Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
The Spies’ Tunnel Vision
Published: Tuesday, June 9, 2020 03:38:04 PM
Number of views: 1228

Are we able to defeat the Giants? (Remember Willie Mays?) The Torah tells us that the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael were y’lide ho’anaq, remnants of a race of Giants. When the M’raglim, the Spies, returned with their report, they announced: “The people that dwell in the land are fierce, and the cities are fortified and very great; moreover, we saw the children of Giants there.” (Bamidbar 13:28) And again, (Bamidbar 13: 32,33) reference is made to the anshe middoth, the men of great stature, and the n’philim, the primeval Giants.

The Torah wants to impress upon us the fact that not Bigness was to conquer and hold the Holy Land – but Greatness. The Spies used the wrong measuring rod of Bigness, and that was their tragic and fatal error. However, G‑d desires Greatness not Bigness. This view of Bigness vs. Greatness is expressed in many places in Tanach. Yitzchak referred to Eisav as bno hagadol (his big son) (Bereshit 27:2), and the Rabbis comment, Hashem said to Yitzchak, “Im gadol hu b’einecha, baeinai hu nanas shebananasim.” “By your standards Eisav may be Big; but by My standards Eisav is a dwarf, a spiritual midget.” (Bereshit Rabba 65:11)

In the 16th Chapter of Shmuel Aleph we are given a beautiful description of the Biblical concept of Greatness, as opposed to the popular concept of Bigness. The prophet Shmuel is sent to Bethlehem to select a successor to Shaul Hamelech in the kingship. One by one Shmuel looks upon the sons of Yishai and thinks that this one or that one is the anointed of Hashem, but Hashem says to him: Al tabeit el mareihu v’el g’vah komato…ki lo asher yireh haadam, ki haadam yireh laeinayim v’Hashem yireh laleivav.” “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature… for it is not as a man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but Hashem looks in the heart.” (Shmuel Aleph 16:7). And it is Little David who was physically shorter than all of his brothers, who was selected, not by the standard of Bigness, but by the measuring rod of Greatness.

Bigness is measured from the chin down; but Greatness is measured from the chin up. A person may be the biggest and tallest player in the NBA and still be a mental midget. The Greatness of a people is no more determined by their number than the Greatness of a person is determined by his height. This is certainly true in the case of Israel. As the Torah says: “For you are a Holy People to Hashem, your G‑d,… Hashem did not choose and desire you because you were more in number than any people – for you are the fewest of all peoples…” (Devarim 7:6,7).

We were selected because of Greatness, because of being an Am Kadosh (a Holy People) and not for our size and numbers. When we are counted it is from the chin up that we are counted – ki thissa et rosh – “when you raise up the head…” (Shemot 30:11) Naso et rosh, “When you lift up the head…” (Bamidbar 4:22).

Judaism is a religion which does not stress Bigness. For Bigness, a key word in our society today, is very often bought at the expense and pain of others, but true Greatness is attained by developing the best within ourselves. That is why the Am Kadosh (the Holy People) never had to fear the B’ne ‘Anak – the Giants. For ultimately our spiritual Greatness must triumph over the Giants, mere Bigness.

Thus, the end of the Parsha of the Spies deals with the Mitzvah of Tzitzit. Rav Soloveitchik explains that the blue Techelet of Tzitzit is a symbol that all events in life are as profound and mysterious as the deep blue sky. For example, why certain people suffer and others don’t. The Talmud in Menachot states that the blue Techelet of Tzitzit reminds us to look up at the blue heavens and admire the incredible, vast expanse of endless space, leading to its Source, the Ein Sof – G‑d. As Tehillim 19:2 states, “The Heavens tell the glory of G‑d’s Greatness”. By admiring and appreciating G‑d’s Greatness, we can achieve and attain our own greatness as well.

The tragedy of what the spies reported was due to their using the wrong measuring rod because of their Tunnel Vision and NOT relying on the Torah’s Vision.

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