In this week’s parsha we read of the spies that toured Cana’an, and whose report ultimately led to the Israelites spending another (nearly) 40 years in the wilderness. In their worrisome and negative report of the land they scouted, the ten (excepting Calev and Yehoshua) spies make one statement that is hard to understand, even on a simple level:
וְשָׁם רָאִינוּ, אֶת-הַנְּפִילִים בְּנֵי עֲנָק–מִן-הַנְּפִלִים; וַנְּהִי בְעֵינֵינוּ כַּחֲגָבִים, וְכֵן הָיִינוּ בְּעֵינֵיהֶם
“And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim. And we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, as we were in their sight.”
(Bamidbar 13:33, translation mine)
The Rashbam’s comments on the verse explain how one can seem like a grasshopper in another’s eyes, the simpler half of the spies closing statement. What I think is in need or more explanation is how they looked to themselves like grasshoppers? I remember being taught when I was young that this pointed to the fact that the ten spies entered their assignment with a defeatist attitude, and I think this does capture what might have been going on. Otherwise, these ten spies – chosen for their skills at the task they were undertaking (Rashi on 13:2) – should not have thought so lowly of themselves.
Even in our own eyes
We were small as grasshoppers
What did we do wrong?