Parshas Sh’lach Lecha; Different Defence Tactics :
The main thrust of our sedra is the sin of the spies - their erring report of both the Land of Israel and the chances of being able to conquer it. This sin produced major repercussions, both at the time and across Jewish history. Bnei Yisrael now had to wander around for forty years in the desert and many people would die and not enter the Land. And during these years of wandering, HaShem suspended direct communication with Moshe Rabeinu (gemarra Bava Basra 121b). Furthermore, it was on this day (the 9th Av) when Bnei Yisrael cried after hearing the spies’ report and distrusted Moshe and HaShem, that HaShem punished us by declaring ‘you cried for no reason; I will fix [this time] as a crying throughout generations’ (gemarra Ta’anis 29a). Indeed, many tragedies have occurred throughout history on the ninth of Av - the destruction of the two Batei Mikdash, the Roman capture of Beitar, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and the outbreak of the first world war, to name but a few. Though the motivations for the sin of the spies are unclear, [different peirushim suggest different things: for example that the spies wanted to hang on to their positions as Nesi’im, which they would have to give up when they entered the Land; or that they wanted to keep hold of the direct
interaction with HaShem that we had exclusively in the desert times; or that they thought that had they spoke well of the Land, the Jewish People might enter for the wrong reasons - for physical prosperity, etc. This is not our discussion], it seems that the actual sinful acts are twofold; they doubted HaShem’s ability to conquer the Land [in other words a sin in emunah/bitachon] (13;28-29 & 31), and they spoke derogatorily of the Land (13;32-33).
In his opening piece on our sedra, the Chofetz Chaim asks three questions on this episode. Firstly, of all the spies, Moshe prays for Yehoshua ‘to be saved from the advice of the spies’ (Rashi 13;16) and adds the letter ‘heh’ to his name. Assuming that Moshe knew which of the spies was probably going to accomplish his mission and who was going to fail, why did Moshe daven for Yehoshua and not for Calev as well? Secondly, the pasuk relates that ‘he came to Chevron…’ (13;22), which Rashi points out is referring to Calev - who went to Chevron to pray at the graveside of the Avos ‘that he should not be persuaded by the counsel of the spies.’ Why was it only Calev who went there to daven; why not Yehoshua too? The third question that the Chofetz Chaim asks is that HaShem singles out Calev for his loyalty to HaShem’s cause (14;24); why is there no mention of Yehoshua here?
The Chofetz Chaim, in answering these three questions, brings out the contrast between the different tactics of Calev and Yehoshua in trying to separate themselves from the spies’ evil report and not being swayed by them; managing to be the two spies that reported back positively. In fact, what the Chofetz Chaim says can be found in Rashi himself, if one looks very carefully (Rashi 14;24). Let’s present what he says…
There were two different options of tactics facing Yehoshua and Calev, and each has its disadvantages and advantages. The first mode was to go outright against the other ten spies right from the start, and declare that their outlook was wrong and, in doing this, identify yourself as a clear opponent of them. The advantage to this is that one is not likely to be influenced by the other spies, for one makes sure they are ideologically and physically distanced from the others. However, there is a physical danger of the possibility of the other spies ganging up against this dissident non-conformer and injuring them by taking their money or physically harming them. The other tactical option involved keeping quiet throughout the forty-day tour of the Land, lulling the other spies into thinking that you agree with their position, only to make an apparent about-turn later on. According to this second tactic, when the spies would call on you in front of the entire people in saying ‘see, he agrees with our negative report too,’ you would speak up for HaShem and his Land; shocking the spies and winning over the people in the process - a surprise tactic. The advantage here is that it is more likely to bear good results [in winning over the people], but the disadvantage is that in pretending to quietly acquiesce to the spies’ viewpoint across the forty-day period, one runs a greater risk of being influenced by the spies and joining them.
The Chofetz Chaim says that Yehoshua chose the first [all-out-war] tactic, whilst Calev picked the second [pretend-to-be-one-of-them-until-last-moment] tactic. This answers the above questions. Moshe knew Calev and Yehoshua’s characters and strengths, and so knew which set of tactics each would pick to save themselves from the spies. This is why he prayed for Yehoshua to be saved from the spies; for HaShem to save Yehoshua from the physical danger posed by the spies in retaliation to Yehoshua’s obvious opposition to them. Calev, on the other hand, chose the more spiritually-risky second option, and was thus afraid he would be influenced by the spies in his proximity to them and fake approval of their position. This is why it was him and not Yehoshua, who went to daven in Chevron at the graveside of the Avos; and the prayer was that he should not be influenced by them. This is why the words Rashi uses differ for each prayer; regarding Moshe’s prayer for Yehoshua, Rashi says that the prayer was that ‘HaShem should save you from the counsel of the spies,’ whilst Calev’s prayer was ‘not to be influenced by his colleagues to follow their counsel,’ for the first prayer was for physical safety and saviour, whilst that of Calev was for Divine help to be able to resist the spies’ influences and keep steadfast to his plan.
At this point, one might ask (as someone asked me when we were learning this piece together) why were the tefillos not the other way around; why didn’t Moshe daven for Calev’s spiritual survival and Yehoshua should go to Chevron to daven for his physical safety?
To answer this, one has to be very Jewish and ask another question. On Purim, when a decree was passed to kill all the Jews, our reaction was to fast and pray to HaShem. Many years later in the Chanuka episode, however, we got up and took arms and fought. Why the discrepancy? The answer is that the rule is that HaShem takes full charge of our physical welfares, but the spiritual work is up to us to acquire and achieve (Chazal say ‘everything is in the hands of HaShem apart from fear of Heaven’). Thus, at Purim when it was a question of our physical survival and wellbeing, we davened for HaShem to essentially take care of it (and He did). Whilst at Chanuka, the war was a spiritual one against the Greeks who did not want to kill us - they wanted to stop us keeping Torah and mitzvos - and so we had to take up arms and fight ourselves [not to say that HaShem did not bring about a miraculous victory at Chanuka too]. Bearing this principle in mind, this is why Moshe could daven for Yehoshua, for it was a matter of physical safety, whilst Calev had to make the effort himself and go to daven for Divine assistance by davening in Chevron, for this was a matter pertaining to his spiritual wellbeing. [How Calev could daven not to sin when it is our job to prevent sin and not HaShem’s is not our subject.]
Getting back to the different tactics adopted by Calev and Yehoshua, this is why Calev was singled out for special praise by HaShem (and indeed was given the city of Chevron as a reward), for it was his tactic that enabled him to quieten the spies at one point during their relating of the evil report to Bnei Yisrael (13;30, Rashi 14;24). In fact, Rav Moshe Feinstein points out that though the spies continued speaking their report even after Calev had quietened them, it was for even the one second of Calev stopping them speaking disparagingly and negatively against HaShem and His Land that Calev received his reward. Moreover, as we said above, this explanation of the Chofetz Chaim is hinted to in Rashi himself. Rashi comments (14;24) that when HaShem praises Calev for having ‘another spirit/attitude with him,’ He is referring to the fact that Calev behaved differently in his heart and with his mouth/words; to the spies he said that he agreed with them (when touring the Land), whilst in his heart he would say the truth. Perhaps this is also why the pasuk continues that Calev ‘was fully committed to me,’ for HaShem is saying that Calev had stayed completely committed to Him throughout the forty-day period, successfully warding off negative influences.
Taking the idea a step further, these two differing tactical positions and characters can be seen in what happens to Calev and Yehoshua subsequently in life. Calev marries Basya, the daughter of Pharoah, for HaShem declared that ‘the one who rebelled against the counsel of the spies [and was not influenced by them] should come and marry the daughter of Pharoah, who rebelled against her father’s idolatry [and was not influenced by him]’ (gemarra Megillah 13a). And Yehoshua later becomes leader of the Bnei Yisrael, after Moshe, and takes them into the Land, for the qualities of a leader include the ability to stand firmly (even alone) for what’s right and not pretend to side with those who espouse incorrect viewpoints which can endanger others. A leader declares his position firmly, and then tries to get others to follow suit. Thus, Yehoshua’s character was more fitting to select the first set of tactics, and this was one reason for his suitability for the leadership of klal yisrael.
As the Chofetz Chaim finishes, both methods of tactics are equally meritorious as long as they are both leshem shamayim. And perhaps one should add that the method of Calev seems far more risky and requires an honest evaluation of who one is and of their capabilities of withstanding the pressures and influence one faces in putting themselves in such a situation.
Have a great Shabbes,