“And it was when the entire nation finished crossing the Jordan and Hashem spoke to Yehoshua stating. . .” This passage presents much difficulty, considering that it is an exact repeat of the preceding one which told us of the Jewish people’s completing their crossing. Why do the Scriptures repeat this fact here, highlighting that Hashem’s upcoming command came at this very moment? Would it be less meaningful to us if the command came in the midst of the crossing rather than at the conclusion?
As we will learn, the upcoming command was to appoint representatives from each tribe to remove heavy stones from the riverbed. These stones were taken from the spot upon which the Kohanim stood and were intended to serve as an everlasting testimony to the miracle. In addition to coming from the site of the miracle, the stones portrayed a special message. Taken specifically from the ground directly underneath the Kohanim, the stones indicated a significant role in the miracle. It was on these very stones that the Kohanim who carried the ark were positioned. It was at this exact spot that the revelation of Hashem transpired, and here is where the water sensed the presence of Hashem and refused to continue flowing.
We now understand the timing of this command and its significance. These stones were chosen to reflect the inner secret of the miracle, the relationship between the ark and the crossing of the Jewish people. Obviously, their full significance could only be appreciated with the completion of the crossing. Now, after the site served its total purpose, it became appropriate to discuss its preservation for posterity. Therefore the Scriptures highlight the fact that “it was when the entire nation completed crossing” to indicate that the stones had likewise completed their role in the miracle and it was now time to memorialize this.
(4, 2) (4, 3)
“Take for your needs twelve men from the people, one man, one man from each tribe.” “And command them saying, ‘Lift for your needs twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan from the stance of the Kohanim’s feet…” The purpose of these designated people was to carry these stones into Eretz Yisroel as an everlasting memorial of the splitting of the Jordan. Hashem called for each tribe to be individually represented to secure that the entire Jewish nation participated in this experience. Through this, each tribe would receive its necessary encouragement and inspiration. The collective efforts of all of the tribes would be necessary in order to conquer the mighty powers of the land. And through these stones, serving as a constant reminder of Hashem’s miraculous involvement, the nation would be fortified with the strength and courage they needed. For this reason, each tribe took part in carrying the stones, thereby receiving its necessary inspiration for all future experiences in the land.
“And bring them across with you and leave them in the inn where you will lodge tonight.” This passage indicates that there was no specific requirement to erect these stones as a monument. It seems that the people were asked only to carry the stones across the river and then leave them behind at their first lodging quarters?! If so, what was their purpose for carrying the stones in the first place? In addition we wonder with amazement: why didn’t the people truly memorialize the stones by erecting them at the miracle site, alongside the Jordan?!
A possible explanation for this is that the objective of the procedure was to generate the people’s security in Hashem, realizing that His miracles would always accompany them. For this reason the stones which reflected the miracle were carried into Eretz Yisroel symbolizing that miraculous experiences would always accompany them. Although they had moved on from their experience at the Jordan, Hashem’s miracles would continue to be with them. However, to reinforce this very same point, the actual stones were left behind at the first inn, indicating that the Jewish people had completed their first phase of miracles and were on their way to their next one. The experience of these stones had now passed and it was time to prepare for their next miraculous opportunity.
“And Yehoshua called to the twelve men already prepared from the Jewish people, one man from each tribe.” Apparently, it was unnecessary for Yehoshua to make a new selection of twelve men for this mission. As we learned earlier (see Chapter 3, verse 12), Yehoshua already designated twelve men, one per tribe, at the outset of the miracle. However, as Malbim explains, the purpose of the original group’s selection was to bear testimony to the miracle. Their initial function was to attest to the exact moment of the Jordan’s split and its relationship to the Kohanim setting foot into the river. This time, however, the twelve men were needed in order to lift stones out of the Jordan and carry them into Eretz Yisroel. Yehoshua conveniently utilized his already chosen group of twelve in order to fulfill this second function.
It is possible that a hidden message lay within this convenient appointment. These twelve men added a significant dimension to memorializing this miracle. In general, the stones which were taken from the miracle site – the Jordan itself – served as testimony to the splitting of the Jordan. Our Rabbis (see Rashi to Bamidbar 13:23) comment on the massive weight of these stones. Suffice it to say that they were extremely heavy and could barely be lifted by one mighty warrior. Their mere presence on the other side of the Jordan reflected a split in the water and their transportation over a dry river bed. However, the exact nature of the miracle remained untold. Now, with the appointment of these witnesses to carry the stones this memorial assumed much greater proportions. The miracle had actually occurred on these very stones, the moment the Kohanim set foot upon them. Yes, these people who witnessed the miracle first-hand, chose these specific stones to commemorate the miracle. This told that it all happened right there at that moment and on those very stones. Through Yehoshua’s appointed men the legacy of the miracle at the Jordan now included personal testimony from eye-witnesseswho knew its exact moment, cause and location.
The value of this lesson for the Jewish people was to instill in them the fact that Hashem’s presence was the cause of the miracle. The Jordan responded to the arrival of the Holy Ark with the presence of Hashem atop it. They realized that the ark would continue to accompany them which paved the way for their anticipation of many similar experiences. The sest ones, hand picked by eye-witnesses at the exact site of the miracle, now incorporated this message for all times.
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