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Shabbat Parashat Shelach 5783

Parashat Hashavua: Big, Small, and Giant

Harav Yosef Carmel

The spies put a lot of stress on the size of the people waiting to resist Bnei Yisrael in the Land of Canaan and the families of giants from which they came. The spies claimed that they felt and were perceived in the eyes of the people of the Land as grasshoppers (Bamidbar 13:32-33).

 The most famous warrior against the giants was King David. After all, he killed the fearsome Goliat when he was still a youngster. It is interesting that David was referred to as the katan (little one). When Shmuel came to find a replacement for Shaul as king and arrived at the home of Yishai, where Hashem had sent him, Yishai passed seven sons before Shmuel, who told Yishai that none of them was the chosen one. When Shmuel asked if there were any more sons, Yishai responded: “The katan is left, and he is shepherding the flock” (Shmuel I, 16:10-11). The seven sons that were mentioned did not include David. Although David was actually the seventh out of eight children (see Divrei Hayamim I, 2:15), he was still called “the little one.”

Another time he is called the katan is when Yishai’s “three big sons” went with Shaul to battle the Plishtim, who came with their intimidating giant, Goliat. In that context, it says that David, the katan, was not among the sons who went (Shmuel I, 17:12-14). We stress again that David is deliberately contrasted with the big sons as THE little one even though he was not the youngest.

A similar contrast can be made with other competitors of David. The reigning king when David was anointed, Shaul, was described as a head taller than the next tallest person in the nation (ibid. 9:2). But due to his mistaken actions, Hashem lost His high regard for Shaul and was disgusted by the prospect of Shaul’s staying on the throne (ibid. 16:1).

When Shmuel and Yishai thought that the best candidate for replacement was David’s oldest brother, Eliav, Hashem told Shmuel not to be attracted by his appearance and height and that Eliav was despised in His eyes (ibid. 7). While Yishai intended that one of his older sons would kill Goliat, Divine Providence had it that they would not, but that their younger and less physically impressive brother would do so. It was specifically the “smallness” of David that made him fit for the task of kingship. The midrash (Midrash Tannaim, Devarim 1:17) says that the reason Yishai viewed David as unfit to be king is that when he was young, he prophesied that he would destroy Plishti places and kill a giant named Goliat and that he would build the Beit Hamikdash. Because of this attitude, Yishai put David among the sheep. When Shmuel asked Yishai to present the “other” son, Shmuel was not impressed by David. Hashem was angered by Shmuel and chided him for sitting in the presence of the one who would be the anointed king. About overcoming these attitudes toward him, David sang: “The stone that was despised by the builders was chosen as the cornerstone” (Tehillim 118:22). The referenced builders were Shmuel and Yishai.

We will keep on reminding our readers that the more a person makes himself “small” the more he is fit to be chosen as a leader.

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