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 wished to determine the most strategic point from which to enter the land. The mission was quite dangerous being that the Canaanite inhabitants were well aware of the impending Jewish threat on their land.
Yehoshua instructed the spies to survey all of Eretz Yisroel, placing special focus on the entry point of Yericho. The spies crossed over the Jordan River and proceeded directly to the first inn inside the city’s wall, the house of Rachav. Their entry was immediately discovered by the King of Yericho who sent a strong message to Rachav demanding the surrender of the intruders. Out of the goodness of her heart, Rachav responded to the king’s request by engaging herself in a remarkable act of heroism. She quickly concealed the spies and then persuaded the king’s messengers that the spies had left her house and exited the city. When the messengers were totally out of sight she immediately revealed to the spies that the inhabitants of the land were awestricken by the anticipated invasion of the Jewish people. She added that she personally believed Hashem to be in absolute control of the entire universe and that he could easily defeat all who stand in His way.
Our Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni, Yehoshua 8) reflect upon this most unusual experience and its stark contrast to the disheartening experience of the spies in this week’s parsha. This week we read about ten of the Jewish people’s greatest men who went on a similar mission to survey Eretz Yisroel. Yet the results of their mission were quite different and ultimately persuaded the Jewish people to seriously reject Eretz Yisroel. Chazal point to the fundamental distinction between these two groups of spies. They explain that the spies in the time of Yehoshua were totally devoted to their mission and therefore met enormous success. This implies that the spies in the days of Moshe Rabbeinu were remiss in their perfect commitment to their mission. Due to this weakness their perception regarding the land was prone to be subjective and they were naturally overwhelmed by their awesome experiences in the land. Conversely, the spies in Yehoshua’s times were totally committed to their mission and were therefore amply prepared to overcome any obstacle in their way.
In truth, the land of Israel presented extraordinary challenges for the Jewish people. The inhabitants of the land were far from friendly to their Jewish invaders and it was evident that nothing short of an open miracle could secure the safety of the Jewish nation. The spies in Moshe’s times displayed grave concern over this dangerous plight. They observed the towering stature of the giants in the land and the total preoccupation of its inhabitants in eulogies and funerals. Unfortunately, the original spies succumbed to their well-grounded fears and eventually forfeited their privilege to enter the land. 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 perfect faith and trust in Hashem. From a practical standpoint Yehoshua’s spies had no realistic chance to succeed and faced almost immediate guaranteed death. The Jewish nation had been camped within earshot of Eretz Yisroel and a secret mission like theirs was prone to be discovered. Although our Chazal (see Yalkut Shimoni ibid.) do tell us that the spies disguised themselves as travelling salesmen it is quite difficult to fathom that such pious men could truly pass as Canaanites. The only real thing they 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 dear contact of all of the country’s highest 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 could be predicted and the spies were immediately detected upon entry.
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, unbeknown to the spies, had recently embraced the Jewish religion. In fact, Hashem had actually directed the spies to the only Jewish soul in the entire land of Canaan. The faith of the spies proved rewarding and instead of surrendering the spies to the king, Rachav extended herself in every way to assist her newly embraced Jewish brethren. She greatly encouraged them with her profound statements of faith and actually became a catalyst for the deliverance of the Promised Land directly into Jewish hands. The Yalkut informs us that Rachav was favorably rewarded for her heroism and merited to marry the Jewish nation’s leader Yehoshua and became the forebear of many Jewish prophets and priests. Instead of almost guaranteed death for the spies their perfect faith produced a most successful mission resulting in the deliverance of the land of Canaan into Jewish hands. This is but a sample of the incredible results of perfect faith and total commitment to Hashem. From here we see that when one follows the path of Hashem with perfect faith and trust there is no limit to the unpredictable results and success that Hashem brings about. Let it be the will of Above that our constant strides in faith and commitment serve as the special merit for us to finally return to our homeland in peace and harmony very soon.