“And the woman took the two men, hid him and said, ‘Yes the men have come to me, but I didn’t discover their identity.'” Rachav performed an heroic act risking her life to save the spies. As we will soon discover (see verses 9-11), she had recently arrived at perfect recognition of Hashem’s existence proclaiming Him Master over the entire universe. It is therefore quite understandable that she appreciated Hashem’s people and was willing to jeopardize herself for their sake. However, the wording ofthis verse, “And the woman…..hid him” presents great difficulty. As we know, there were two spies. Yet the Scriptures only mentions the hiding of one. Chazal explain that one spy, Pinchos, possessed a similar status to an angel and made himself invisible. This unprecedented and unparalleled phenomenon requires much reflection. Being that Rachav successfully hid Calev, what great need existed for the other to become invisible? What lesson was taught here never to repeat itself throughout Jewish history?
In search for an understanding of this, we refer to the rescue of Rachav and her family. In Chapter 6 verse 25, the Scriptures say, “And Yehoshua spared Rachav and her household and she dwelled in the midst of Israel until this day. Because she hid the angels that Yehoshua sent to spy Yericho.” Rashi (ad loc.) comments on the reference to the spies as angels in this verse. He explains that to withstand the temptation of seclusion with Rachav required supernatural strength, likened to that of angels. An additional comment of Chazal on this same verse reveals that Yehoshua himself married Rachav and prominent Jewish leaders followed his example by marrying her household members.
This shocking discovery reveals the indescribable potential of Rachav the storekeeper. Although earlier in the year she virtually captured the hearts of every Canaanite dignitary, she was capable in a number of days to make a complete turnabout. In place of total immersion in absolute immorality Rachav developed a pure refined soul worthy of eternallybonding with the Jewish people’s leader, Yehoshua. However, as we note,she had practically no previous exposure to the pure moral lifestyle of Judaism. What possessed Rachav to motivate and educate herself in the modest ways of the Torah, eventually making her worthy of marrying Yehoshua? Whose moral and ethical conduct did she follow as her guiding light?
It is conceivable that these two spies were Rachav’s keys to her illustrious destiny. Although they remained in total seclusion with her throughout the night, they didn’t show the slightest interest in her. This unbelievable display of self-control taught Rachav a higher dimension of life. Never in her history had she seen such pure disciplined individuals. After all, they truly owed their existence to her and were obviously overwhelmed by her goodness and self-sacrifice. Yet they possessed a sense of mission and responded to an upper calling. This supernatural display of self-control convinced Rachav of her unlimited potential. She understood what she must overcome and that, in the final analysis, even she could rise above her physical urges. If the spies could demonstrate such fine qualities, her Jewish soul, soon to be acquired, had the same potential. With this pure aspiration she, at that very moment, opted to embrace the Jewish religion. Hashem, who responds to the sincerity of His children, completed the process and granted her the purest of souls, one worthy of bonding with the most righteous of men, Yehoshua.
It is possible that Pinchos, the zealot for Jewish purity and morality, sensed Rachav’s sincere conviction. He therefore sought to demonstrate the unlimited ability of the Jewish soul and, rising above all physical limitations, made himself invisible. He conveyed through this that his present moral conduct was not due to lack of interest rather, to his angelic spiritual qualities. He demonstrated that when necessary, the Jewish soul was capable of influencing its human partner and controlling its overpowering urges – even under the most adverse circumstances. With this Rachav gained insight into her road ahead and, in a matter of days, excelled in her newly acquired Jewish qualities in an unprecedented manner. She totally undid her past and rightfully earned for herself and for her household a most prominent position amongst her Jewish people.
“And the gate was soon to close and the men went out in darkness; I didn’t know where they went; chase after them because you will reach them.” Rachav presented a most convincing argument to the king’s messengers that her guests had fled the city. Her presentation was so cunning that she successfully removed all suspicion from herself. Instead of even taking a moment to search her home, the search party immediately began the chase outside the city walls.
It is amazing to discover the degree of self-control Rachav exhibited here. Responding to a sudden search warrant Rachav instantly found hiding quarters for her guest. At that same moment she produced a perfect fictitious statement to protect her guests without even allowing the king’s messengers entry to her home. Apparently she acted calmly without the slightest trace of fear or suspicion. And all of this was done to protect two total strangers to whom she owed nothing. This reflects Rachav’s perfect level of commitment and outstanding degree of loyalty to her newly discovered G-d. These spies were His people and it was only befitting that she help secure their existence in return for all that Hashem had done and would continue doing to secure her existence.
Subscribe to Yehoshua Reflections and receive the weekly class via e-mail.