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Yehoshua Reflections

Chapter 7, Verses 24-26

(7:24 con't)

"And Yehoshua took Achan the son of Zerach and the money, cloak and gold tongue, and his sons and daughters and his oxen, donkeys and sheep, and his tent and all his belongings together with the entire Jewish nation and brought them up to the Valley of the Ruined."

This lengthy passage places great value on detail repeating the entire list of stolen items and listing individually Achan's possessions and family members. This suggests that the upcoming experience played a prominent role in shaping the Jewish nation's character in their new land. Achan's execution served as a lesson for all subsequent generations regarding conquest and possession. Henceforth, the Jewish people would always remember that Hashem leads their battles and that all spoils they win in war are but a gift from Hashem.

One specific point is the order of the stolen items which is reversed from the previous one. Achan stressed the stolen cloak and mentioned the stolen money as a secondary offense whereas this passage mentions the money as the lead stolen item. We can explain this difference in the following manner. The previous passages related to Achan's confession which focused on the source of his sin being his coveting nature. He therefore confessed that his main desire was to obtain the royal Babylonian cloak but having noticed the money he brought it along. This passage relates to the Jewish people's response to Achan's sin. They focused on the severity of the sin which was epitomized by the totally unjustified theft of unnecessary money. The entire nation participated in Achan's execution in order to cleanse themselves from their initial laxity towards theft. In this context the stolen money was, in fact, the most disturbing aspect of all.

The passage continues and lists the individual types of animals owned by Achan rather than referring to them in ne collective sense. Apparently, these animals identified with Achan as more than mere possessions. The oxen were his work tools, the donkeys his carriers and the sheep his wool providers. Each of these had a significant involvment in Achan's life whose memory was now being totally erased. Executing Achan himself therefore included stoning his animals which strongly associated and identified with him.

(7:25)

"And Yehoshua said, 'How you ruined us, so shall Hashem ruin you today,' and all of Israel stoned Achan, burned them and stoned them."

Rashi explains the three stages of this execution. Achan was stoned, his possessions were burned and his animals were subsequently stoned. Rashi quotes our Sages who question why Achan was stoned. We previously learned that Hashem prescribed burning as the consequence for this violation, not stoning. They answer that Achan's theft transpired on Shabbos and he was punished for violating the Shabbos which is punishable by being stoned. Rashi displays earlier how careful analysis of the previous passage reveals that a second consequence was in line. However, this point is mysteriously concealed until now when it is subtly revealed in the resolution of the above discrepancy.

We can develop this problem with the following insight. Our Sages teach us that Achan's execution did not follow standard judicial procedure. A Jewish court can not execute a criminal without prior warning of the consequences of his action and without reliable objective testimony. Neither of these existed in Achan's situation. Hashem declared it an exception to the rule in order to cleanse the Jewish people from any trace of theft. The violation of Shabbos, however, was not the focal point of this lesson and should have seemingly followed standard procedure. Why then were the Jewish people involved in this aspect as well?

We can suggest that Achan's Shabbos violation stemmed from his perverted perspective on life. We previously learned that Yehoshua declared Yericho's ban because it was captured on Shabbos. He reasoned that the results of Shabbos - Hashem's day - belonged solely to Hashem. Shabbos attests to the fact that Hashem owns and runs the world. He restricts us from all productive activity on that day thereby reminding us that He, in truth, is at the core of all production. This lesson was concurrent with Yericho's conquest which displayed Hashem at the source of all conquest. Yehoshua sought to crystallize this message and banned all of Shabbos' results in this war. Achan apparently disregarde both of these messages and violated Shabbos and the ban that exopressed Shabbos' message in full.

We can suggest that the Shabbos dimension was omitted until now because it was not the focal point of the Jewish people's fault. However, in a certain context, Shabbos did relate to things because of its concurrent message with the ban. Our Sages teach us that Achan voluntered the information and confessed that he trespassed the ban on Shabbos. Achan, apparently searched for the root of his problem and discovered that his Shabbos attitude was much a part of things. He therefore confessed his lack of appreciation for Shabbos' message which allowed him to develop his perverted perspective. Now that Achan identified this dimension it became part of the Jewish people's cleansing process. In addition to executing Achan for his atrocity the people addressed the cause of his crime, his laxity towards Shabbos. Stoning Achan helped the nation remove themselves from every aspect of his offense. They publicly denounced his act and even the attitude which led to his offense. They vowed never again tolerate such behavior or anything which could remotely lead to it.

(7:26)

"And they erected upon him a huge heap until today and Hashem returned from His wrath; he therefore named this place Valley of the Ruined until today."

This passage seems to follow a peculiar order because Hashem's return from wrath is mentioned in the midst of describing the Valley of the Ruined. Why didn't the passage finish Achan's episode and then conclude with Hashem's return from wrath?

We learn from here that the heap itself contributed to Hashem's return from wrath. Although the Jewish people responded properly and totally released themselves from Achan's crime what would secure that such atrocities not repeat themselves? Who would guarantee that this lax attitude would not resurface amongst the people? The answer to this was this heap of stones. Achan's execution was carved on the walls of the land never to be forgotten. The huge heap told the entire story of collective responsibility and trespassing a ban. This landmark guaranteed that the Jewish people would never allow this attitude to resurface amongst them. Now that the heap was erected and security measures were taken Hashem's trust returned to His people and His wrath was totally removed from them.

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