Haftarat Shelach: Important Spies


[Yehoshua 2:1-24]


“Yehoshua bin Nun sent two spies from Shitim, secretly saying: Go observe the Land and Yericho” (Yehoshua 2:1). 


Our Sages give us additional information, which is not explicit in the text, about the identity of the two spies: they are, in fact, Pinchas and Calev (Bamidbar Rabbah 16:1).  This is not Calev’s first spy mission.  As our parashah explains, when Moshe Rabbenu sent out the spies, Calev ben Yefuneh was the one chosen from the Tribe of Yehudah (Bemidbar 13:7), while Yehoshua himself was the one chosen from the Tribe of Efraim (ibid. v. 8).  Out of the twelve individuals sent by Moshe Rabbenu to spy out the Land, only Yehoshua and Calev remained faithful to their mission and tried to convince the Nation of Israel to ascend to Eretz Yisrael.  “Calev silenced the Nation towards Moshe and said: We can surely ascend and conquer it, for we can surely do it” (ibid. v. 30).  To our great distress, however, their efforts were in vain.  The Nation did not listen and was severely punished. Only Calev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua bin Nun were permitted to enter the Land(ibid. 14:24 and see v. 30).


Regarding Pinchas: although he was a novice in spying, he had already shown himself to be a loyal, veteran soldier for the Nation of Israel.  He had stopped the tragedy of the Nation’s  licentiousness with the daughters of Moav (Bemidbar 25), and was later appointed Cohain Gadol following his grandfather Aharon and his father Elazar (Bemidbar 31:6). 


Pinchas the Cohain Gadol and Calev were men of the highest stature.  Yehoshua was both the army’s Chief of Staff and the Divine messenger for receiving the Torah: “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and passed it to Yehoshua” (Pirkei Avot 1:1).  He was the loyal student of Moshe Rabbenu: “His servant, Yehoshua bin Nun, a young man, would not depart from within his tent” (Shemot 33:11).  And so we see that there is no contradiction between learning and fulfilling the Torah on the one hand and serving in the army of Israel on the other.  The same individual was both a brilliant yeshiva student who completely observed the Torah, and, at the same time, a courageous fighter and military Chief of Staff.  This is really not surprising, seeing as one must fulfill all of the mitzvoth – including the mitzvah of  conquering the Land of Israel, even if it requires going to war (Sefer Ha-Mitzvot of the Rambam, positive mitzvah #4 in the additions of the Ramban).


In contrast to the other spies sent by Moshe Rabbenu, who did not understand the importance of their role, and, instead of fulfilling it, spread panic throughout the Nation, Calev and Pinchas were entirely committed to their mission. Our Sages explain that this is in fact the reason behind their success (Bemidbar Rabbah 16:1). 


The Haftarah explains that Calev and Pinchas sought shelter in the house of a woman who hid them on the roof (under stalks of flax) from the guards who pursued them.  She ignored the order of the King of Yericho to hand them over and sent the guards running off in the wrong direction (Yehoshua 2:1-7).  The thing which is most surprising, however, is that this came from a woman who did not live a life of virtue.  Her home does not seem like the most appropriate place for our spies, who are about to bring our Nation into the Holy Land.  But nothing is by happenstance - it is all directed by Hashem.  It was Hashem’s will that they would enter Eretz Yisrael in this way, and so He directed them to this house.


We must understand that many times, great and holy things occur through complex situations.  And this is how it was with our spies.  We learn from their situation that even when things happen in a way which is not ideal in our eyes, the decision for them to occur this way comes from Hashem.  The ways of Hashem are hidden from us.  We read in the Book of Iyov (14:4): “Who can bring what is pure from the impure?  No one!”  Hashem alone can reveal the pure from within the midst of impurity.


Maran Ha-Rav Kook explained at length (Orot pp. 35-36) that this parashah teaches us that in our times, in Eretz Yisrael, even if events do not parallel the pure ideals to which we aspire, we must not despair:  for in the future this impurity will be transformed into great holiness.