They Might Be Giants

Is anyone else amused by the convergence of Daf Yomi and Parshat Hashavua?

This week in shul I leyned Bemidbar 13:22: “They [the spies] went up into the Negev and came to Hebron, and there were Achiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the offspring of the giant.” At the time, I didn’t think much of this pasuk, except that I had to take extra care to pronounce these unusual names correctly.

But then on motzei Shabbat, when I was walking along Derech Hebron (truly!), I ran into Achiman, Sheshai, and Talmai again. I was listening to daf yomi (or Daf Yoma, as it were) on my headphones, where my very Ashkenazis-sounding podcaster was teaching about the “kohayn guddle” and the “lishkis farhedrin.” We somehow made our way from the corruption in the “lishkis farhedrin” (where the “kohayn guddle” sequestered himself for seven days before Yom Kippur) to the reasons the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed to a list of the places where the Shechina is present. This list of places turned into an explanation of interesting names in the Torah – and here is where my Canaanite canine Cerberus reared its three heads again. The Gemara teaches:

“ACHIMAN was given this name because he was the rightmost (yemin) of the brothers (achim).
SHESHAI was given this name because he made the land into pits (shchitot).
TALMAI was given this name because he made the land into furrows (t’lamim).

ACHIMAN built the city Anat;
SHESHAI built the city Alush;
TALMAI built the city Talbush.

They were the offspring of giants because in their great stature, they wore the sun like a necklace (anak).”

Were there really giants in the land of Israel? Were Achiman, Sheshai, and Talmai really so large that they wore the sun like a necklace just as God wears the light like a garment? Were the ten spies justified in quaking in fear; or did Caleb and Joshua instead speak the truth?

Rabbi Meir Schweiger of Pardes offered an interesting drash this week on the report of the ten spies. They tell the people, “We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.” If you feel like you are no taller than a grasshopper, says Rabbi Schweiger, then other people will look at you is if you are two inches tall. The ten spies, although they were princes and chieftans of their tribes, did not think highly of themselves. In their own eyes, they could not make the leap of faith necessary even just to unscramble the r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r.

Joshua and Caleb had no problems gathering into this leap. Caleb had the confidence to hush the people and say, “Let us up, yes go up, and conquer the land, for I think we can, think we can do it.” And Joshua may not have been tall enough to wear the sun like a necklace, but he was able to stop it in its course to conquer the city of Jericho.

We might be giants, too.

2 thoughts on “They Might Be Giants

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