“And on the seventh time, the kohanim blew their shofars and Yehoshua said to the people, ‘Shout because Hashem has given you the city.'”
If we examine Hashem’s initial plan to Yehoshua (see verse 5), we will notice that it called for a long shofar blast followed by a loud shout from the people. Accordingly, we would expect to see Yehoshua informing people about these details. Yet they seem to remain unknown to the people whose instruction was limited to absolute silence until further notice. Why didn’t Yehoshua amply prepare them for this moment and allow them to sense the approach of triumph?
It seems that Yehoshua was concerned about any sense of triumph, this degree included. We have seen earlier that the first city of Jewish conquest was to be accomplished solely by Hashem. The Jewish people’s involvement in this was secondary and limited to the mere announcement of Hashem’s arrival. The actual fall of Yericho’s wall was, in fact, an open miracle from Hashem clearly identifying Yericho as His conquest. In this first war the Jewish people were to receive no credit. Even a faint sense of accomplishment could adversely effect the plan and minimize the intended result.
Knowing this, Yehoshua decided to leave the Jewish people in the dark. He reasoned that knowledge of the exact details could give them a sense of accomplishment. In truth their shouting would immediately precede the fall of the wall, suggesting some involvement on their part. They could have awaited this moment with glee feeling somewhat significant in the process. Yehoshua therefore literally stripped them of any sense of accomplishment. Their entire instruction was to remain absolutely silent and not be involved. All they knew was that the wall would come down but had no clue of the sequence of events surrounding it. However, after completing the procedure the time had finally arrived for them to know and Yehoshua accordingly informed them of their specific upcoming responsibility.
“And the city and all therein shall be banned for the sake of Hashem. Only Rachav the innkeeper and everything together with her shall be spared because she hid the messengers which we sent.”
Our Sages (see Yalkut Shimoni 15:6) explain that Yehoshua pronounced this ban on his own accord without explicit instructions from Hashem. Yehoshua reasoned that the sanctity of Shabbos called for this ban. They won the war on Shabbos and, rightfully, its sanctity should be extended to all results of the war.
In truth, there is halachic precedent for such restrictions. The Talmud (see Shabbos 38a) does discuss the consequences of one’s violation – intentionally or unintentionally – of the Shabbos. The basic rule is that the product of such activity is banned from usage. No benefit should be derived from a Shabbos violation and its product is therefore forbidden (see comment of Rashi to Beitza 24b). However, the conquest of Yericho was by no means a violation of Shabbos. Hashem drew a specific plan for the Yericho attack which included its conquest on the seventh day, Shabbos. If Hashem did not require this ban, what then was Yehoshua’s rationale fordoing so?
It seems that Yehoshua was impressing upon the people the Shabbos dimension of this conquest. He understood that Shabbos out of all days must have been chosen for a specific reason. Why would Hashem have ordered the violation of the Shabbos? Couldn’t any other day be chosen for this conquest to avoid conflict with Shabbos?
This dimension brought Yehoshua to realize the integral role of Shabbos in this conquest. Apparently, the dimension of Shabbos would be key in settling Eretz Yisroel. Shabbos was meant to set the tone for the Jewish people and put Eretz Yisroel into proper perspective. Eretz Yisroel is described in the Torah as the “land flowing with milk and honey.” The physical and agricultural opportunities of the land are incredible. However, all of this has a purpose to it, to be utilized for the sake of Hashem. When put to proper usage, even the most physical of benefits can produce tremendous results for Hashem.
This is the lesson of Shabbos – the island of pleasure and tranquility. All of the Mitzvos of Shabbos relate to the physical world. On Shabbos weare obligated to enjoy this world but to do so for the sake of Hashem. This combination of the physical with its spiritual purpose produces the serene and pleasant atmosphere of Shabbos. Through this experience body andsoul are satisfied and together direct their energies towards servingHashem. This fusion process – giving spiritual dimension to the physical – is the essence of sanctity.
Eretz Yisroel, like Shabbos, has tremendous spiritual opportunity. The boundless blessing found in the land can produce an incredible relationship with Hashem. Eretz Yisroel, when utilized properly can be a perfect source of sanctity, elevating the physical through its spiritual value. This is the lesson Yehoshua imparted to the people through his ban. He taught them to view Eretz Yisroel like Shabbos. Shabbos is holy and all it produces receives its extended status of holiness. In their situation, Shabbos – the days of sanctity – produced the spoils of this war and its sanctity should be rightfully extended to the spoils. Similarly, Eretz Yisroel – the land of sanctity – will soon produce for the Jewish people and her status should rightfully be extended to her produce. Yehoshua reminded them that Eretz Yisroel’s benefits are a product of its sanctity and shouldbe consistently utilized for the service of Hashem.
This lesson is crucial in our times when we enjoy so much of Eretz Yisroel’s blessing. We must never forget the sanctity of the land and must constantly strive to use all her benefits for the sake of Hashem. Eretz Yisroel’s sanctity extends, by definition, to her produce and appropriately to her inhabitants
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