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by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

"And Calev quieted the nation before Moshe, and said, 'let us surely go up and inherit it, for we certainly can do it." [13:30]

The Meshech Chochma, Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, asks: why was Yehoshuah, Joshua, quiet? There were twelve spies sent into the Land of Israel. Ten of them returned with "an evil report," while Calev and Yehoshuah returned to tell the Nation that they would be able to enter and inherit the Land. Yet only Calev spoke up!

To explain Yehoshua's silence, we must first understand why Israel was afraid. The fact that the Land was inhabited by mighty people, living in cities which were "great fortresses" -- this alone did not scare them. Rather, they were afraid because they had heard Eldad and Meidad "prophesying in the camp." What Eldad and Meidad (correctly) predicted was that Moshe was going to die, and Yehoshuah was going to lead them into Israel.

With Moshe leading them, the Nation was not frightened. Moshe had brought Ten miraculous Plagues down onto the Egyptians, had led Israel out of Egypt, splitting the Sea along the way, and had taken the People to meet G-d Himself on Mount Sinai. How could even a land of giants compare to that?

Their error was that they believed that all of these miracles depended upon Moshe alone. If Moshe was to die, and they were to enter the Land without him, then who was going to do the miracles? How else could they survive?

And this is why Calev responded, "we certainly can do it." It is a mistake, he said, to think that all of these miracles depended on Moshe -- on the contrary, the Children of Israel alone were granted tremendous power. They alone were worthy of miracles! The greatness of Moshe depended upon _their_ holiness.

This is why, when Moshe went up on Mt. Sinai and the people began to make their Golden Calf, G-d said to Moshe: "Go, go down, for your nation has corrupted themselves." Moshe came up on Mt. Sinai as their representative -- but then they were no longer worthy of a leader who stood on Mt. Sinai, speaking with HaShem!

Yehoshuah could not deliver this message. For him, it would have been self-aggrandizement, self-promotion, to get up and say, "don't worry! I'll lead you -- I can do it." Only Calev could speak up.

Every Jew is Holy. We make our leaders. The better we make ourselves, the higher we rise, the higher the whole Nation -- and the whole world -- rises with us!

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Yaakov Menken



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