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By Rabbi Dovid Siegel | Series: | Level:


“And Hashem said to Yehoshua, ‘Rise to yourself, why are you falling on your face?'”


“The Jewish people sinned, violated the covenant which I commanded them,trespassed the ban, stole, denied and hid in vessels.”

Hashem explained to Yehoshua that their tragic defeat at Ay was due to the atrocious behavior of the people. One person, remaining nameless for now, violated the ban of Yericho and partook of its spoils, endangering the Jewish people. It is difficult to put in perspective how one person’s actions could have such serious consequences on an entire nation. However, when studying Hashem’s opening words, “Why are you falling on your face?” it seems that Hashem faulted Yehoshua and admonished him for his supplication at this time. Considering that Yehoshua was totally unaware of what had truly transpired, why shouldn’t he fall on his face and plead for his people?

Once again, we turn to our Sages’ insightful words which shed much light on the subject. They explain that Hashem faulted Yehoshua for his passive involvement at Ay. Yehoshua did not view the conquest of Ay a difficult task, and therefore did not assume a lead position in the battle. Hashem reminded Yehoshua of His pledge to the Jewish people for guaranteed success provided that their king lead them in the front lines. Hashem exclaimed to Yehoshua that the proper time to act was during the war in his full position of leadership rather than now after shirking his responsibility. These penetrating words certainly speak for themselves but don’t seem to address the real issue at hand. Indeed, Radak raises concern for the need of any further explanation than the openly expressed violation of the ban stated herein.

We can attempt to explain this matter through the following observation. The Jewish people were severely faulted for the action of one person, Achan. Granted – the Jewish nation is one complete entity which demands responsibility for one another, but the extent of this principle here seems far out of proportion. As we will soon discover, the entire nation was clueless about the crime and couldn’t even begin to identify its perpetrator. Obviously, no one was consciously aware of any such fault, yet Hashem reprimanded every Jewish soul and said, “Israel has sinned!” These sharp words certainly reflect serious tolerance towards such atrocities, yet we see no history of this nor any reluctance on their part to immediately reject Achan from their midst.

We must conclude that the Jewish people, in some remote way, harbored an attitude which gave rise to this terrible violation. When searching for a clue, we can suggest that Achan’s disrespect for the ban was rooted in a sense of self-accomplishment. Although Yehoshua decreed that all of Yericho’s spoils be given to Hashem’s treasury, this was insufficient to withhold Achan from partaking of them. Apparently, he felt some relationship to them and was somehow deserving of part of them. His rationale could have been that these spoils should be the prize of conquest. The Jewish people captured Yericho and deserved all that was found therein. Although Yehoshua decreed a ban, he didn’t take the warriors into consideration, and Achan, who came from the powerful tribe of Yehuda, certainly deserved his share.

This attitude was somewhat mirrored by the Jewish people’s conduct at Ay. They assessed its military challenge and concluded that it wasn’t worth involving the masses. This error reflected a misplaced security andconfidence and mirrored a slight sense of personal accomplishment. Although this subtle misconception was not cause for major concern or calamity, it associated the Jewish people with a more serious offense. One of their own carried this sense of accomplishment to its furthest degree and felt justified in partaking of Yericho’s spoils. In essence, the Jewish people could not claim total innocence regarding Achan’s act because they identified in a faint way with his line of thought.

We now return to Yehoshua’s passive role and understand his part in this downfall. Yehoshua viewed Hashem’s pledge of success as a necessity for major wars, but for simple conquests such as Ay, some basic assistance from Above would suffice. This would have been true had the Jewish people’s sense of accomplishment been in order. But in truth it wasn’t and there already existed a horrible expression of their misconception through Achan’s violation. In this setting they did not deserve assistance from Above which would only reinforce their way of thinking. Instead, they needed to realize their total dependence upon Hashem without any sense of self-accomplishment.

It stands to reason that if Yehoshua had taken an active role in Ay’s conquest, all of this could have been avoided. Leading his people in the front lines, he would have displayed his total reliance upon Hashem and detected any deviation from this by the people. Hashem admonished Yehoshua that he should have taken his active leadership role during the war which would have prevented the entire tragedy. These words were said in response to Yehoshua’s plea for Hashem’s glory. To this, Hashem replied that the preservation of His glory was ultimately in Yehoshua’s hands. Hashem would always reveal His strength and love for His people, provided it would be recognized as such. And this was Yehoshus’s responsibility to preserve this absolute perspective that the Jewish people were totally in the hands of Hashem.

We learn from this an important lesson about Hashem’s assistance and involvement for the sake of His people. We must remember that Hashem will always be there for us, provided we give Him proper recognition. As Scriptures state, “All is identified through My name and My glory,” which teaches us that the ultimate purpose of all Hashem’s actions is our recognition of Hashem and His accomplishments. When we give Him proper recognition, we fulfill the purpose for His involvement and will merit His continuous display of love and appreciation for His beloved nation.

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