“And Yehoshua said, ‘With this you shall know that Hashem is in your midst. He will drive away the Canaanite, Hitite, Hivi, Prizi, Girgashi, Emori and Yevusi.” Yehoshua informed the Jewish nation that the purpose of this upcoming miracle was to help them realize that Hashem is and will remain in their midst. As we will learn, the splitting of the Jordan was brought about through the actual presence of Hashem atop the Holy Ark. When the Divine Presence arrived at the river bank, the waters came to an abrupt halt – refusing to flow past Hashem’s presence. Yehoshua reasoned that if the waters responded to Hashem’s presence in this manner, a similar response could certainly be expected of the Canaanite nations. They won’t even lift a finger against the Jewish people who are accompanied by the presence of Hashem.
However, one question must be raised regarding the ongoing presence of Hashem amongst the Jewish people. Although they merited His presence for this particular miracle, what would guarantee the continuance of such favor? Does Hashem allow His presence to be sensed at all times in every generation? The answer to this concern can be found in the words of Yehoshua here, “Know that Hashem is in your midst.” Yehoshua informed the people that it would depend on their knowledge and realization of this truth. If they would focus on Hashem and totally depend upon Him, He would undoubtedly be there for them. If they would realize and ‘know’ that Hashem is with them, He would remain amongst them. With this Yehoshua encouraged the Jewish people to draw strength and inspiration from the miracle. The result of their present focus was that Hashem’s presence was felt amongst them and this would continue as long as such focus would remain.
“Behold the Ark of the Covenant, Master of the land is passing before you in the Jordan.” In general the ark is called the ark of Hashem’s covenant because it contained the sacred tablets which embodied the covenant of Hashem to His people. However, in this passage the title, “Master of the land” is inserted when describing the ark which draws focus to Hashem’s mastery over the land.
This suggests a direct corollary between this miracle and the Jewish nation’s occupation of the land thereafter. Indeed we discover the words of Chazal (quoted by Rashi in his commentary to Devarim 11:31) which make this exact point. The Rabbis comment on the passage which states, “For you are crossing the Jordan to inherit nations greater and mightier than you,” and make the following point. “The miracles of the Jordan shall be an indication to you that you will come and inherit the land.” In essence, the splitting of the Jordan was a proclamation by Hashem of His masteryover the world. Hashem’s presence at the Jordan was but an introductory phase in the conquest process. This miracle assured the Jewish people of Hashem’s involvement in their destiny and that they could expect continuous perfect performance from Hashem on their behalf.
Yehoshua therefore indicated that when the Ark of the Covenant would pass through the Jordan, it would introduce Hashem as Master of the land. This miracle would inform the nations of Hashem’s arrival to His land and proclaim Him as Master over it. This, in depth, is the meaning of our Rabbis’ words which say, “Whenever the term ‘master’ appears it indicates the removal of inhabitants and their replacement by others” (Yalkut Shimoni Yehoshua 14). As stated, the splitting of the Jordan marked Hashem’s initial display of mastery over His land. This would ultimately lead to its total conquest along with the removal of the Canaanites and their replacement by the Jewish people.
“And now, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man, one man per tribe.” The purpose of this appointment is revealed at a later point when each of these men was instructed to remove a huge stone from the river bottom and carry it to Gilgal. After this brief reference to these men here Yehoshua continued to describe the forthcoming miracle. The insert of this in the midst of everything seems somewhat puzzling. In addition the purpose for the designation of those people is actually omitted here rendering this statement incomplete. Why, then, is this partial message so important to be said at this exact point?
A careful analysis of the passage could reveal to us its inner message. Yehoshua refers to the men in two different ways, twelve men from the tribes and individual representatives of their respective tribes. Why didYehoshua speak of them as a group of twelve in addition to being individual representatives of their tribes? This repetition seems to convey a special importance to the collective entity of the twelve tribes of Israel here.
The crossing of the Jordan actually completed the Jewish nation’s exodus from Egypt. Prior to their leaving, Hashem declared this when stating the purpose of the exodus. Therein Hashem said, “And I will bring them to the land which I promised them” (Shemos 6:8). In describing the exodus from Egypt the Torah refers to it as “leaving Egypt according to their respective groups.” Rashi (see commentary to Shemos 6:26) understands this to refer to the individual grouping of the Jewish people according to their respective tribes. Each tribe represented a specific quality amongst the Jewish people which contributed to the wholesomeness of the Jewish nation. The Torah implies that the exodus would be complete only when each member identified with his tribe’s specific quality.
We can now appreciate Yehoshua’s message to the people. Being that they were soon entering the land of Israel, it was important for them to appreciate what they embodied and represented. Yehoshua therefore addressed the collective sense of the Jewish people reflecting upon each tribe’s individual and distinct qualities. Yehoshua stressed that the entire unit of twelve tribes will be represented at this miracle reflecting the collective and perfect qualities of each tribe. With these words, Yehoshua charged the people to excel in their respective qualities, thereby maintaining their perfect structure in completion of their final stages of exodus.
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