Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 21   No. 37

This issue is sponsored by
Rabbi Chaim Wilschanski
in honour of the birth of his great granddaughter
Esther Rina Debson n"y
sh'tizkeh l'ben torah l'chupah u'lmaasim tovim

Parshas Sh'lach l'cha

About the Haftarah
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Secret Agents

"And Yehoshua bin Nun sent from Shitim two men as spies, secretly (Cheresh), saying 'Go and see the land and Yericho ' " (Yehoshua 2:1).

Everyone knows the lengths to which a spy will go to cover up his name and his identity to protect his very life. Why then, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, does the Navi add the word "secretly" after the word "spies"?

Perhaps that is why, after citing Targum Yonasan, who translates "Cheresh" literally (as above), Rashi, notwithstanding the punctuation of the word, cites a second explanation - 'as potters', a ruse to hide the true purpose of their visit.


To answer the above question, the author explains that the spies' visit to Eretz Cana'an was kept a secret, not only from the Cana'anim, but also from Yisrael.

The spies in the time of Moshe failed in their mission, he explains, because everything was done in public - the people sent them initially and the people were involved with them when they returned. Consequently, in order to prevent a repeat of that debacle, Yehoshua carried out the current spying mission in complete secrecy (See also Rashi, Ki Sissa, 34:3), hiding both the sending of the spies and their return from the people, who remained totally unaware of the entire venture. That is why, when on the seventh of Nisan, when he instructed the people to prepare for the crossing of the Yarden in three days' time, nobody suggested waiting until the spies returned and they heard what they had to say. And that is why, when the spies did return, the Pasuk records how they reported directly to Yehoshua, and not to the captains of the army.


Rachav ha'Zonah

" and they came to the house of a woman who was a Zonah, whose name was Rachav, and they slept there" (Ibid.).

Yonasan translates the word "Zonah" as an inn-keeper, which is the most likely place for strangers to spend the night, and the most likely place for spies to pick up snippets of information. And Rashi takes his cue from Targum Yonasan.

Chazal however, translate Zonah literally as a harlot, and the obvious question is why two Tzadikim of the caliber of Pinchas and Caleiv (the names of the two spies, as Rashi informs us) would choose such a dubious location to spend their first night in Cana'an?


In one of his answers, the Oznayim la'Torah cites the Medrash, who explains that there was not an officer or a prince in Eretz Cana'an with whom Rachav ha'Zonah was not familiar, and that her home was the one place where they would be able to pick up all the information they needed. Indeed, he explains, their instructions were to spy out the land and Yericho, whereas they went only to Yericho. How did they otherwise obtain the required information about the rest of the land?


In another answer, citing the Radak, the author explains that they turned to Rachav for information because she and her father were not natives of Cana'an (which explains why Yehoshua was ultimately permitted to spare their lives, and why Rachav was permitted to convert and to marry Yehoshua - in spite of the prohibition of leaving any Cana'ani alive and that of allowing them to marry a Yisrael [Refer also to Tosfos, Sotah, Daf 35b DH 'Lerabos', who gives a different answer]).

Moreover, he says, they assumed - correctly as it transpired - that she would be more likely to decline to hand them over to the authorities.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

A Change of Heart

"Send for yourselves spies " (13:2).

As Rashi points out, it was not G-d's plan to send spies at all. He had told them that the land was good. Consequently, with the "Man of War" at their head, they had nothing to worry about, any more than they had to worry about the Egyptians at the Reed Sea, whom they had seen being helplessly mowed down like skittles, unable to as much as raise a hand in self-defense, unable to escape the tempestuous waters which crashed down upon them and proceeded to hurl them up and down like lead, like stones and like straw.

No, G-d had intended to bring them into Eretz Cana'an/Yisrael and to hand it over to them without a fight, as is evident from the previous Pasuk there, and the idea of sending spies came from the people themselves. This in turn, is clear from the Pasuk in Devarim (1:22), where the Torah presents their request in detail (See Rashi there).

It is difficult to understand, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, what happened to Yisrael, who had seen G-d's unique Hand at work, both in Egypt and at the Reed Sea. They had followed Moshe blindly into the desert, where they survived for over a year on Heavenly food and a miraculous well. And they had witnessed first-hand, G-d's Omnipotence and heard His Voice at Har Sinai, and been led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Moreover, they saw the Shechinah constantly in the form of a pillar of cloud hovering over the Mishkan. They must surely have been aware that every facet of their existence in the desert was Heavenly? Up until now, "they traveled and they encamped by the command of Hashem", and now they needed spies to instruct them "the way on which they should go and which cities they should attack"?

What was it that affected their Emunah so badly that they thought that all this would come to an abrupt end? If G-d was able to provide them with a Heavenly existence in the desert, why would He not continue to do so once they entered Eretz Cana'an?

The truth of the matter is that even Moshe wondered at this change of heart, when he exclaimed in disbelief "And in this matter you do not believe in Hashem your G-d - who went before you on the way to spy out for you a location to encamp, with fire by night to show you the way and with a cloud by day!" Devarim (1:32).


The answer, at least in part, the author explains, can be accredited to the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad, 'Moshe meis, Yehoshus machnis' the prophecy that Moshe would die and Yehoshua would lead Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael that so irked Yehoshua. In fact, Moshe Rabeinu himself had indicated the veracity of this prophecy when (in the Pasuk in Devarim to which we alluded earlier) he said "See, Hashem Your G-d has given before you the land, go and take possession of it " - impltying that he would not enter the land together with them. Clearly then, Moshe's days were numbered and Yehoshua would inherit the mantle of leadership.

And they believed that all the miracles that they had witnessed and lived through in the desert were on the merit of Moshe Rabeinu, and that when they arrived in Eretz Yisrael, a new era, a more down-to-earth-era, was about to begin under the leadership of Yehoshua. Yehoshua, who never left the tent of Torah and who (they presumed) knew nothing about leadership; Yehoshua, who had already proved himself inept when he failed to defeat Amalek, even with the assistance of Moshe Rabeinu. How would this same Yehoshua be able to defeat the Cana'anim, without Moshe's assistance?

This was not an act of rebellion against Moshe, it was a rejection of a new life-style of which they were afraid, under a new leader, in whom they had no faith.

* * *

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