Straight Talk Parshat Shlach: Self Projections
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Shlach(Numbers 13-15)

Self Projections

After returning from scouting the Land of Israel, the spies reported that there were giants living in the land. They said, "We saw ourselves as grasshoppers, and that's what they thought of us, too" (Number 13:33). But how did they know what the inhabitants of Canaan thought of them? After all, they were spying the land surreptitiously and spoke to no one along the way. How could they know what anyone was thinking?

The answer requires a closer look at what they said. Firstly, the spies said that they saw themselves as grasshoppers, and then they say "that's also what the giants thought of us." In other words, they were taking what they thought of themselves and projecting it onto these giants. The giants may well not have looked at them as grasshoppers, but because the spies saw themselves that way, they could only imagine that was how others were seeing them, too.

We do the same all the time.

People who think a lot of themselves believe that everyone is equally impressed. And people with low self-esteem think that nobody likes them. Neither is necessarily right, of course, but their own thinking becomes their personal reality.

In truth, the people living in Canaan were intimidated by the Jewish people. The Jews may have been smaller than the Canaanites physically, but their reputation was massive. They had recently decimated the Egyptians, the most powerful empire the world had seen to date, and defeated the powerful Amalekites in battle. The Canaanites may have been giants, but they were actually afraid. The Jewish people would have swept into Canaan with no one to oppose them. But their own thinking about themselves would not allow them to see this possibility.

I recently saw a play that illustrated precisely the opposite. Golda Meir and those at the founding of the State of Israel were surrounded by five Arab armies -- larger and better equipped, intent on their destruction. But in the Israeli's own eyes, they were invincible. And so they were.

Limitations in life are so often of our own creation. We think we cannot do something, and so we cannot. We need to learn to see beyond the limits that our personal thinking imposes upon us. Only then will we begin to realize just how vast the human potential stored within each and every one of us really is.

Published: June 6, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 2

(2) eliezer ben kohen, June 13, 2014 1:26 PM

context is paramount.

The ancient near eastern context is by far the most revealing understanding of the Torah. Many things that we hold dear would disappear once the context is explained. Many traditions that would be redefined by this context.

(1) Anonymous, June 10, 2014 12:32 PM

So true!

This is excellent! Thank you so much for posting it!

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