A People of Fine Character? Weekly Portion. Spies: Shalach (Numbers4) Numbers chapters 13-15 (May 26, 2013)
26 Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 Then they told him, and said: We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.
30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we. 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.
We see above the expression,
Numbers 13: 32 "...of great stature". in Hebrew Anshei [men of] Midot [measurements].
Midot means literally measurements so men of measurements means very large people of exceptional measurement. It should be remembered that very often in Biblical Exegesis several explanations are possible and all are applicable. They do not contradict nor cancel each other out but rather have specific pertinence of their own.
Midot in Hebrew can also mean personality characteristics especially positive ones. I once heard an interesting observation on this expression from Rabbi Leib Lopian formerly of Gateshead Yeshiva in the UK. Rabbi Leib was the son of Rabbi Elyahu Lopian, author of "Lev Eliyahu", and a great Rabbi. When I knew him, Rabbi Leib was living in retirement with his wife in a religious neighborhood in Israel. I had just gotten married and they were our next-door neighbors. Occasionally I would accompany Rabbi Leib to and fro from the Synagogue and he would usually give me a "Devar Torah" (word of Torah). One of the words he told me that I still remember concerned this expression, Anshei Midot when used in the sense of "Good character". The Canaanites were not only physically impressive they were also, at least superficially, socially developed. This, said Rabbi Lopian, was similar to the Germans before WW2. The Germans were admired for their characteristics. [ They were efficient, polite, idealistic, often men of honor and principle.] Very few imagined then that they were capable of doing what they alter did. So too, after the war had begun the moral impression they had previously made added to the intimidating and formidable task of defeating them.
All of the enemies and potential enemies of the Israelite nations today have characteristics and patterns of behavior that we have a relative lack of.
Nevertheless we should remember that if the Almighty is with us we shall overcome.
Over emphasizing the positive aspects of the enemy was one of the demoralizing claims made by the wicked spies who brought calamity to all the people.
We should do what we can and trust in the Almighty to help us.
The Muslims may appear more fanatical, fierce, and self-sacrificing but with the help of God we can beat them.
The Chinese are more numerous, obedient and organized but with the help of God we can beat them.
The Japanese are more homogeneous, disciplined, and technically proficient and maybe in some ways more intelligent but with the help of God we can beat them.
The same applies to the Russians, and Germans and all the others who might now or in the future attempt to harm us.