When placing this in proper perspective, we realize how difficult Rachav’s family’s challenge must have been. How could their sincerity be proven, considering that conversion was their only option to them. The Torah’s basic policy was to kill every Canaanite inhabitant unless he/she forsook his/her idolatrous ways and converted to Judaism. This being the case, every one of Rachav’s family members must he done his utmost to create an impression of sincerity.
This leads us to believe that Rachav’s family was subject to serious constant surveillance. It wasn’t sufficient for them to go through the motions of Judaism; Yehoshua expected perfection from them in all areas. Their mitzvah performance needed to be par excellence with outstanding devotion to Torah. It was required of them that every Jewish law and custom be followed meticulously with ecstasy radiating from their faces with every mention of Hashem’s name. This litmus test would certainly prove sincerity and qualify them to enter the inner circle of the Jewish people. Such performance would certainly reflect greatness and alleviate all fears regarding their potential recourse.
However, these heavy demands were certainly taxing on newcomers to the Jewish faith. It is therefore conceivable that some of Rachav’s family members could not live up to these expectations. Although they deserved to be spared in return for Rachav’s heroism, they couldn’t be trusted to enter the inner circle of the Jewish people. It is possible that for this reason the Scriptures limit their statement to, “Rachav’s father’s household and all who belonged to her.” This may suggest that Yehoshua authorized conversion for only those who identified with Rachav’s total value system. Such people would prove a true credit to the Jewish people and could join the ranks of the elite of the nation.
And the Radak reveals to us that indeed they did. Yehoshua was so impressed by Rachav’s strength of character and committment that he personally married her and the prominent leaders of the people followed suit by marrying the rest of Rachav’s family. Their trial period proved successful, and, by demonstrating committment beyond belief, they were truly worthy of the greatest Jewish identity in the nation. And all of this was undoubtedly the result of Rachav’s example and influence. This then is the hidden meaning of our verse which describes the preservation of Rachav’s family in the following words, “And she dwelled in the midst of Israel until this day.” Although this refers to the preservation of every family, it is expressed as Rachav’s preservation because it was Rachav’s influence and example that lived on in all her family members until this very day.
“And at that time Yehoshua swore saying, ‘Cursed is the man before Hashem who will rise and build this city, Yericho. He will lay the foundation with his first son and firmly set its doors with his last.'”
Yehoshua issued a stern warning against anyone attempting to rebuild Yericho. He uttered a curse to the builder that he would lose his children one by one until he would finally lose his youngest while attempting to complete the city’s gate. This seems to be a very strong response to the crime. One could certainly think of greater offenses than this which are never treated so severely. What did Yehoshua seek to protect through these rash words?
It seems that Yehoshua’s concern related to Hashem’s recognition in the conquest. The battle was fought by Hashem and needed to be remembered that way. The ruins of Yericho actually served as a monument to Hashem, reflecting that no human being was deserving of the spoils of a war totally won by Hashem. This message was essential for the Jewish people in order to effectuate and appreciate all upcoming victories.
If one were to rebuild Yericho he would, in effect, remove Hashem’s fame from the city’s conquest. No physical trace of this miraculous experience would remain and its memory would eventually be lost forever. It is therefore no wonder to us that the consequences are so severe. The price one pays for attempting to erase Hashem’s identity from something is to lose one’s own identity. As the process of erasure begins, one’s identity – his own children – are removed from him. And as the process continues, more and more of his identity is removed until he loses, in the final stages, his entire identity with the passing of his youngest.
We now appreciate the peculiar wording of our passage, “Cursed is the man before Hashem.” What, in fact, does not transpire before Hashem? But we now realize that the real issue here is Hashem’s fame. When one builds Yerihcho, he is directly challenging and affecting this fame. This act of defiance is regarded as having taken place directly before Hashem because, in effect, it is a direct affront to the everlasting glory of Hashem.
“And Hashem was with Yehoshua and his fame went throughout the land.”
This passage reveals that the conquest of Yericho served its purpose in full. The miraculous events of this perfect victory spread like wildfire. All of Canaan’s inhabitants understood exactly what was in store for them – total annihilation. The Jewish people’s total recognition of and perfect devotion to Hashem produced unprecedented results in the land. However, this also yielded confidence and security in the process and a successful conquest was a foregone conclusion. This thought bears great significance upon the upcoming defeat at Ay and explains the Jewish people’s complacency during that war.
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