When the spies returned from their mission to the Land of Israel, they curiously never said that Jews cannot conquer it. This is what they said:
"“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there (Numbers 3) .
To which Caleb responded: "“Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
The spies then explained what they experienced:“The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
Much has been made of this amazing lack of confidence in themselves, their mission and ultimately of Hashem's power, but an important question remains. Why did they not compare themselves to ants? Why to grasshoppers?
Rashi seems to have been troubled by this question and he explains that grasshoppers really means ants. He says: "We heard them say to each other, 'There are ants in the vineyard like people".
However, one can suggest that they really did mean grasshoppers and not ants, and why is this?
Because there is a major difference about how ants and grasshoppers think of themselves.
Ants are very happy to run across the ground and have no aspiration to leap, to go higher. They are very happy to be ants, like all their fellow ants, of which they are an integral part. Ants are faithful workers, who contribute to the collective; they work industriously and proudly, until it is their time to go into oblivion, fully satisfied with their little lives and their tiny, but to them primary place in the ant universe. No ant ever thought to rise above his fellows. His is what he is, a social creature, who measures himself solely by its social position in the world of ants.
Grasshoppers jump. They rise and they fall. They cover distance. They try, every time to jump higher.
Ants do not get depressed by Giants. In their universe, Giants don't even exist.And if they do so what. Can Giants build ant heaps, drag kernels to the Queen, build walls and do all the things good ants do? Of course now. If so, what are they good for?
But grasshoppers, understand, they understand.
Ants will never be depressed by Giants. But, grasshoppers are.
When the spies saw the Giants, they suffered an acute crisis of confidence. For so many years, they worked on scaling the heights of greatness, fixing their characters, gaining awareness of the Divine, plumbing the depths of Torah. Year by year their jumps became a little higher, their time in the air a little longer.
And then they met Giants. They felt like frauds, or worse, suckers. Grasshoppers cannot be Giants, so why even try.
Fine, you might say, that is true and so why were they wrong.
"Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites (Numbers 14). The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?
They were profoundly mistaken because with Hashem's active help and assistance, even grasshoppers can become Giants. This is what they did not understand.
Once we talk about animals, let us look at another majestic creature that Hashem had made.
Frigate birds can stay in the airs for days at a time, hardly ever flapping their expansive wings. For many years, zoologists were mystified about this ability, until they realized that frigate birds ride currents. They are able to find an updraft and stay with it for hours at a time, skipping and jumping from one current to another.
In their confusion and humiliation, in their embarassment about the limits of their own powers, the spies forgot the great Power of Hashem. They forgot that they need not flap their wings to exhaustion, gaining altitude inch by inch. They can rest upon and ride the updraft of the Master of the World.
So can we!