“And Yehoshua sent them and they went into ambush staying between Bethel and Ay – west of Ay, and Yehoshua lodged that night amidst the people.”
Radak explains that Yehoshua stayed in the center of the camp to encourage everyone to engage themselves in war the first thing in the morning. Although there was no shortage of sergeants or generals, Yehoshua felt it necessary to personally motivate his people. The upcoming victory at Ay would serve as the model for all subsequent experiences. At this point in time, the Jewish people could not expect open miracles. Achan??s damage left its mark and the nation was resolved to fighting their wars in a natural form.
However, Hashem did promise them His full assistance providing they place their full trust in Him. This dimension gravely concerned Yehoshua and he therefore felt personally obligated to encourage every one of the people. One can not imagine the intense commitment and devotion that radiated from Yehoshua’s face during these moments. A mere glimpse of their leader sufficed to convince the people that Hashem was with them all the way.
The passage stresses the ambush’s exact location – between Bethel and Ay and more specifically, to the west of Ay. This is reminiscent of our Patriarch Avrohom’s entry to Eretz Yisroel and his stay in this exact location. Chazal teach us that Avrohom Avinu foresaw the Jewish nation’s initial defeat at Ay, for which he beseeched Hashem to limit the casualties at Ay. We can offer that the ambush party drew their strength and encouragement from this. They viewed themselves as followers of their patriarch’s footsteps who paved their conquest through prayer and devotion. Now, it was their chance to bring Avrohom Avinu’s dream into fruition. Standing at that very site – between Bethel and Ay they focused upon Avrohom’s total devotion to Hashem and prepared the attack with complete confidence.
“And Yehoshua awoke early in the morning and examined the people and together with the elders advanced towards the people of Ay.”
Radak explains that Yehoshua carefully focused on the people to determine how ready were they to fight. Here again we wonder why Yehoshua devoted all this attention to the physical aspects of the war. Did Hashem not promise to protect them throughout the war. Why then, was Yehoshua so concerned about the details of the war?
Yehoshua’s behavior teaches us an important lesson in belief and faith. Hashem will undoubtedly come to our assistance but only after we do our part, in full. Our primary obligation is to do all that we can and then and only then can we turn to Hashem to complete the process. Yehoshua understood this lesson to perfection and therefore went to his furthest end to secure that the Jewish people give it their whole.
Rashi explains that Yehoshua headed the charge in fulfillment of the Torah’s obligation that the leader stand in the front lines. However, the lead role of the elders brings a new dimension to this war. What efficient military function did they serve in the front lines of a war?
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