The royal tribe of Judah took their share in the Land first. We learn in Talmud Bava Kama 122a: "Rabbi Yehuda said, One measure of land in Judah is worth five in the Galilee , and the Land was divided by the GORAL (="lottery", "destiny"), as it says (Numbers 26:55) 'Through the GORAL shall the Land be divided'. It was divided through the Urim Ve-Tumim. How? Eliezer would wear the Urim Ve-Tumim (the High Priest's breastplate) and Joshua and all Israel stood before him. Placed in front of him was the urn of the lots with details of the boundaries of each of the different portions of the land lying in it. He would concentrate with holy spirit and say, If Zevulun comes up, the region of Acco will come up for him. He would shake the urn containing the names of the tribes and Zevulun would come up. Then he would shake the urn with the boundaries and up in his hand would come Acco. And so with Naftali, and so on." [i.e. Everyone saw that the Land was divided through Holy Spirit and this way everyone knew it was the Will of God and accepted their portions joyously.]

The Talmud continues: "Not like the division in this world (i.e. in the time of Joshua) shall be the division in time to come. In this world a man who has a fruit grove doesn't have a field, or if he has a field he doesn't have a fruit grove. But in the division of the world to come, there is not a single Israelite who does not have a share in the lowlands, the mountains and the south, and the Holy One blessed be He will divides it among them Himself, as it says (in the account of the future division, Ezekiel 48:29): 'And these are their allotments says HaShem'".


Today's texts and those of the coming days are full of many names and topographical details. It can be taxing to try to focus on so many details, but we can fortify ourselves with Rabbi Nachman's teaching that in Torah study, it is sufficient simply to read the words one by one, even without understanding.

For these chapters about the boundaries, towns and villages of the Land of Israel are the national treasures of our nation, proving the antiquity of our link with that contested strip of land on the eastern Mediterranean seaboard. The Canaanites and Philistines of old have disappeared without trace together with their cultures and languages, and the Jewish people's link with the Land is far older than that of any of the other peoples who have laid claim to the land. Those who preserve and study the Torah and this book of Joshua possess the true deed of title to the Land.

Difficult though they may be to read and study, these chapters are far more than mere lists of names. Those familiar with present-day Israel will recognize many of the names of the towns and locations in the text. The names have their own poetry, whose beauty is particularly discernible to those with a broad acquaintance with the Hebrew of the Bible and the connotations of different words and roots. Some towns were called after their founder-builders or conquerors, some after an associated event, some after some striking and important environmental feature, a hill, valley, plain, rock, well, spring, a tree or trees, animals etc. Some names relate to the occupations of the original inhabitants, notably in the fields of agriculture, vine culture, and the like.

Besides their simple PSHAT meaning, these lists of the boundaries and towns and villages of the Land are woven of holy names and letters containing a wealth of wisdom for those who would dig amidst these treasures. Rabbi Nathan of Breslov writes in his introduction to SEFER HAMIDDOT ("The Aleph Beit Book") by his master, Rabbi Nachman, that the Rebbe said he learned ALL THE REMEDIES IN THE WORLD from these chapters in the book of Joshua detailing the boundaries of the Land of Israel (ch's 15-19). He explained that the names of all the cities in each tribe's portion are ciphers denoting the names of all the remedies in the world in all languages. The reason is that the Land of Israel corresponds to the human form and the division of the land corresponds to the divisions of the body. One tribe's portion is the "head", another's the "right arm" etc., and the biblical passage describing each tribe's portion contains the remedies relating to the corresponding body part.

It is noteworthy that Jerusalem appears both directly and indirectly several times in Chapter 15, even though Jerusalem itself was not part of Judah's tribal inheritance but in Benjamin's. Nevertheless, Jerusalem is alluded to in the account of Judah 's boundaries, because, as Rashi (v. 3) notes, "Wherever the text speaks about the boundary "going up" (OLEH) from the south, it means going up to Jerusalem, and where it speaks about from Jerusalem and beyond it speaks of how it goes down. From here we learn that Jerusalem is higher than all of Eretz Israel ".

Verse 8 (see Rashi) explicitly teaches that while Judah 's northern boundary touched the southern tip of Jerusalem , it did not include the city, which Jacob had promised to Benjamin, the youngest of his twelve sons, and son of his beloved Rachel. In fact Judah's boundary came right inside the Temple, touching the south east corner of the Altar, which for this reason had no YESOD (foundation) in that corner, so that no part of the Altar should stand anywhere except in the territory of Benjamin.


An intriguing part of Chapter 15 is Calev's challenge for someone to capture D'vir-Kiryat Sefer in return for marrying his daughter Achsa. His half-brother Osniel son of Knaz stepped forward and took the town, after which Achsa asked her father for "springs of water. the upper springs and the lower springs" (vv 15-19). This is one of thOse deep, deep sections that can only begin to be grasped with the help of rabbinic Midrash. Here we have the first appearance of he who was to become the first of the Judges after Joshua. "'And the sun rises and the sun goes down' Ecclesiastes 1:5): Said R. Abba bar Kahana, Don't we know that the sun rises and the sun sets? What this verse means is that before the Holy One blessed be He causes the sun of one Tzaddik to set, He already causes the sun of another one to rise. Even before Joshua's sun set, the sun of Osniel ben Knaz rose, as it says, 'And Osniel ben Knaz captured [Dvir]" (Bereshis Rabba, Noah).

The mystery of the capture of D'vir whose name was formerly Kiryat Sefer (City of the Book) is, as the Talmud (Temurah 16a) states, that during the thirty days of mourning for Moses, one thousand seven hundred detailed laws were forgotten, but even so, Osniel ben Knaz was able to bring them back through the power of his PILPUL (Talmudic logical reasoning). It is his recovery of all this lost Torah that is alluded to in v. 17: "And he captured". Of Achsa (relating to the Hebrew root KA'AS, anger) the rabbis said cryptically that "any man who saw her got angry with his wife" (ibid.) - presumably because she showed other women up badly??? Not that her head was only in the clouds. Rashi v. 19 notes that her complaint that the portion she received with her new husband was "dry" means "dried up from all good, a man who has nothing in him except Torah". "And Calev gave her the upper springs and the lower springs" (v. 19). The Hebrew for "springs" is GOOLOS, from the root GALAH, to "reveal". Osniel was one "to whom the secrets of the upper realms and the lower realms were revealed". Osniel is also identified with Yaabetz, an archetypal Torah teacher in Israel .

We should derive encouragement from the example of Osniel, because it means that even if some of the Torah has been forgotten, it can be recovered through the power of logic.


Rashi on this verse notes that these Jebusites dwelling in Jerusalem were not from the Canaanite tribe of the Jebusites but Philistines descended from Avimelech, to whom Abraham, in return for purchasing the burial cave in Hebron , had to swear that he would not harm his grandson or great grandson.

While the KRI (pronunciation of the text as handed down by the Rabbis). means "they could not", the KTIV (the word as written by tradition in the parchment manuscript) means "they will not be able to". Many DRASHOT come out of such divergences between the KRI and the KTIV. Here it indicates that Judah did not drive out the Jebusites not because they were not physically able to but because they were not allowed to. This was because Abraham's oath still stood because Avimelech's great grandson was still alive. It was only King David who took Jerusalem after the elapse of the oath, when the appointed time came, and thus it was called David's city as destined by God. David purchased the site of the Temple from Aravna, the last king of the Jebusite Philistines. Everything comes at its proper time, especially when it comes to the possession of the Holy Land .


Second among the tribes to receive their portion was the tribe of Ephraim, blessed by Jacob to be the more prominent, although the younger, of Joseph's two sons. While Judah's share of the Land was south of Jerusalem and much of it arid, Ephraim's share included the rich, fertile territories to the north of Jerusalem (Shomron), with Benjamin nestling in between the two, and a number of other tribes having certain portions within those of Judah and Ephraim.

The concluding verse of Chapter 16 does not say that the children of Ephraim "could not" drive out the Canaanites from certain parts of their territory as in the case of Judah (ch 15:63). Rather it says that they DID NOT drive them out, indicating that they could and should have done so. It is not until we reach the book of Judges that we begin to feel the increasingly heavy REPROOF that the Prophets who wrote the Bible directed at the Children of Israel for their sins and failures in the Land. There we shall see that was precisely their failure to drive out the Canaanites as they had been commanded in the Torah that caused all of their subsequent problems in the land, leading eventually to the destruction of the Temple and exile. Here in Joshua the text simply notes that they did not drive out the Canaanites.

Each one of us has the task of driving out the Canaanite from within ourselves - that "merchant" who is constantly trying to sell us the fake goods of This World. Today the conquest of the Land must be first and foremost on the spiritual plane: we must reclaim the Land for God by spreading His Torah among all the people and spreading His word to the whole world. By keeping firm in this mission we will welcome Melech HaMashiach quickly in our times.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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