“And she said to the men, ‘I know that Hashem has given you the land and that your fear has fallen upon us and all inhabitants of the land have melted before you.'” In this verse the Scriptures digress from referring to the spies as “they” and identify them as “the men”. This reference indicates that the spies managed to maintain their distance throughout their miraculous rescue remaining completely foreign to Rachav. In addition we note that there is no mention of any conversation between the spies and Rachav which suggests that they never revealed their identity or purpose of travel. Yet we discover that Rachav was totally convinced of their nationality and even comfortable sharing with them the inner secrets of the land.
As we have seen, these pious spies maintained perfect faith in Hashem without displaying any fear or trepidation. In fact, they conducted themselves like ordinary visitors even under the pending threat of discovery and death. It can be understood that such perfect conduct, even in the confines of her home, convinced Rachav of the true nature of her guests, permitting her to share with them her true feelings. She reasoned that these men must come from the Jewish nation whose G-d is so close to them that their trust in Him could conceivably reach these untold levels.
It is intresting to note that Rachav speaks of the Jewish G-d identifying Him as the “Hashem of the Jewish people”. This indicates that Hashem was not foreign to her and that she actually included herself in His religion. This was an incredible accomplishment, bearing in mind that she had no one in Canaan to direct her or inspire her in the path of Judaism. In addition, as quoted earlier (see 2: 2), she had led a most immoral life for the past forty years. And yet, once she saw the truth she came to a full recognition of Hashem and even considered herself part of His people.
“Because we heard that Hashem dried the waters of the Reed Sea before you when exiting Egypt and we know what you did to the two Emorite kings Sichon and Og by destroying them.” The drying of the Reed Sea took place forty years ago and yet Rachav was still mentioning it now (see Rashi to Sota 34a). Apparently, the imprint this miracle left on the world was so overwhelming that the Canaanites could never remove it from their minds. Chazal in Tractate Sota (ad loc.) inform us that the waters had piled so high that they were visible to the entire world. However, Rachav’s words teach us that this fear was a distant one and had not interfered very much with their daily life. Only now after the defeat of the mighty Emorite kings did this fear develop into a horrifying nightmare.
Although the crossing of the sea elicited an initial response of terror, the feeling was short-lived. In reality, no invasion followed the splitting of the Reed Sea, and for the past forty years the Jewish people were wandering in the desert. During that time, the Canaanites’ terror was stilled and reduced to a threatening fear. Hashem’s mighty hand remained set in their minds, but its display was far in the future. However, after the miraculous defeat of the mighty Sichon and Og, it became evident that the Jews were back on the scene. Hashem was accompanying them and no nation or nations could ever stand up to His power. With this new development the horrors of the Reed Sea returned to them. They now perceived those distant piles of water as a strong reality which would soon strike very close to home.
“And we heard and our hearts dissolved and no passion arose in man as a result of your presence; because Hashem, your G-d is the G-d in the heavens above and on earth below.” This rude awakening to the Jewish invasion brought an all encompassing terror to the Canaanites and they lost all appreciation for life. Rashi (ad loc.) quotes our Chazal who interpret this passage to mean that all physical and emotional passions were suspended. Although Rachav had previously enjoyed the intimate company of so many, her immoral behavior ended abruptly. Not a soul existed in the entire land of Canaan who expressed interest in her. Through this Rachav recognized first hand the extent of Hashem’s power and influence in the world. Although previously her mere presence magnetically attracted the dignitaries of the land, no emotional ties remained now from any of her dearest acquaintances. The magnitude of Hashem’s power literally paralyzed everyone in the land and diverted their interest from the most pleasurable experiences of life. This unbelievably penetrating terror convinced Rachav of the all encompassing control of Hashem in this world.
In response to this discovery, Rachav made a full overhaul and a complete turnabout. Now, after recognizing the truth, she opened her mind and heart to Hashem and proclaimed with profundity her newly gained insight of Him. In fact, our Chazal reveal (see Yalkut Shimoni 9) that her expression extended far beyond the tangible dimensions of this world, falling but short of Moshe Rabbeinu’s own lofty proclamation. And it is in this merit that Rachav was privileged to marry Yehoshua and establish her illustrious dynasty which included many prophets whose perception, like hers, extended deep into the inner secrets of Heaven.
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