“And Yehoshua commanded the nation’s officers stating, ‘Pass through the camp….'” Rashi explains that this command took place on the seventh of Nissan, immediately following the mourning period for Moshe Rabbeinu. Yehoshua informed the Jewish people that in three days they would enter the land of Israel and the war of conquest would begin. It is important to focus on the date of this command because its exact timing reveals to us an obvious omission. As we will soon discover in the upcoming chapter, Yehoshua sent two spies to determine the political climate of the land and its strategic point of entry. However, as Rashi deduces there, the mission of the spies began long before the seventh of Nissan and was actually completed during the three days of preparation. If so, why doesn’t our sefer record this mission in its chronological order and insert it in our chapter in its appropriate place? Why is the mission of the spies recorded in a chapter of its own, seemingly unrelated to the preparations for entry? Weren’t the Jewish people awaiting the response ofthe spies before engaging in conquering the land?
The answer to this yields an important perspective about the Jewish people’s faith and commitment to Hashem. The message brought back by the spies was that the inhabitants of Canaan were awe-stricken by the mighty power of Hashem. They were aware of His miracles at the Reed Sea and they were left dumbfounded by Hashem’s recent conquest of the mighty powers of Sichon and Og. This encouraging report was certainly sufficient reason for the Jewish people to be totally confident in their present mission.
However, this approach could prove dangerous and possibly fatal because the dread of the nations was, in fact, based the open revelations of Hashem, a condition which was subject to change. Understandably, if the Jewish people would stray from their perfect path, they would not merit such open miracles. In addition, the miracles themselves were a result of the Jewish people’s perfect faith in Hashem and not in His miracles. Accordingly, it was necessary for the Jewish nation to be totally committed to their mission – irrespective of Hashem’s open miracles.
This is why Yehoshua’s command for preparation preceded the return of the spies. Without knowing the petrified state of the inhabitants, the Jewish people were forced to place their total trust in Hashem. This way, they were prepared to battle the giants of the land under the most adverse of conditions. However, once the commitment was there and the Jewish people were properly prepared, words of encouragement were certainly in line. Now, after perfect faith in Hashem had been achieved, it was appropriate for the spies to tell their story and reveal the petrified state of the inhabitants. Therefore, the mission of the spies is written in its own chapter and is treated as an entity of its own. Their message was not the source of the Jewish people’s faith but merely an additional encouragement for an already committed nation.
“Pass through the camp and command the people stating, ‘Prepare food for yourselves because at the end of three days you are crossing the Jordan to inherit the land which Hashem is giving you to inherit.”
Radak explains that the food preparation refers to preparing supplementary foods to the Manna bread. Before this point the Jewish people were able to supplement their Manna diet with delicious foods purchased from traveling peddlars. Once the Jews would enter the land of Canaan, this avenue will be closed off to them. They would soon become the threatening enemy and obviously no courtesies would henceforth be extended them. One should question this focus on food provisions before entering the land. After all, they did have the Manna bread and were certainly not worried about their sustenance. Should delicious supplements be top priority when entering the holy land of Israel?
It seems that the answer to this is the following. Apparently Yehoshua was concerned about the morale of the Jewish people when entering the land. They could easily develop negative feelings about their initial experience in the land. Upon entry they would be relying solely on Manna bread for their existence. No supplements would be available during the initial conquest days. Entering the Holy Land meant total spirituality without any response to physical urges and cravings. In order to offset such feelings, Yehoshua demanded that they prepare supplementary foods. This would secure that their existence would not be limited to only spiritual food.
We can now appreciate the exact wording of these preparations. The officers explained, “Because at the end of three days you are crossing the Jordan.” The words “you are crossing” rather than “we are crossing” seem to imply that the officers are excluding themselves from these preparations. Weren’t they also crossing the Jordan? With the above insight in mind, we now realize that these preparations were intended for the common people and not for the officers. They, by their very rank and stature, were totally committed to their missions without any additional security necessary. They, unlike some of the common people, were totally prepared for spiritual existence and had no need to respond to physical urges.
And Yehoshua said to the tribes of Reuven and Gad and to half the tribe of Menashe. “Remember the matter which Moshe commanded you…”
Yehoshua reminded all three tribes about Moshe’s charge to them, which was to take a lead role in the conquest of all of Eretz Yisroel. It is interesting to note that Yehoshua directed this statement to all three tribes, Menashe included. From this we see that Moshe Rabbeinu’s command was given to Menashe as well as to Reuven and Gad.
When studying the passages in Bamidbar (Chapter 32) we read of Moshe’s statement to Reuven and Gad. They had presented him their plea to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan. To this Moshe expressed grave concern and obligated them to assume a lead role in the conquest of Israel. Menashe never presented a plea and no response from Moshe is recorded. The Torah does tell us that Moshe gave a portion of this land to half of the tribe of Menashe.
Ramban (32:33) explains that the portion of land captured from the mighty Og exceeded the needs of Reuven and Gad. Moshe therefore asked for volunteers to join Reuven and Gad in settling the eastern side of the Jordan. Part of the tribe of Menashe agreed and stepped forward. Although they were, in effect, doing Moshe a favor, we discover in our Sefer that the conditions of Gad and Reuven were applied to Menashe as well.
Apparently, It was important for the Jewish people to feel a perfect sense of unity and responsibility. Every tribe and segment thereof was expected to participate in the war on conquest. And no one without exception would be granted his inheritance without actively capturing Eretz Yisroel from the enemy. But, in addition, Menashe was obligated to join his neighbors and assume a lead role. To secure the morale and confidence of the Jewishpeople even Menashe was expected to stand in the front lines. Such sacrifice assured the Jewish nation that everyone, regardless of his personal benefits from this war, would do his utmost to defeat the enemy.
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