Parshas Shelach: Great man or great grasshopper- YOU choose!

Only you can choose your destiny…

Sometimes we come up against the opinions of others about ourselves. “you’re a lazy so and so”, “You won’t accomplish anything”. We take the words to heart, and they become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The first people on record to address that mistake where the spies. In their damning report of their expedition to Israel they recounted:
וַנְּהִי בְעֵינֵינוּ כַּחֲגָבִים וְכֵן הָיִינוּ בְּעֵינֵיהֶם (במדבר פרק י”ג פס’ ל”ג):
“And we were, in our eyes, like grasshoppers. And so we were in their eyes [like grasshoppers] (Bamidbar 13:33)

Rashi tells us that the spies had heard the giants talking among themselves about grasshoppers who looked like men, which they understood to be a reference to them.
Noted educator Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstien observes (in a shiur that can be accessed at that the spies said ‘we felt like grasshoppers in our eyes, and therefore we were grasshoppers in their eyes’. In other words, they were admitting that it was their perception of themselves that affected the way the giants viewed them, and not the other way around.
As I’ve heard from one veteran teacher, the best way for a parent to help a child being bullied (in addition to telling him/her to tell his teacher and ensuring that the bully is dealt with appropriately) is to empower the child to choose what he/she thinks of himself/herself, rather than relying on the views of the bully. This equips him/her with a reservoir of resilience that he/she can draw on later in life.
We could extend the lesson taught by the spies to the way we view our life circumstances in general. Victor Frankl was a Jewish Psychiatrist who spent much of World War 2 as a prisoner of Auschwitz. He observed that those who survived the longest were the ones who lived for others, the ones who gave up their bread, the ones who supported the sick people on the death marches. Frankl summed up his conclusions in his famous book, Man’s search for Meaning:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
We are not affected by our circumstances and other’s views of us. We affect our circumstances and other’s views of us.

Action leads to passion

“I don’t have the passion for growing. I don’t want to grow!”

Does this sound familiar to you?

Let’s face it. We all sometimes feel that mitzvos are chores, tasks that we don’t particularly enjoy. We’d rather serve Hashem when we feel inspired to.

Rashi tells us how Aharon was upset to learn that he would not be able to attend the inauguration of the Nesi’im. Hashem had to comfort him and told him that he would be doing a job much greater than that of the Nesi’im. He would light the Menorah.

But why was Aharon so desperate to be at the inauguration? He had plenty of zechusim already!?

מלא מחזיק, ריקן אינו מחזיק- one who is full (of Torah and mitzvos) can hold (more), one who is empty cannot hold (.ברכות מ)

The Mashgiach of Ponevezh explains: Paradoxically, the more one satiates his neshomah the hungrier he gets for more spiritual food. Conversely, a person who is ’empty’ spiritually will not feel that hunger for more, and will avoid any opportunity to grow. That is why Chazal also said that תלמידי חכמים have no rest, in This World or the Next World (.ברכות סד). Their actions created a cycle which fuels their passion to do more. That is how they grow.

Aharon had a lifetime of mitzvos behind him at that point. But that didn’t stop his passion for Yiddishkeit, it fuelled it! The more he accomplished, the bigger his drive for accomplishment got.

The hunger for mitzvos comes from doing them and putting thought into them, even if we have to push ourselves. It comes from trying to focus on some of shemoneh esrei during Maariv, after long day at the office. From going out of your way to smile even when you’re not in the best of moods. By being proactive, we can reach a level where we will look forward to doing mitzvos.

Yes, we need passion. But it starts with action.

(from Sefer Talelei Oros)