Chapter 7, Verses 24-26
"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.
"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
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.
"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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