"And Yehoshua said to Achan, 'My son, please give honor to Hashem of Israel and confess to Him; tell me now what you did without any denial'"
These words reflect a serious need for Achan's confession. Achan's arrogance threatened to bring severe disdain to Hashem's glory. Rashi quotes our Sages who elaborate on this and reveal that Achan initially denied his sin. He challenged the determination process of the lots and taunted Yehoshua. Achan responded in his defense, "If you and the high priest Elazar drew this lot between yourselves, wouldn't it fall on one of you?" Yehoshua was gravely disturbed by this challenge because he knew that Eretz Yisroel was destined to be apportioned through lot drawing. He therefore pleaded with Achan to admit his guilt and not to cast doubt on the lot process. Achan eventually acquiesced and confessed to all his violations, thereby validating the lot process.
Yehoshua's conduct seems somewhat bizarre. Undoubtedly, Hashem would not allow things to slide away. Hashem originally instructed Yehoshua to rely upon lot drawing to reveal the sinner and Yehoshua faithfully did so. The truth was known and it was now time to act upon it. Why was Yehoshua so concerned about a sinner's denial, a pattern so common in criminal behavior? Did he really expect Achan to admit to a crime that was so severe as to endanger the entire Jewish nation?! In addition, Yehoshua did not plead with Achan to validate his execution through publicly admitting his guilt. Apparently, Yehoshua relied upon his prophetic message and knew that the Jewish people would trust his royal judgment in this case. If so, why was he concerned about a sinner's attack on the lots?
The answer to this is in the unequivocal lesson of the lots. Yehoshua was concerned with proving the process, not the result. He knew that he could prove Achan's guilt but he wished to prove the message of the lot. In truth, the sinner's lot is the natural, spiritual result of his wrongdoing. Didn't Shlomo Hamelech say, "Misfortune chases the sinner!?" (Mishlei13:21). Achan committed his sin in secrecy and attempted to conceal it from all. Contrary to Achan's wishes, Hashem exposed the sin and rendered it the focal point of the entire Jewish nation. The Providential consequence of Achan's violation was, in truth, written on the walls of nature and could be proven within the framework of our physical world. The lots were intended to reveal through a natural, yet Providential, process that everyone's lot in life is meant for him. Achan denied these phenomena and refused to recognize the clear message of his lot. Although Yehoshua could eventually reveal Achan's guilt, the lot would have been unsuccessful in its mission. Its message was not being properly read which undermined its entire value.
This lesson was very important for the future because Eretz Yisroel was now becoming the Jewish people's lot. Each tribe and family would soon receive its specific plot. Although a Heavenly process determined the portions, it was important for the people to sense how befitting the plots were for them. The people belonged to their portions and their portions belonged to them! Hashem chose the individual portions because they were the most befitting for their respective owners. This truth was so evident that the natural phenomenon of lots embodied and revealed it. The message of the lots was that these portions were awaiting their owners since the time of creation.
The above insight helps us understand a mysterious dimension of the lots. Our Sages in Mesichta Baba Basra (118a) deduce from Scriptures that these lots actually spoke. Each lot loudly announced, "I am the lot who came into this one's boundary belonging to this particular tribe." Apparently, each portion exclaimed that it fell into the most befitting hands. Ingeneral, the tribes' portions were prophetically determined by Moshe Rabbeinu in his final blessing to the people. During those parting moments, Moshe Rabbeinu shared with each tribe the general location and nature of his future portion in Eretz Yisroel. Moshe Rabbeinu built on each tribe's distinct character as delineated to them in Yaakov Avinu's parting blessing and completed the message. Each tribe's lot, in fact, reflected his traits through his specific portion of land. Apparently, the matching process extended to the individual families whose plots of land perfectly reflected their individual characters as well.
Achan challenged Hashem's involvement in all aspects of the conquest. We cited earlier that Achan felt somewhat justified in his actions due to the Jewish people's active role in the wars over Eretz Yisroel. However, something of much greater proportions was happening at this point. In truth Eretz Yisroel was preordained for the Jewish nation since the beginning of time and Hashem was bringing this to fruition. Hashem's hand was involved in every step of things all the way through the detailed division of Eretz Yisroel's portions. Each family's specific plot was preordained to match its individual qualities and to fulfill its intended purpose. This message was extremely important for the ultimate appreciation of the land and its ultimate purpose. Yehoshua could not allow Achan to obscure this message in the slightest way and therefore exerted all his energy to preserve the unequivocal lesson of the lot. Achan finally consented to recognize this truth and whole wholeheartedly repented for his unwarranted approach to things.
"And Achan responded to Yehoshua and said, 'In truth, I sinned to Hashem of Israel and did these wrongs." Our Sages reveal that Achan initially mocked Yehoshua and retorted, "Tell me, Yehoshua what did you do wrong!" Hearing this innocent response, the tribe of Yehuda immediately came to Achan's defense and a serious battle ensued. Achan took these bloody consequences to heart and repented in full (Tanchuma Yalkut Shimoni 18).
His first step was to repent for every time he violated a sacred ban. Achan's confession extended far beyond his present action and actually reached the core of his mistaken approach. He publicly recognized his arrogance and that indeed Hashem deserved the true credit for all Jewish conquests. Achan suddenly changed direction and made a one hundred and eighty degree turn to the right. Although he strayed far from the path, he never removed himself from reality. Deep inside his heart, Achan remained loyal to Hashem and displayed this in his final moment of truth.
We now appreciate Hashem's message when introducing Achan's fault to Yehoshua. Hashem said, "Israel sinned!" Our Sages interpret this with the classic declaration, "They remain Israel although they have sinned!" This statement reveals that the inner core of the Jewish soul is never affected.
Irrespective of how far a Jew has strayed, he is not lost forever. The proper setting and circumstances can always reach his innermost loyalties and he can and will return to the proper path. Achan's unbelievable turnabout bears perfect testimony to this fact. One moment earlier he arrogantly denied his sin and taunted Yehoshua, and moments later he publicly confessed to every aspect of his inappropriate behavior. Indeed,Israel always remains Israel at all times and under all circumstances.
We can gain deep insight to Achan's sincere repentance when reflecting upon the masterpiece he composed during his last moments of life. Tradition tells us that the second paragraph of the "Aleinu" prayer, "Al keinn'kaveh," was composed by Achan while marching to his execution. This prayer's profound expression of Hashem's glory and the Messianic Era renders it one of the most moving portions of the Rosh Hashana Mussaf Amida. It expresses the fullest aspirations of the Jewish soul thirsting for Hashem and the ultimate revelation of His full glory to the entire world.
(To be continued...)
Subscribe to Yehoshua Reflections and receive the weekly class via e-mail.