These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: CD #1123 – Taking Off Your Tallis – Must You Make A New Bracha? Good Shabbos!
What’s in a Name? The Change From Hoshea to Yehoshua: Revisited
The Torah records “…And Moshe called the name of Hoshea bin Nun – Yehoshua. (Literally – ‘May the L-rd save you….’)” [Bamidbar 13:16] All the commentaries wonder why Moshe was specifically worried about Yehoshua. The Maharal writes that Moshe had a special affinity for Yehoshua because he was his most faithful disciple. It would be particularly unseemly to have a disciple stray from carrying out his mission appropriately, thereby embarrassing his Rebbi. Consequently, Moshe felt a responsibility to pray for Yehoshua, his talmid muvhak, that Hashem should save him from any misdeed.
I saw a very interesting observation in the sefer Milchemes Yehudah. He writes that the reason Moshe Rabbeinu felt the need to daven for Yehoshua and not for the other spies is because the other spies had a ‘zechus‘ (merit) that Yehoshua did not have. The other spies did not need Moshe’s prayer; Yehoshua (Hoshea) did! What was this zechus that the other Meraglim possessed? The other meraglim were not involved in the aveira (sin) of the Eigel Hazahav (Golden Calf). They were present in the camp at the time, they were subject to the “Test” (Nisayon) of following the Eigel Hazahav when it appeared that Moshe had died, and they passed the test. They resisted the temptation and did not participate.
Although Yehoshua certainly did not participate in that aveira either, however, inasmuch as he was not in the camp at the time (he was waiting by the foot of Mt. Sinai for Moshe to descend from the mountaintop), he had not been “tested” and hence did not accumulate the zechus of having passed the test. Moshe felt compelled to daven for Yehoshua, who lacked the zechus the other Meraglim possessed of not participating with the others in the aveira of the Eigel Hazahav.
There is an interesting lesson in this fact. Sometimes people have easy lives and nothing is ever a challenge for them. On the other hand, other people have very difficult lives. They have been tested by fire. They have been challenged by the vagaries of life and have met those challenges. As a result, they come out stronger. It is not necessarily the case that we would pick one of these kinds of lives over the other. It is not for us to make such choices. (If we could, probably all of us would pick the easier life.) But the person who in fact has had the more difficult life has been tested by fire.
There is a popular maxim – “If this doesn’t break me, it will make me.” This is the advantage the other spies had over Yehoshua. They were tested by fire.
I once said over a beautiful observation from Rav Shach, z”l [1899-2001]. When Yaakov Avinu met Eisav, it says that he put the children of the handmaidens first, and after that he put the children of Leah, and after that he put Rochel and her two sons. It is a strange thing. What are the children of the handmaidens – cannon fodder? In battle, the generals are not placed in the front lines. The privates and the recruits are put there! We expect that they will be cut down by enemy fire.
Yaakov Avinu would not do such a thing. He does not treat any of his offspring like cannon fodder. Rav Shach said that on the contrary, Yaakov put the children of the handmaidens first because they had a bigger zechus. They had bigger zechuyos because their brothers mistreated them. They were the “second class citizens” in the family. Life was tough for them. They had to put up with being discriminated against. For that reason, they had extra zechuyos.
Similarly, Leah’s sons had more zechuyos than Rochel’s sons because Yaakov loved Rachel more and consequently his children from Leah were not the apple of his eye to the same extent that Yosef and Binyamin were. Having to suffer the indignity of this “second class status” brought them a zechus that Rachel’s sons did not possess. Yosef and Binyomin led a privileged existence being the sons of the “favorite wife”. Therefore, they had the least zechus, and consequently needed the extra protection of being hidden behind everybody else.
The same was the case with Moshe’s disciple. Moshe changed his name from Hoshea to Yehoshua (may G-d save you) because Hoshea needed this protection more than the other spies. He was not tested by the aveira of the Eigel Hazahav!
Rachav Was Headed in the Right Direction
The following is a thought I saw in the name of Rav Yerucham Levovitz (1873-1936), the Mashgiach of the Mir Yeshiva.
The spies were originally all outstanding individuals (kulam Anashim). And yet they were lacking in faith. They did not think the Ribono shel Olam would protect the Jewish people if they entered the Land of Canaan. Whatever explanations might explain why they thought this; what was their agenda, etc. – the bottom line is that there was something lacking in their level of faith.
Rav Yerucham pointed out the following noteworthy contrast. The Haftorah of Parshas Shlach is the story of the spies sent out by Yehoshua some forty years later when the Jews had already entered Canaan. The spies went to the city of Yericho and stayed in the house of an “isha zona,” Rachav. Even though some commentaries interpret the word “zona” to mean she was an inn keeper (who provided mazon – food – to her guests), the simple reading is that she was a harlot. She certainly was a Gentile woman. And yet we see the amazing level of Emunah (Faith) that she possessed. She was willing to risk her life and hide the spies on the pain of death (from local Canaanite rulers). She later converted to Judaism.
Amazing: The spies that Moshe sent out – kulam Anashim – yet they did not have Emunah. And Rachav the harlot risks her life for Klal Yisrael because of her Emunah that the Ribono shel Olam who took them out of Egypt and killed the pursuing Egyptians at the Red Sea, will also deliver the 31 Kings of Canaan into their hands. How do we understand this?
Rav Yerucham says something that Rav Ruderman (the founding Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel Rabbinical College) would say from time to time: The way to judge a person is not by where he is, but rather by what direction he is headed. Is he headed up or is he headed down? It is possible to find a person who is very distinguished, but is headed in the wrong direction. He may be either stagnating or beginning to fray at the edges.
On the other hand, someone else may be nowhere near the level of the first person, but is inspired. He is working. He is headed up rather than down. That person’s potential is much greater than that of the first person, who is headed in the other direction.
He gives an example: A person is considering going into a business venture and he has two choices. He can go into business with a well-established financier. He has been quite successful and has a lot of money. But this individual, who has made a lot of money in the past, has failed in his last few ventures. The other option is to join with a young person, a go-getter. He has not done anything yet in his life, but he has fire in his belly. With whom should you enter a partnership?
Rav Yerucham says that sometimes it makes more sense to go with the young untested fire-in-his-belly, rearing-to-go, type of person. He is headed up. He is headed in the right direction, while the well-established, wealthy person has been-there-and-done-that. He has suffered some recent setbacks. You do not know how committed he is going to be. You are better off with the “Rachav haZonah” than you are with the “Kulam-Anashim Meraglim.”
The Yetzer HaRah Can Masquerade As the Yetzer HaTov
The third and final observation I would like to share is from the sefer Shemen haTov by Rav Dov Weinberger. He makes three observations:
The first observation is that Parshas Shelach begins with the pasuk “Send forth for yourself men, and let them spy out (v’yasuru) the Land of Canaan…” [Bamidbar 13:2] and ends with Mitzvas Tzitzis which contains the pasuk “…and you shall not spy (v’lo sasuru) after your heart and after your eyes…” [Bamidbar 15:39]. Now, I did not do a word search, but the Hebrew root Taf-Vov-Reish, which means to scout out or to spy, is not a very common word in Tanach. These are not the only two places it appears, but it is not very common. It is peculiar that the parsha begins with the words “v’yasuru es Eretz Canaan” and the parsha also ends with the words “v’lo sasuru acharei levavchem v’achrei eineichem“.
His second observation is on the expression v’lo sasuru acharei levavchem v’acharei eineichem. How do we say “your heart” (singular) in Hebrew? Libchem (with a single letter bais). The word levavchem (with the letter vais twice) is plural. Now it is obvious why the expression is v’lo sasuru acharei eineichem (you should not stray after your eyes – plural)—because people have two eyes. But if the Torah is telling us not to stray after our heart, it should say it in the singular – lo sasuru acharei libchem! Why is the word levavchem plural?
His third observation relates to the sequence of the just-referenced pasuk: Rashi, connecting the beginning of the parsha with the end of the parsha, on the above quoted pasuk in Parshas Tzitzis, says, “The eyes are the ‘spies’ for the body, to entice the body to aveira. The eyes see, the heart desires, and the body sins. Based on this sequence of events, we would expect the pasuk to read: “Do not stray after your eyes and after your hearts” rather than the sequence we find in the pasuk “Do not stray after your hearts and after your eyes.”
The Shemen HaTov has a very beautiful explanation which addresses all three observations.
Chazal say that a person has two inclinations—a Yetzer HaTov (the inclination to do good) and a Yetzer HaRah (the inclination to do evil). They say regarding the expression in the first paragraph of Shma, “V’Ahavta eis Hashem Elokecha B’chol Levavcha” (And you should love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart) – this means with both of your ‘inclinations’. What does it mean that a person should serve G-d with both the Yetzer HaTov and the Yetzer HaRah?
Sometimes a person’s Yetzer HaTov convinces him to do something that is not right, under the pretext that it is a mitzvah and is the right thing to do. A person must be on guard that when his Yetzer HaTov is talking to him, it is really the Yetzer HaTov and not the Yetzer HaRah disguised as the Yetzer HaTov.
Why did the spies come back with the negative report about Eretz Yisrael? According to some commentaries—particularly the Chiddushei HaRim—it was because they did not want to leave the Wilderness, which was a life of total spirituality. They did not need to worry about earning a living, about bread, water, clothing, or about shelter. So, what did people worry about? It was an entirely spiritual existence!
Going into Eretz Yisrael, all of that would need to change. They would need to earn a living. They would need to plant. They would need to harvest. The Chiddushei HaRim says that they did not want that. They felt it was better to remain in a totally spiritual environment. This argument—ostensibly coming from their ‘Yetzer HaTov‘—affected how they saw things. This ‘hidden agenda’ which came from a good place, perverted their view. Therefore, they came back with the negative report: They did not want to go into Eretz Yisrael.
Perhaps they did not want to go there “for the right reasons,” but it was wrong! If the Ribono shel Olam says that this is what you need to do, then this is what you need to do. This is a classic example where the heart—and even the good part of a person’s heart—influences how he perceives things.
This is why we need the term levavchem in the plural. People have “two hearts”, representing the two inclinations, and we must take heed not to stray after those hearts—not even after the heart representing what we assume to be the “good inclination,” because it really might be the “evil inclination” in disguise.
This also helps us understand why the Torah uses this peculiar expression of “v’yasuru es Eretz Canaan” and “v’lo sasuru acharei levavchem“—because it is the same aveira. The aveira of the spies was this mistake of trying to convince ourselves that what we are doing is the right thing and for the right reason. This is what we need to be on guard against—precisely the easily-made mistake of pursuing the wrong path for the “right reason.”
And now it is understandable why the pasuk by Tzitzis records the sequence of “after your hearts and after your eyes.” True, the eyes are the first to see. However, sometimes that which the eyes see, starts in the heart. The Yetzer HaTov / Yetzer HaRah convinces us to see something in a specific light. That indeed was the aveira of the spies. Their desire to remain 100% spiritual affected how they viewed things.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Shlach is provided below:
- 016 Mixed Seating at Weddings
- 061 The Minyan: Who Counts?
- 105 Tallis: Does it Cover Only Married Men?
- 150 Tzitzis: Must They Be Worn?
- 197 Carrying Medicine on Shabbos
- 243 The Concept of Prison in Jewish Law
- 287 Women and Tzitzis
- 333 Techeiles Today
- 377 Tzitzis: Must They Be Seen?
- 421 The Issur of Histaklus
- 465 Donning a Tallis for The Amud
- 509 Ain Ma’averin Al Hamitzvos
- 553 Women and Tzitzis Revisited
- 597 Davening at the Graves of Tzadikim
- 641 K’rias Shema and K’eil Melech Ne’eman
- 685 Art Museums
- 729 Making Tzitzis
- 773 Kavanah When Wearing Tzitzis
- 817 Davening for a Rasha to Change – Does It Work?
- 861 Do We Knead Challah in America?
- 905 The Tallis Over Your Head
- 949 The Shul’s Tallis−Bracha or No Bracha?
- 992 Your Talis Katan: Is it Big Enough?
- 1036 Our Tallis – Should It Be Beautiful? Is It Really Chayav in Tzitzis?
- 1080 Doing An Aveira for the Best Reasons?
- 1123 Taking Off Your Tallis – Must You Make A New Bracha?
- 1165 Tallis Falling off During Davening / Cleaning Glasses With Your Tallis?
- 1208 Going to Daven at a Cemetery – Not As Simple As You Think.
- 1253 Carrying Nitroglycerin on Shabbos for a Heart Patient / Candy for a Diabetic? Mutar of Asur
- 1297 Oh Oh Some-one Took My Tallis by Accident and Left His; Can I Use His Tallis
- 1341 A Beautiful Talis: Is That Called Hidur Mitzvah and Other Talis Issues
- 1385 Techeiles Today-Why Not?
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.