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Posted on June 15, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1253 – Carrying Nitroglycerin on Shabbos for Heart Patient / Candy for Diabetic? Mutar or Asur Good Shabbos!

There is a famous question asked in this parsha. We suggested numerous answers over the years. This year, we will present two new approaches suggested by Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky in his sefer.

The pasuk says that Moshe changed the name of Hoshea bin Nun to Yehoshua (Bamdibar 13:16), invoking (according to Rashi) a prayer by Moshe on Yehoshua’s behalf that Hashem should save him from the scheme of the Meraglim (Spies). All the meforshim ask why Moshe was more concerned about Yehoshua than he was about Calev.

Earlier in the same perek (Bamidbar 13:4-15), when the Torah lists the various Meraglim by tribal affiliation, the Ramban and other meforshim are troubled at the sequence with which these individuals are listed. Their names don’t appear to be listed in any particular order.

The Ramban notes that the names are not enumerated by flag configuration, nor by size, nor by birth order. The Ramban suggests that perhaps they are ordered by the prestige of each individual, rather than his shevet (tribe). In other words, maybe they are listed in order of their personal importance, rather than by the significance of the shevet they represented. According to the Ramban’s theory, Rav Yaakov points out that Shamua ben Zachur and Shafat ben Chori would have been greater in prestige than Calev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua bin Nun. This is difficult to accept because we never hear from Shamua ben Zachur or Shafat ben Chori again.

Rav Yaakov himself explains the order of the listing of the Meraglim in a different fashion: The first two Meraglim listed represented respectively Reuven and Shimon. That makes perfect sense. Levi is not mentioned because Shevet Levi (the Tribe of Levi) did not send a representative. That we understand as well. Next, we would expect Shevet Yehudah to be listed and indeed that is the case: Calev ben Yefuneh, the third spy listed, is from Shevet Yehudah. So far, so good. Then, however, the next pasuk lists Hoshea bin Nun, who was from Shevet Ephraim, one of the youngest shevatim. Why?

Rashi comments (Devarim 1:22) that they approached Moshe Rabbeinu b’irvuvya (in a tumult). He saw the youngsters pushing away the elders. He saw the pushing and shoving and lack of any appropriate order. Moshe Rabbeinu invoked something here that I am sure everyone who has ever been a parent has said sometime in his life when confronted by such situations: “This is not going to end well!” In other words, when Moshe saw this irvuvya of the youngsters pushing away their elders, he said “Uh-oh. This is not being done the way Jews should behave and the way Jews should act.” Therefore, at this point in time, Moshe Rabbeinu was inspired to say to his disciple: “May Hashem save you from the scheme of the Spies.”

Up until this point, things were going according to the proper sequence: Reuven, Shimon, Yehudah. All was fine. But when Moshe saw this situation, where the “ne’arim” (youth) were pushing aside the “zekainim” (elders), he saw that this mission was not being undertaken for the sake of Heaven. This is not the way things are supposed to be done. Earlier in the narration, when Calev was mentioned, there was not yet a need to invoke the prayer “May Hashem save you from the scheme of the Spies” because at that point, everything was still going properly.

Rav Yaakov gives a second answer to his question of why Moshe gave Yehoshua a bracha, and not Calev. This answer contains a tremendous truth within it. He says the reason Moshe felt compelled to give Yehoshua a bracha and not Calev is that Calev was married to a righteous woman (Miriam haNeviah). Certainly, Calev would therefore not fall prey to the evil schemes of the Meraglim, and so Calev was not in need of a blessing. At the time, Yehoshua was still single. Calev, who was married to a tzadekes, had a spiritual anchor. Therefore, Moshe could be confident that Calev would not “get caught up” in the plan of the Meraglim.

Rav Weinberg used to advise unmarried young men who were contemplating going to graduate school (whether it be law school, medical school, dental school, or whatever) that they should not start graduate school until they were married. “Yes, you can go to graduate school, but you should be married first.” When someone is in Yeshiva, even if he is going to college on the side, the Yeshiva is his anchor. But when someone goes to graduate school and is in school full-time, all day, he is in a world which presents its own set of nisyonos (spiritual tests). A person needs an anchor. He needs the anchor of a home and the anchor of a wife.

That is why, Rav Yaakov explains, Calev did not need Moshe’s bracha. It was because he was married to Miriam. When someone is married to a woman like Miriam, he has a solid anchor. Yehoshua was not married at this time, and therefore Moshe had to pray for him: “May Hashem save you from the scheme of the Spies.”

A Person Hears What He Wants To Hear

Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky’s other observation is on the pasuk, “In this wilderness shall your carcasses drop; all your counted ones in any of your numberings, from twenty years of age and above, whom you provoked against Me.” (Bamidbar 14:29) The only ones who died in the midbar were people who were between twenty and sixty years old. People who were either younger than twenty or past the age of sixty at the time of the census did not die as part of the collective punishment for the aveira (sin) of the Meraglim.

Rav Yaakov asks a very practical question: Does this imply that no one over sixty, without exception, went along with the Meraglim and believed their negative report? How can the Torah make such a statement?

Rav Yaakov shares a very interesting idea, which teaches us an important lesson. He says the people who were over sixty did not believe the Meraglim. The reason they didn’t believe them is that the people over sixty were past the draft age. They knew that they were not going to need to fight. The Meraglim‘s pessimistic report centered around the fact that the Canaanim (Canaanites) were stronger than the Jews. “We are not going to be able to fight them; we are not going to be able to defeat them. They are too strong for us, therefore let us not go into Eretz Yisrael.”

For people who were of draft age and who were destined to need to take part in such a war, this was a message that resonated with them. “I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to be drafted. I don’t want to take part in such a war.” Such a person was ready to listen to the message of the Meraglim. But a person over sixty, who was not going to go into the army anyway, was able to look at what the Meraglim were saying objectively: “On the one hand, the Ribono shel Olam is saying ‘We can go in and win’; on the other hand, the Meraglim are saying ‘No. We can’t defeat them.'” The people who were not directly affected were prepared to believe Calev and Yehoshua and rely on the promises of the Ribono shel Olam.

A person without negiyus (personal motivation) can listen to a message and judge its merits without bias. All those people who believed the Meraglim did so because they had an agenda. Their agenda was “I don’t want to fight.” It is the old maxim “We hear what we want to hear and we believe what we want to believe.”

Spending a Minute in the Beis HaMikdash Is All It Takes

The pasuk says, “And Yehoshua bin Nun and Calev ben Yefuneh from those who spied out the land (ha’tarim es ha’aretz) tore their clothes.” (Bamidbar 14:6) I saw the following observation in the sefer Darash Mordechai: The term ha’tarim es ha’aretz is noteworthy. At this point in time, we already know that they were among the ones who “spied out the land.” What then is the need for the Torah to again spell out the fact that they were “ha’tarim es haaretz“? We know all that already!

The Darash Mordechai relates this question to a very famous vort of the Ponevezher Rav. He tells the story of Yosef Meshisa. The pasuk says that when Yitzchak smelled the garments of Eisav (Vayarach es begadav) (Bereshis 27:27), the Medrash expounds: “he smelled the rebellious within him” (Vayarach es bogdav). Yitzchak even had nachas ruach (spiritual pleasure) from those people who were the traitors and rebelled against Hashem.

The Medrash then gives an example of such a rebellious person: Yosef Meshisa. He was a traitor to his people at the time of the destruction of the Second Bais Hamikdash (Temple). He went over the side of the Romans. The Medrash says that when the Romans destroyed the Beis HaMikdash, they went to Yosef Meshisa and (as a reward for his services to them) told him to go inside the Beis HaMikdash and take for himself whatever he wanted.

He went into the Beis HaMikdash and took out for himself the Golden Menorah. The Romans saw that and told him that this was too big of a gift. They then told him to take something else. The Menorah, they said, was fit for a king, not a commoner like himself. At that point, Yosef Meshisa refused. They urged him to go back and pick something else and he again refused.

To make a very long Medrash short, they tortured him and eventually killed him, but he still refused to go back and take a personal gift from the Beis HaMikdash‘s property.

The Ponevezher Rav asked a question: What happened to Yosef Meshisa? Previously, he was a traitor to his people. He was willing to walk into the Beis HaMikdash and take the Menorah for himself. That he was happy to do. No compunctions. Then, suddenly he is told, “No. You can’t take the Menorah. That is not right for you to take.” Suddenly, he became a Ba’al Teshuva? These are the bogdim (traitors) from whom Yitzchak Avinu received nachas ruach.

How did Yosef Meshisa turn around like that? The Ponevezher Rav explained that what happened to Yosef Meshisa was that he spent a minute in the Beis HaMikdash. When a person spends a minute in the Beis HaMikdash, it changes his life. The kedusha of the Beis HaMikdash was such that Yosef Meshisa was never the same. After that one minute in the Beis HaMikdash, he could not rebel ever again.

Such is the power of being exposed to the makom hamikdash. It is like radiation. A person can be exposed to radiation for literally ten seconds and it can have a profound effect on him. Such is the power of radiation, and l’havdil, such is the power of kedusha as well.

The Darash Mordechai concludes: Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon are crying, maybe the Meraglim will change their minds, maybe they will do teshuva. At that point, Yehoshua and Calev are described as those “who spied out the Land” (ha’tarim es ha’aretz). They gave up hope on the Meraglim doing teshuva. They realized: These people were in Eretz Yisrael. They were exposed to its holy sanctity. If after being exposed to Eretz Yisrael, they can still talk this way (“they are stronger than us, etc.”), then Moshe Rabbeinu and Aaron, we hate to say this but nothing is going to help them. Your tefillos now will not save them either. They therefore tore their garments because they saw that the other Meraglim were hopeless and would never retract their report.

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 Sh’lach 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 Heart Patient / Candy for Diabetic? Mutar or 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?
  • 1429 – Must You Wear Tzitzis When Exercising or Playing Sports?
  • 1473 – Must You Check the Tzitzis of Your Talis Every Morning?
  • 1517 – Should You Wear a Wool Talis Katan in the Summer?

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 for further information.