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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5756) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion: Tape# # 61, The Minyan: Who Counts? Good Shabbos!

Missing Dots Hint at Yehoshua’s Special Relationship to Moshe

In this week’s Parsha we read about the sending of the 12 spies. The 12 spies were supposed to investigate the situation in Eretz Yisroel prior to Klal Yisroel entering the land. We know, unfortunately, of the sad outcome of this chapter.

[Ten of the twelve spies gave a false bad report. Though Calev and Yehoshua gave a good report, the Jewish people believed the spies and decided that itwas not worth fighting a dangerous war for the Land of Israel, and insteaddemanded a return to Egypt. As a punishment, the Jews were required toremain in the desert for 40 years, until all the adults who had believed thespies passed away.]

The chapter begins with the listing of each of the 12 spies by tribe. The verse says “And from the Tribe of Ephraim was Hoshea bin Nun”. The Torah uses the unique form “bin Nun” rather than “ben Nun” to express the idea that he was the son of Nun.

The Ramba”n explains that “bin Nun” was like a nickname, hinting at the fact that Hoshea was particularly wise and sharp intellectually. He was, thus, given the title “binNun” (from the root `Binah’ — understanding), meaning “the wise one”.

I saw an interesting alternate interpretation from the sefer HaMedrashv’Hamaseh. Normally, our Rabbis tell us, there are three partners in man –his father, his mother, and G-d. In truth, however, there can be anotherpartner in the creation of man, and that is his Rebbe, his teacher. AsChaza”l, our Rabbis, say, “Whoever teaches the son of his neighbor Torah, itis as if he gave birth to him.” Unfortunately, this is usually not thecase. The relationship between Rebbe and Talmid (student) is usually not asstrong as the relationship between father and son. There are, however, caseswhere the Talmid is such a dedicated student (Talmid-muvhak), that thestudent can truly be considered the child of his Rebbe.

Yehoshua was such a Talmid. Our Rabbis describe him as the disciple par excellence, who never left the side of Moshe, his teacher. Chaza”l saythat when Moshe finished giving a shiur, the Elders would leave. There wouldbe some Talmidim still present and then they, too, would leave. Finally,Moshe Rabbeinu would walk and Yehoshua bin Nun would follow him. BecauseYehoshua was such a dedicated Talmid, he received more from Moshe than anyother individual, and eventually became Moshe’s successor.

Consequently, we can actually say about Yehoshua bin Nun that he had anotherpartner in his making. That partner was Moshe Rabbeinu. That is why, thesefer HaMedrash v”Hamaseh says, Yehoshua was called Bin Nun, with a singledot (chirik) under the letter Bais rather than the three dots (segol).Yehoshua was the son of Nun, but not fully the son of Nun. The Torah,symbolically, took away from the full “Ben” (with a segol) relationship thatYehoshua had with his father, to show that in this case his teacher had aneven greater role in his development than did his father.

Moshe Tells Yehoshua “‘Just Say No’ to the plan of the Spies”

There is a very interesting and fascinating Targum Yonasan ben Uziel in thisweek’s Parsha. The Torah tells us that before the Spies were sent out, Moshechanged the name of Hoshea to Yehoshua. Rash”i cites the statement ofChaza”l, our Rabbis, that this was a message: “May G-d save you (Yoshiecha)from the peril of the Spies.” The Targum Yonasan ben Uziel adds an editorialcomment here. He says, “When Moshe Rabbeinu saw the humbleness of Hoshea, hefelt compelled to change his name to Yehoshua”.

What does the Targum mean? Isn’t humility a desirable quality?

The Avnei Shoham gives a powerful interpretation:The Tosefta in Tractate Shabbos [17:4] brings an argument between BeisShammai and Beis Hillel [the school of Shammai, and the school of Hillel] asto what one can or must do with bones that are left on the table after aShabbos meal. Beis Hillel says they are not muktzeh [forbidden to be handledon Shabbos or Yom Tov] and you are allowed to pick them up and discard themlike you do regularly during the week. Beis Shammai say you must remove theentire table or tablecloth and shake it off, thus getting rid of the bones.

The Tosefta adds that Rav Zecharia ben Avkilos would act neither accordingto the practice of Beis Shammai nor according to the practice of BeisHillel. Wanting to strike a compromise, he would pick up the bones and throwthem behind the couch. The Tosefta comments that this attitude of RavZecharia ben Avkilos, of trying to strike a compromise between Beis Shammaiand Beis Hillel – destroyed the Beis Hamikdash.

What does the Tosefta mean? The Tosefta is referring to the famous Gemara inTractate Gittin [56a] that describes how a certain Jew went to the Caesar inRome and told him that the Jews were rebelling against him. The Caesar knewthat the Jews were loyal and refused to believe this Jew. The Jew then said,”I’ll prove it to you. Send them an Offering and have them sacrifice it ontheir Altar. If they refuse to sacrifice it, that means they’ve rebelled.”

The Caesar agreed and sent an animal with this Jew, requesting that it beoffered on the Altar. The Jew went ahead and secretly blemished the animal,knowing that it would then have to be rejected.

The Gemara describes that the Rabbis considered offering it anyway becauseof “political considerations” (mi’shum shalom malchus – peace with theKing), but Rav Zecharia ben Avkilos argued against this, saying that “Peoplewill misinterpret this, and say that blemished animals may be offered on theAltar”. The Rabbis then considered killing the plotting messenger, so the king would never find out what happened. Again, Rav Zecharia ben Avkilosargued against this saying “People will misinterpret this, and say that onewho blemishes a Sacrifice is deserving of the death penalty”.

As a result they did nothing, and the Temple was destroyed. Regarding this incident Rav Yochanan said, “The ‘humility’, the desire to constantly satisfy every opinion and every situation, of Rav Zecharia ben Avkilos, destroyed our Temple and exiled us from our Land”.

Chazal are telling us that modesty, humility and the art of compromise andpeacemaking are tremendous attributes, but sometimes one has to stand up andbe counted and say “Let the chips fall where they may — this is the way ithas to be!”. One cannot always try to make Shalom. One cannot alwayscompromise. Sometimes one must take a stand. This was R. Zecharia benAvkilos’ failing.

Now we understand what the Targum Yonasan ben Uziel is teaching. MosheRabbeinu knew that Yehoshua was a lover and a pursuer of peace, one whoalways tried to find common ground and find a way to compromise. However,Moshe Rabbeinu, intuitively or with Ruach HaKodesh, knew that there wouldcome a time, during the incident with the spies, that Yehoshua would have tostand up and be counted, stand up and rebel.

Therefore, the Targum says that when Moshe saw that Yehoshua needed a ‘booster shot’ of internal strength (shtark-keit), Moshe changed his name and gave him a Blessing — that G-d give him the fortitude, strengthand courage that if the situation called for it he would be able to stand upand say “No”. This was the Blessing of “May G-d save you from the plan ofthe Spies”.


Eretz Yisroel — The Land of Israel
Klal Yisroel — The Nation of Israel
Rebbi — Teacher
Talmid (muvhak) — (Especially dedicated) student
shiur — lecture
sefer — book
muktzeh — items forbidden to be handled on Shabbos or Yom Tov
Ruach HaKodesh — Divine Inspiration

Personalities & Sources:

Ramba”n — R. Moshe ben Nachman; (1194-1270); Spain, Eretz Yisroel
Rash”i — R. Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105); France
Targum Yonasan ben Uziel — Aramaic paraphrase of the Chumash attributed by some to a disciple of Hillel.
Tosefta — Tanaitic collection of Baraisos; a kind of parallel work to the Mishneh

Transcribed by David Twersky; Seattle, Washington.
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, Maryland.

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion (#61). The corresponding halachic portion for this tape is: #61 is: The Minyan: Who Counts? The other halachic portions for Parshas Shlach from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:

  • Tape # 016 – Mixed Seating at Weddings
  • Tape # 105 – Tallis: Does it Cover Only Married Men?
  • Tape # 150 – Tzitzis: Must They Be Worn?
  • Tape # 197 – Carrying Medicine on Shabbos
  • Tape # 243 – The Concept of Prison in Jewish Law
  • Tape # 287 – Women and Tzitzis
  • Tape # 333 – Techeiles Today
  • Tape # 377 – Tzitzis: Must they Be Seen?

Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from:

Yad Yechiel Institute
PO Box 511
Owings Mills, MD 21117-0511
Call (410) 358-0416 for further information.

Also Available: Mesorah / Artscroll has published a collection of Rabbi Frand’s essays. The book is entitled:

Rabbi Yissocher Frand: In Print

and is available through Project Genesis On-Line Bookstore: