04 June 2021

Reb Neuberger: ARE WE GRASSHOPPERS?


ARE WE GRASSHOPPERS?


In the Long Island community where we used to live before we made aliyah, there was a recent rally on the theme, “We dare not be silent as our community is targeted by violent anti-Semitism.” 


Could this happen in America? 


In my book, Hold On, I wrote: “There is almost certainly going to come a time – possibly very soon – when, like the Children of Israel at the Red Sea, we are literally surrounded, and we must face the fact that we have no logical hope for survival. What will we do then?  We will have only One Place to turn. The words of King David: ‘All the nations surround me. In the Name of Hashem I cut them down. They encircle me; they also surround me. In the Name of Hashem, I cut them down. They encircle me like bees, but they are extinguished as a fire does thorns. In the Name of Hashem I cut them down.” (Tehillim 118) King David stresses one thing … by which we can save ourselves: calling out in the Name of G-d. When all ‘logical’ methods fail, then we must realize there is nothing left besides Hashem.” 


My friends, we have to take seriously that the world structure is crumbling and that there is nothing to which to “Hold On” except Hashem and His Torah. The values of Edom, the surrounding culture, are like dust and ashes. Not only that, Yishmael and Edom are turning against us with a final lunge as the curtain is about to fall in the drama of world history. “When the wicked bloom like grass and all doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them until eternity.” (Tehillim 92)


In this week’s Parsha, we meet the miraglim, whose loshon hara caused untold tragedy among the Children of Israel. Not only were our ancestors delayed by forty years from reaching Eretz Yisroel, but, because of the delay, untold additional tragedies unfolded: our Temples were destroyed and we were violently thrown into the terrible Exile where we remain to this very day. 


Rabbi Dovid Rosman, in his book Torah Connections, asks an interesting question: what loshon hara did the miraglim utter? Are negative words referring to physical land considered loshon hara? Was the land hurt? Does land have feelings?


The basic problem with evil words is not whether the object of the words is hurt by them – although that is significant -- but rather the negative attitude, the eyen ha ra, which engenders them. Eyen ha ra is like a fly which hovers over a magnificent marble countertop, but chooses to alight on the minute speck of rotting food (Rabbeinu Yonah). When we look with a dark eye, focusing on the negative in this magnificent world, that sickness can destroy us. This is what the miraglim did. 


When we see in our fellow Jew, instead of the holy neshoma, negative traits, that poisons our per-spective, bringing ruin in its wake. I know from personal experience that, when I am in a “bad mood,” I see only blemishes in other people; that attitude ruins life for me (and others) until I bring myself out of that depressed state. 


When this becomes the habitual attitude of Am Yisroel and our Jewish family unity and brotherly love is polluted, we are plunged into tragedy and exile. The miraglim saw only hopelessness and defeat in the magnificent Land of Israel. They forgot that Hashem had just released them through earth-shaking miracles from the land of their enemies. They forgot that Hashem was with them every second. This poisoned the future. Tisha b’Av became the day on which the greatest tragedies unfolded for Am Yisroel throughout our history. 


Please listen to the words of the miraglim: “There we saw the Nephilim [‘giants’]. We were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes.” (Bamidbar 13:33) 


I believe this is the essence of the problem. 


We project our own view of ourselves onto others. If I hate some trait in myself, the evil inclination tells me not to acknowledge it, because then I will have to cleanse myself of that trait and come closer to G-d. Teshuva, repentance, is hard work.


No! The common reaction is to see that negative trait in someone else and hate that person for the negative trait which is really in me! I believe that sinas chinom, unwarranted hatred between Jew and Jew – which caused the destruction of the Second Bais Hamikdosh and our catastrophic Golus – all stems from unwillingness to acknowledge our own faults and the projection of them onto others. This is what turns brothers into enemies! 


Here you have the classic formulation of this terrible phenomenon: the miraglim were suddenly “looking through the eyes” of the Nephilim. They imagined the Nephilim thought of them as “grasshoppers.” Who says that the Nephilim even noticed them? 


Are Jews “grasshoppers?” 


Hashem had just said to them, “You shall be to Me the most beloved treasure of all peoples … a kingdom of ministers and a holy nation!” (Shemos 19:6) 


What do you mean … “grasshoppers!”


Our self-image has to be rectified. We have to know who we are, servants of the Al-Mighty G-d. If we train ourselves to follow His Torah and live in His Image, then we will no longer regard ourselves as grasshoppers, and we will indeed become His Holy Nation. 


Then we will not fear the nations of the world.  


Then the Redemption will come suddenly and soon. 


At the Sea of Reeds, Hashem told us, “Do not fear! Stand fast and see the salvation of Hashem that He will perform for you today.” (Shemos 14:13) 


With one change of heart, we can bring Redemption “k’heref ayin,” in the blink of an eye! 



Grasshopper


GLOSSARY

Bais Hamikdosh: The Holy Temple

Eyen ha ra: Evil eye, a negative view of the world

Golus: Exile

Loshon ha ra: Evil speech

Miraglim: the spies who gave a negative report about the Land of Israel

Neshoma: Soul

Teshuva: Repentance 

Yetzer ha ra: The Evil Inclination


1 comment:

moshe said...

Great post!
We know that the meraglim were the cream of the crop; tops, the leaders of their tribes. Yet, they spoke negatively about one of the greatest gifts that Hashem gave to His children, Yisrael. Why? They inwardly/outwardly understood that H' is Master of the Universe, so why would they fear; that was an excuse for them to use because they had become accustomed to living in the desert where they did not have to toil for anything, food, clothes. Why have a land where they would have to plow and work the fields when they had everything set up for them and they could sit and learn Torah with ease and no worries. They did not figure that this was the ultimate 'insult' to H', denying the great gift of the most precious, treasured land that is called holy and is G-D's Abode on earth. The Master of everything is giving a gift of priceless worth that nothing other than the Torah itself could compare to it and yet they had the chutzpah of shrugging it off. An ultimate betrayal! H', please forgive us for that great sin and redeem us from this long and hard galut and give every Jewish neshama the greatest prize ever by allowing us (Bnai Yisrael) to live on our Land, Eretz Yisrael, forever!
Amen!