“And the officer of Hashem’s army said to Yehoshua, ‘Remove your shoe from upon your foot because the place you are standing on is sacred’ and Yehoshua did so.” The angel informed Yehoshua that the angel’s presence represented the presence of Hashem, which sanctified the immediate surroundings. This is reminiscent of Moshe’s initial revelation at the burning bush where he was given similar instructions. Nachmanides points out (see commentary to Sh’mos 3:2) that that Moshe saw the angel Michoel, who reflected the presence of Hashem thus warranting a response of reverence. In this same vein Rashi informs us here that Yehoshua saw the very same angel Michoel who reflected once again Hashem’s Divine Presence and warranting a similar response.
Rashi, however adds a significant dimension to this experience. He explains that in Moshe’s times when Hashem sent Michoel, Moshe refused and insisted that Hashem’s actual presence should accompany them. Michoel now returned in Yehoshua’s reign and was accepted this time with open arms. According to our Sages this is the interpretation of the words in the previous verse, “I have come now.” The angel meant that he had been refused once before, but this time he was here to stay.
The collective message here is that the Promised Land would not be conquered through ordinary measures. In addition to Hashem’s general assistance, a special representation of His Presence would accompany them. In earlier times the Jewish people merited Hashem’s actual presence amongst them. This was due to Moshe Rabbeinu’s supreme level of faith and spirituality. Through personal example Moshe was capable of inspiring the Jewish people to focus totally on Hashem, thereby securing His presence amongst them. Yehoshua, however was a mere reflection of his teacher Moshe and was not capable of inspiring the Jewish people to such heights. His influence produced lesser but similar results, the presence of an angel who reflected Hashem’s presence. Through Yehoshua’s example, the Jewish people merited the presence of their guardian, Michoel who would undoubtedly motivate them to focus on Hashem’s involvement in the war.
We now appreciate the initial confrontation of the angel and its lesson to the Jewish people. Hashem sent His highest ranking officer, Michoel, to assist them in battle. His first appearance was to Yehoshua to teach him responsibility. The angel Michoel totally represented Hashem and projected a sense of Hashem’s Presence amongst the people. In response to this presence Yehoshua was ordered to conduct himself accordingly and remove his shoes. This incident put the angel’s presence in perspective and introduced Yehoshua to his new role; to inspire the Jewish people to focus on Hashem’s involvement, through which they would merit the constant presence of His representative Michoel. Having accomplished this, the Jewish people were now prepared for the miraculous defeat of Yericho.
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