Double Mitzvah – Shlah

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Tamar Fox. Check out last week’s post in this series, Double Mitzvah – B’Haalotcha.

Rated PGThis week’s Torah portion tells us about Moses sending spies–one from each tribe–into the land of Israel to scope out the situation. Though this was not recommended by God, the people felt it was important, so Moses sent them off with instructions to take note of the land and report back.

When the spies returned, 10 of the 12 were pessimistic about Israel. They said, “We cannot attack that people, for it is stronger than we. And the country that we traversed and scouted is one that devours its settlers. All the people that we saw in it are men of great size; we saw the Nephilim there–the Anakites are part of the Nephilim–and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.” (Numbers 13:31-33)

This led to great outcry among the Israelites, and Moses and Aaron then had to spend a good deal of time reassuring the people, and trying to get them motivated to continue on to Israel.

The parsha then goes into some legal rulings, and ends with the law to put tzitzit on the corner of one’s garments.

The line that always strikes me from this parsha is the culmination of the spies’ pessimism: “We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.” They assumed that their self-perception was shared by others. And it was a negative, size-based self-perception. But, spoiler alert, we know that the people do go on to succeed in the land of Israel, successfully conquering even the Nephilim. This hindsight allows us to take an important lesson from the spies’ attitudes: our own self-perception is generally seriously off base, particularly when it comes to our size, and how others see us.

So many of us have hangups about our bodies–it’s nearly inescapable these days. But whatever it is that we find unattractive or unappealing about our bodies may be the very thing that a partner finds attractive in us. And while we may spend hours criticizing our stomach, our thighs, our chest–the things we hate about them are not necessarily barriers to potential partners.

When you catch yourself speculating about how a partner may see you, remember the line “and so we must have looked to them.” This defeatist attitude cost the Israelites 40 years in the desert! And whether or not the Israelites appeared to be grasshoppers to the Nephilim, in the end, the Israelites were successful, and flourished in the land of Israel. This Shabbat, put the Nephilim out of your head–your size, whether you think it’s too big, too small, or off in some other way–need not be a barrier in finding a good partner.

Shabbat shalom!

Author of Jewrotica's Double Mitzvah column, Tamar Fox is a writer and editor in Philadelphia. She will try anything once, including open relationships, dating someone who is chalav yisrael, and going to Suriname.
  • Ayo Oppenheimer

    Most of us would be better off if our self image and self worries were replaced by the way that others see us. Thank you for bringing this important and relevant topic to light.