertheless, we must each learn how to balance the bad with the good, to understand that others do not make us who we are.