“And all silver and gold, copper and metal vessels shall be sanctified for Hashem and go to Hashem’s treasury.” Although the city and all therein was destroyed or placed under ban qualified items were preserved for Hashem’s treasury. This departed from the Torah’s general requirements regarding an idolatrous city. In that situation everything was destroyed and burned save true sanctified items. Why was a dual standard applied to Yericho wherein most everything was destroyed or under ban – yet some items were preserved for Hashem’s treasury?
One approach to this may be that this dual standard served to convey the purpose of Yericho’s destruction. In theory one could have interpreted this radical massacre as a military frenzy and display of power. The Jewish people arrived in Eretz Yisroel and won their first battle without effort. Perhaps they sought to make a statement to their opposition. “Realize that your posture will lead you to total destruction without a trace of your city remaining.” In essence, the message could have been that the Jews were on a mission to destroy all pre-existing life in their newly gained land.
To dispel this theory, Yehoshua demanded for some of the spoils be preserved for Hashem’s treasury. This clearly displayed the direction of Yericho’s destruction and ban, all for the sake of Hashem. Yericho was an idolatrous city whose influence – even remote – was a threat to the spiritual fiber of the Jewish nation. For this reason, and for this reason only, Yericho was to be destroyed. Any mundane association with its items could remotely identify the Jews with idolatry and prove detrimental. Therefore everything was destroyed or placed under ban from usage. However, the elevation of Yericho’s items to a sanctified status was totally acceptable. As sacred items of Hashem’s treasury no previous association would be reflected or detected. The preservation of these items for Hashem showed the positive intent of Yericho’s destruction, rather than the negative display of power.
In essence, the destruction, ban and preservation for Hashem’s treasury all served the same purpose. All were done for Hashem’s sake to promote His glory in the world. The destruction and ban achieved the goal one way and the dedication to Hashem’s treasury defined this in its own way. We now appreciate the previous verse (17) “And the city and all therein shall be ‘cherem’ (designated, banned and destroyed) for Hashem.” Although three distinct dimensions were mentioned all served the same purpose. The sum total of it being that Hashem was conquering His land for His people to, in turn, bring Him the greatest glory.
“And the people shouted and they (the Kohanim) blew the shofars and when the people heard the shofar blast they shouted a great sound and the wall fell under itself and the people went up to the city and captured it.” The shofar blast and the shout of the people announced Hashem’s arrival to Yericho. The great wall of Yericho which once stood in their way came down immediately, allowing them direct access to the city. Obviously the inhabitants were taken by surprise and the entire city was captured within minutes.
One interesting phenomenon here is the actual fall of Yericho’s wall. The passage states that the wall fell under itself. The obvious question is that any fall, by definition, means to fall below. A message is shared with us with the extra words “under itself.” Our Sages in Mesichta Brachos 54a and 54b explain that the height and width of the Yericho’s wall were equal. Accordingly, the basic fall of the wall would not have exposed the city because, in essence, the wall now on its side remained standing as before. Therefore, Hashem performed a miracle and the wall sunk straight into the ground. Why are we taught this detail, and what meaning does it have to us?
The task of conquering Eretz Yisroel was, by no means, a simple one. The Canaanites were entrenched in the land for ages and, although fully aware of the prophesied conquest, insisted on remaining and defending their turf. Potentially, a level of uneasiness could develop amongst the Jews who were forcing the Canaanites out of their homeland. After all, Hashem did grant the nations permission to be there all of those years. In fact, according to the Midrash (Toras Kohanim), Noah apportioned the land of Israel to Cham and his descendents, Canaan, until the time was ripe for the Jewish people to enter.
With this in mind we appreciate the sinking, rather than the mere falling, of Yericho’s wall. This reflected that when the proper moment arrives no barrier will stand in the way of the Jewish people. It seemed as if they were being extended an open invitation to the city and the land. The moment the Jews announced their arrival Yericho’s fortified protective wall disappeared into oblivion. All that remained now was for the Jewish people to confront the inhabitants and capture the city. Yericho’s invitation paved the way for all subsequent conquests. The Jewish people gainedthrough this a true sense of possession and identity. The resounding message was that the land of Israel belonged to them and they belonged to it.
How important is this message during our turbulent and difficult times. Although peace and safety must definitely be taken into consideration let us not forget the price we pay and proceed with extreme caution. Something very precious and close to our heart is in the balance and should never be overlooked.
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