This week’s haftorah reveals to us the power of perfect faith and the miraculous events that can result from such inner strength. The haftorah begins with Yehoshua, the newly appointed successor to Moshe Rabbeinu sending two special individuals on a secret mission to investigate the land of Israel. The Jewish people were situated directly outside the Promised Land and Yehoshua sought to determine the most strategic point from which to enter the land. This mission was quite dangerous considering the fact that the present inhabitants were well aware of the impending Jewish threat to the land.
Yehoshua instructed the spies to survey all of Eretz Yisroel, placing special focus on Yericho. The spies crossed the Jordan River and proceeded directly to the first inn inside the city’s walls, the house of Rachav. Their entry was immediately discovered by the King of Yericho who sent a strong message to Rachav demanding the release of the intruders. Out of the goodness of her heart, Rachav engaged herself in an unpredictable heroic rescue act. She quickly hid the spies and then persuaded the king’s messengers that the spies had left her house and exited the city. When the messengers were out of sight she disclosed to the spies that the inhabitants of the land were awestricken by the Jews and their Hashem. She added that she personally recognized Hashem to be in absolute control over the entire universe and that she fully believed that Hashem could easily defeat everyone who would stand in His way.
Our Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni, Yehoshua 8) reflect upon this most unusual experience and sharply contrast it with the disheartening experience of the spies in this week’s sidra. Today we read about ten of the Jewish people’s greatest men who went on a similar mission to survey Eretz Yisroel. Yet the result of their mission was devastating and it ultimately misled the Jewish people to seriously reject Eretz Yisroel. Chazal point to the fundamental difference between the two groups of spies. They explain that the spies in the days of Yehoshua were totally devoted to their mission and were therefore met with enormous success. The Rabbis imply here that the spies in the days of Moshe Rabbeinu were lacking in their total commitment to their mission. Because of this weakness their perception about the land was distorted and they were overwhelmed by their initial experiences in the land. Conversely, the spies in Yehoshua’s times were totally committed and were therefore prepared to overcome any obstacle in their way.
In reality the land of Israel presented extraordinary challenges to the Jewish people. The inhabitants of the land were far from friendly to the Jews and it was obvious that only an open miracle could secure the safety of the Jewish nation. The original spies displayed grave concern over the dangerous plight the Jewish people were in. They observed the towering stature of the giants in the land and the constant involvement of its inhabitants in eulogies and funerals. Unfortunately, the original spies succumbed to their well-grounded fears and eventually forfeited the privilege of entering Eretz Yisroel. The second group of spies however possessed perfect faith and total commitment. With such inner strength they were not influenced by any of their frightening experiences and faithfully fulfilled their mission.
This stark contrast serves as a profound lesson in total faith and trust in Hashem and in its indescribable results. From a practical perspective Yehoshua’s spies stood no chance and faced almost immediate guaranteed death. The Jewish nation was camped within earshot of Eretz Yisroel and a secret mission like this was bound to be discovered. Although Chazal (see Yalkut Shimoni ibid.) tell us that the spies disguised themselves as travelling salesmen it would be difficult to fathom that these great pious men could truly pass as Canaanites. The only real thing that had going for themselves was their steadfast faith and trust in Hashem. They bravely entered the “lion’s den” and decided to lodge in the home of Rachav, a close contact to the country’s high ranking officials. She was fondly known throughout the land and enjoyed a warm personal association with all the authorities. In fact, the results were exactly as predicted and the spies were immediately detected upon entering Rachav’s home.
However, when one possesses perfect faith in Hashem the events which follow are far from predictable. Our Chazal (see Yalkut ad loc. 9) reveal to us a most startling demonstration of Divine Providence and inform us that Rachav had recently embraced the Jewish religion. In fact, Hashem had actually directed the spies to the only Jewish soul in the entire land of Eretz Yisroel. Their faith proved rewarding and instead of delivering the spies to the king, Rachav quite understandably extended herself in all ways to assist her newly gained Jewish brethren. She encouraged them with her profound statements of faith and was actually a catalyst in delivering the Promised Land directly into Jewish hands. The Yalkut continues to inform us that Rachav was quite favorably rewarded for her heroism and merited to marry the Jewish nation’s leader Yehoshua. Her new life was quite fruitful and she became the forbearer of many Jewish prophets and priests. Instead of an almost guaranteed death for the spies through their perfect faith they were successful in their mission and secured the deliverance of the land of Israel to their Jewish brethren. These are some of the indescribable results of perfect faith and commitment to Hashem. Let it be His will that our constant strides in faith and commitment to Hashem serve as a special merit for us to finally return to our Homeland in peace and harmony.
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Dovid Siegel and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rosh Kollel of Kollel Toras Chesed of Skokie.
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