Sunday, June 10, 2007

The story of the spies and the importance of self confidence (Shlach)

Harry's friend Neville is told by a teacher in Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix (in the book) that the only thing holding him back is his own lack of self-confidence. Later in the story his self-confidence grows, leading to his involvement in the climactic conflict at the end of the book (as we're all looking forward to seeing in the movie).

The ability of self-confidence to have a magical effect on our lives is something that we can see in the Torah as well.

(By the way, if this is your first time reading this blog, you can read 200 pages worth of Torah ideas about Harry Potter themes in my book, Harry Potter and Torah.)

The story of the spies, who were sent from the desert to spy out the Land of Israel before the Jewish people entered the Land, has been the subject of many discussions from many perspectives. When the spies returned from seeing the Land and gave their negative report, they mentioned seeing a tribe of giant people, and said "we felt like grasshoppers, and that's how they saw us." Many commentaries point out that the spies were betraying something very psychological in this sentence.

"We felt like grasshoppers" -- this was their own feeling, a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem

"and that's how they saw us" -- once the spies had lost their own self-confidence, others saw them negatively as well

When people have self-confidence, it changes how they act, and indirectly changes how they are perceived by others. If the spies had had self-confidence, if they hadn't seen themselves as "grasshoppers," the giants would not have seen them in that way. But, conversely, if people lack self-esteem and see themselves negatively, it effects how they act and how they project themselves, and thereby effects how people see them. The spies "felt like grasshoppers," and therefore "that's how they saw us."

This is not only a lesson for Neville in Harry Potter, but a lesson for all of us in our lives. Confidence is not a consequence of how we act and how we're perceived, rather it's a choice that we all have the power to make that will effect how we act and how we're perceived.

We will see Neville starting to learn this lesson when the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix comes out this summer, and I predict that his increased self-confidence will play a part in the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In the meanwhile, if we all realize our own inner strengths, and focus on our self-confidence, the result might be magical.

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