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Drash on Shelach Lecha 2023

Rabbi Rafi Kaiserblueth

Emanuel Synagogue

As I watch my children grow, I often have the experience of one of them coming to me and complaining about what one of his siblings has called him. Obviously upset at the insult or disparaging comment, I sometimes am at a loss on how to respond.  I am reminded of a powerful response I was taught when I was younger; ask yourself, is that comment true? No? Then ignore it! Perhaps easier for a teenager to understand than an 8 year old.

Parashat Shlach Lecha recounts the story of the spies who were sent to scout the Promised Land. Their negative report and comparison of themselves to grasshoppers serves as a valuable lesson about not allowing others to define our worth and character. This lesson remains relevant today, where external influences can shape our moral compass and self worth. By examining the example of the spies and drawing upon a contemporary moral dilemma, we can learn how to uphold our values and resist the pressure to measure ourselves according to someone else’s standards.

In the parasha, the spies return from their mission and express fear and doubt about conquering the land. They exclaim, “and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.” (Numbers 13:33). This comparison reveals their distorted self-perception, influenced by the negative opinions of others. Instead of recognizing their strengths and trusting in God’s promise, they allow fear and external judgment to define their potential.

In his commentary on this verse, Rashi highlights the spies’ grave error by pointing out that their claim, “We were in their eyes,” is purely speculative. Rashi suggests that the spies should have acknowledged their own worth and not presumed to know how they were perceived by the Canaanites. Their self-imposed limitation as grasshoppers reflects their lack of faith in themselves and their mission. Further, and perhaps more importantly, they allowed their perception of what others thought of them to define their reality.

Parashat Shlach Lecha and Rashi remind us not to succumb to such influences. We must resist the temptation to let others define our actions and values. Instead, we should assert our agency and embrace our role as moral individuals. Like the spies should have done, we need to evaluate our own worth and make choices that align with our beliefs, regardless of the prevailing opinions.

Parashat Shlach Lecha teaches us the importance of maintaining a strong sense of self and staying true to our values, even when faced with external pressures. By rejecting the grasshopper mentality and embracing our worth and potential, we can make a positive impact on the world around us. Let us remember Rashi’s interpretation and not assume how others perceive us. Instead, let us define ourselves through our actions, grounded in our moral compass and guided by our principles.



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