Joshua Chapter 2

Rashi proves from the text that Joshua sent the two spies to Jericho two days before he commanded the people to prepare to cross the Jordan . According to tradition the spies were Caleb (Joshua's only faithful companion among the 12 Spies sent by Moses) and Pinchas. Thus Joshua (Ephraim) works together with Caleb (the royal tribe of Judah ) and Pinchas (the Priest). Why were they sent to Jericho specifically? Because Jericho "was as hard as all the rest of the country put together because it was on the border" (Rashi v. 1) - it was the "lock" of the land of Israel (which was why in the days of Oslo the slogan was " Jericho first").


Rahav is celebrated as one of the outstanding converts of all time (together with Hagar, Osnath, Tzipora, Shifra, Puah, Pharaoh's daughter Batya, Ruth and Yael). This is because Rahav acknowledged that "Hashem your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below" - she alone among the Canaanites was willing to join Israel instead of fighting them, because she recognized the divine hand in their Exodus from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea and their complete victory over the kings of the Emorites (vv.9-11). Her above-quoted declaration of faith is incorporated in the first paragraph of the Oleinu prayer recited at the end of each of the 3 daily prayer services.

Why did Rahav alone draw the right concluson? Was it because she was lowly and therefore humble? According to Targum Yonasan, Rahav was an innkeeper, but the Midrash Mechilta is less delicate. "She was 10 when the Children of Israel went out of Egypt and practiced prostitution for all of the forty years that they were in the wilderness. There was not a minister or dignitary that had not been with Rahab." That was how she knew so intimately that "no more spirit stands up in any man in face of you".

Rahav was obviously a woman of profound understanding as she drew the right conclusion. More than that, she showed the trait that is the hallmark of Israel : CHESSED, kindness. She did not HAVE to save the two spies - she could quite easily have handed them over to the authorities. It was because she showed them pure CHESSED by saving them without expecting a reward that she felt able to ask them for pure CHESSED when the children of Israel would conquer Jericho : that they should save her life and that of her family. There was a great TIKKUN (repair) in her letting the spies out through her window in the city wall and later using the sign of the scarlet thread: her clients used to use a rope to climb in and out of her window unseen. According to the rabbis, Rahav prayed that the three elements of the wall, the window and the thread should atone for her neglect of the 3 commandments incumbent upon an Israelite woman: lighting the Shabbat lights, separating Challah and observing the laws of Niddah (family purity). The rabbis said that no less than eight prophets and priests were descended from Rahav, including Jeremiah and Hilkiah and the prophetess Hulda. In their later history, Israel were frequently compared to a whore. Rahav is the outstanding example of such a woman who repented with all her heart and attained the greatest heights.

* * * Joshua 2:1-24 is read as the Haftara of Parshas Shelach Lecha, Numbers 13:1-15:41 * * *



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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