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Parsha Insights

By Rabbi Yitschak Hakohen Tawil
June 14, 2017

“And Moshe called Hoshea the son of Nun Yehoshua” (13:16).

The revised name Yehoshua implies Y-ah Hoshia [may G-d save you], symbolizing that before sending the spies on their mission, Moshe prayed on behalf of Yehoshua that G-d should save him from the counsel of the spies who [with the exception of Yehoshua and Kalev] all returned bearing an evil report of Eretz Yisrael. It is somewhat surprising to note that before sending the spies Moshe felt it necessary to pray for Yehoshua in particular. What was so special about Yehoshua, and why didn’t he pray for the other spies? The Torah informs us that when the spies returned with their evil report, Yehoshua and Kalev were in opposition refuting the way in which the other spies had misinterpreted what they saw. Yehoshua and Kalev both had a very favorable impression of Eretz Yisrael and separated themselves from the terrible sin of the spies.


The Chafetz Chaim explains that although both Yehoshua and Kalev belonged to the opposition and spoke in favor of Eretz Yisrael they chose different strategic ways in which to voice their opposition. Yehoshua was openly opposed, expressing his conflicting view all along. He outwardly preached his view and rebuked the other spies, and as an individual of opposing view he thereby placed himself in danger and needed special Divine Mercy in order that he would emerge safe and sound. Moshe was aware of Yehoshua’s open policy and realized the possible danger that could befall him, and therefore prayed for him in particular. Yehoshua had a reason for his open policy. When in a situation where others around you are doing wrong, if you sit quietly along in their company you are prone to eventually be influenced by the evil majority. Yehoshua hence was of the opinion that in such a situation he must speak out, even though he thereby places himself in physical danger. He considered the spiritual danger of influence that could arise as a result of keeping his opposition quiet to be far worse. Kalev, although similarly in opposition to the wicked report of the other spies, nevertheless held of a different approach to express his opposition. He initially remained quiet, playing as if he was on their side, thereby avoiding placing himself in any physical danger. After the spies returned and disappointingly informed our people that Eretz Yisrael is tough and impossible to conquer, Kalev stood up as if adding to their words, and suddenly he turned the pot over their faces, praising Eretz Yisrael highly and assuring the people that with G-d’s help there is no trouble conquering the land. Kalev’s approach of playing on their side until the last moment posed the spiritual danger of being influenced on the way, but Kalev stopped off on the way in Chevron and prayed besides the burial place of our great forefathers, pleading that their merit should stand by him protecting him from any negative influence from the other spies. Despite the dangers of temptation, since Kalev truly set out in his path with pure intentions, his prayer stood by him and he was saved from receiving any negative influence from the other spies. The Torah praises both Yehoshua and Kalev, implying that both their approaches are sanctioned.

Shimshon Refael Hirsch delves a little deeper into our initial question. Before the spies were sent on their mission, the Torah testifies that they were all righteous men of stature. Why did Moshe feel that there would be a negative outcome and that Yehoshua would need a special prayer? Also, by singling out Yehoshua and praying for him in a noticeable form [with a change of his name] this would surely increase the danger, forming a reason to stimulate within the spies even more jealousy and hatred against Yehoshua? He answers that the change of name served an explicit purpose, for the good of all the spies. Moshe hoped that as a result of everybody using the new name Yehoshua “May G–d save you [from the plot of the spies]” the other spies would have a constant reminder to be careful; every time they mention Yehoshua’s name they are reminded to beware! This would enable them to be aware of what they are saying, thinking twice before stumbling in sin. By calling out Yehoshua – May G-d save you, their belief would also be strengthened, remembering that G-d is the one who saves, and he is indeed most capable of bringing them into Eretz Yisrael despite the frightening looking giants that lived in Eretz Yisrael at that time. Notwithstanding this great reminder, the spies stumbled in sin.


We also have constant “reminders” sent to us by G-d through which we can strengthen our belief and practice. Be it a feeling of inspiration, which needs to be captured and developed; be it something out of the normal routine that makes us think a little bit helping to awake from our deep slumber. We must constantly keep ourselves aware of what is happening around us, recognising and taking advantage of the many Divine hints and messages that are sent to us in order to help and guide us to improve our ways!


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