This Torah reading focuses on the spies sent out to gather information about Eretz Yisrael. They came back, telling the people how terrifying the nations dwelling there were and how difficult, virtually impossible, it would be for the Jews to conquer the land of Israel. The people lost heart and wanted to turn back to Egypt. When G‑d saw this, He told Moses that the people were unfit for this mission of entering the land. They would wander in the desert for an additional 40 years and it would not be until the next generation that the people would enter Eretz Yisrael.

There is one telling line in the report the spies brought back. They told the people: “We saw the giants, the sons of the titan.... We were like grasshoppers in our eyes and so we were in theirs.”

Because they cowered in fear, their fear became a self-fulfilling prophecy. They lost their self-respect and, consequently, others had no respect for them.

Ultimately, the image a person projects outward is a reflection of the way he or she looks at himself. When the spies saw themselves as powerless, they became so and the Canaanites perceived them in that manner.

But what should they have done? They saw giants!

A positive self-image has to be genuine. The intent is not to fool others and even yourself with false bravado. Since the Canaanites were giants, how could the Jews have the self-confidence to think that they could defeat them?

Because they should have realized that inside, they were also giants. Indeed, they possessed far greater power than the Canaanites. The power the Canaanites possessed was merely physical. Now when two strong people are pitted against each other in battle, they both lose. One may emerge the victor, but he will also suffer losses. And the outcome is unpredictable. For when two people grapple with each other, it is impossible to know who is going to emerge victorious.

The Jews, by contrast, possessed far greater resources of strength. Their power was not physical, it was spiritual. They were not going to war because of their own strength. On the contrary, they were obviously a weaker nation physically. They were able to conquer Eretz Yisrael for one reason alone: because G‑d would assist them. And since G‑d was going to help them, it did not matter how powerful their foes were.

They had a tremendous potential to develop a positive self-image, because the truth of their being was an inner G‑dly spark, the soul that we all possess, and moreover, they had received G‑d’s assurance. The only challenge was that of properly focusing their attention. Instead of viewing the world through the myopic lens of humanity, they were invited — and expected — to see things from G‑d’s perspective.

That invitation is available to each one of us. We all confront the challenge of entering Eretz Yisrael: i.e., entering a world that is daunting and trying. We must realize that we have the inner strength to prevail, because we stand for more than ourselves. We are given a mission to make this world a dwelling for G‑d and there is nothing that can stand in the way of the fulfillment of that mission. With this in mind, we can proceed with true strength and confidence.

Looking to the Horizon

The Torah reading concludes with the mitzvah of tzitzis, the tassels worn on the four corners of our garments. Although the physical commandments are fulfilled only in our material world, our Sages also speak of how G‑d Himself, so to speak, fulfills His own commandments, as hinted at in the verse, “He tells His words to Yaakov, His statutes and His ordinances to Yisrael.” In the words of the Midrash: “A man of flesh habitually tells others to perform actions, though he himself does not perform them. Not so with the Holy One, blessed be He: the acts that He Himself performs, He commands the Jewish people to perform and to observe.”

Through our fulfillment of the mitzvah of tzitzis, whose four corners we gather together every morning, we hasten the fulfillment of this mitzvah by G‑d Himself — the ingathering of the Jewish people from the four corners of the earth.