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Sivan 5764 – Part or Apart?

1 Sivan 5764
From the desk of Rabbi Eliezer Langer

Part or Apart?

Bnai Yisrael was to have entered Eretz Yisrael immediately following Matan Torah. Unfortunately, instead of responding positively when Hashem offered us His great gift, we requested to “check it out ourselves” and to send spies to see if this land was really all He had promised.

When Moshe appointed the spies, he renamed Hoshea, adding one of the letters of G-d’s name, and called him Yehoshua. As the Gemorah explains, this was to signify “Kah yoshiacha may’atzat meraglim” – May G-d protect you from the counsel of the spies. While, at first glance, we can say that Moshe singled out Yehoshua because of his closeness to him, why though, did he ignore Kalev? Why didn’t Kalev receive a special bracha from Moshe before setting out on this journey?

As the spies enter Eretz Yisrael , the pasuk tells us “vayaalu vanegev vayavo ad Chevron – and they went up to the Negev and he went to Chevron.” The Gemorah explains that the Torah tells us that only one person went to Chevron. Kalev separated himself from the other spies and went to the burial place of the Avot in Chevron to pray,as Rashi says “shelo yhe nisat lachaverav lh’yot b’atzatam – that he should not be swayed to be in their counsel.” Again we must ask, why did only Kalev separate himself from the group and not Yehoshua?

When the spies return from their mission with their negative report about Eretz Yisrael and the seeming inability to conquer the land, it is Kalev who stills the people toward Moshe. Why is it Kalev who speaks up at this point and not Yehoshua?

The answer of the Chafetz Chaim to these questions not only helps us to understand the specifics of these events but also can serve as a guideline for students about to return to their parents’ home after a year of intensive learning in Israel.

Each and every one of us is unique with different characteristics and nature from our friends. The way in which we react to evil is likewise different based on our own particular makeup. Some will see a situation that is incorrect and immediately come out against it with full strength. Others will see the same scene and try to work from within, to change people’s minds and thereby the results. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. The position of the one who attacks the situation “head on” is always clearly identified and he will not be swayed to change his opinion and to follow the majority. Unfortunately though, his strong view separates him from those of the opposing view, which may make his continued friendship difficult and, in certain circumstances, could actually present danger to the individual. On the other hand, one who appears to follow the majority but is actually working from within to change opinions may have success because in the eyes of the people he is “really one of them.” The danger to him though is that he may in fact, because of his close association and friendship with the large group, be swayed by them, giving up his uniqueness and ending up following the crowd.

According to the Chafetz Chaim, Yehoshua was of the first type and Kalev the second. Yehoshua was clearly identified by the people as being the “mesharet Moshe meb’churav – the servant of Moshe from his youth.” The meraglim knew that Yehoshua was not one of them and could never be convinced to join in their negative report about Eretz Yisrael. Moshe had said that the Land was good and there would be no way that Yehoshua would contradict him. If so, Yehoshua was in physical danger from the Meraglim. If they had a predetermined view they might actually kill Yehoshua to silence his dissent. Moshe therefore added the Yud to his name to his name with the prayer that Hashem should protect Yehoshua from the counsel of the spies.

Kalev however was different as the Torah testifies: “V’avdi Kalev ekev hayta ruach acheret emo- he had a different spirit in him.” To the outsider he appeared to believe and to act just like the other spies and they all thought that he would join in the disparaging words about Eretz Yisrael. Therefore the danger to Kalev was not physical, but rather spiritual- he could be swayed to join the majority. He would try to work from within the group but he could not be positive that instead of convincing them that they might succeed in convincing him. Moshe could not pray for Kalev; Kalev had to go himself to Mearat HaMachpela and pray that he not be swayed to join their opinion and to not become like them.

It is for this reason that when the meraglim returned it could only have been Kalev who would attempt to quiet the murmurings of the people. In fact the pasuk actually says: ”Vayahas Kalev et ha’am al Moshe” – Kalev silenced the people against Moshe. To paraphrase Rashi, Kalev says to the people “Do you think this is the only thing that Amram’s son did to us?” People thought that Kalev would say some lashon hara about Moshe and they immediately started to pay attention. But instead Kalev said: he split the sea for us, he brought us the man and the slav to eat and we must realize that if he tells us to climb to the heavens we should get ladders and we will succeed.” The people would have never listened to Yehoshua since they knew that he would only support Moshe’s view; it was only Kalev, seemingly an insider, who would have had a chance to speak up in defense of Eretz Yisrael and the promises made through Moshe.

What we must ask is which approach is best for us? Is it better to be the Yehoshua, fighting, with guns blasting, people who do not see eye to eye with us, or to be the Kalev, respectful of others even when we know that their views are incorrect. The advantage and the danger of each approach is obvious, but which is the path that we should choose for ourselves? What I found most amazing about the approach of the Chafetz Chaim is that he says that the approaches of Yehoshua and of Kalev are both equally correct. The proof is that the Torah sometimes lists Kalev first and sometimes Yehoshua. What is important is for a person to know his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Can you stand up to the outside pressure without losing the level of kedusha you have achieved, without being swayed to become “like everyone else” or can you in truth affect others without becoming weaker yourself? Be honest with yourself and make your choice based on who you really are. Your teachers and friends that you made in Eretz Yisrael this past year remain happy to be sounding boards and guides as you continue to grow in Kedusha.

Have a wonderful summer.