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TWO SETS OF SPIES FORTY YEARS APART

June 30th, 2016

Parshat Shelach contains the sad story of the Meraglim, the twelve spies sent by Moshe to Canaan to spy out the land before the Jews invaded. Ten of them came back with such a frightening report that the Jews were ready to abort the mission before it even began.

This week’s Haftara also talks about spies – the two spies sent into Jericho by Yehoshua forty years later. At first glance it seems that the stories are congruent, as they both talk about spies sent to Canaan. But on closer examination the two stories diverge dramatically.

While Moshe gave his spies detailed instructions, Yehoshua gave his spies no instructions at all. While Moshe’s spies traveled the length and breadth of Canaan over a forty day period, Yehoshua’s spies spent one night on Rachav’s roof and then had to escape. While Moshe’s spies came back to the wilderness with an exhaustive report, albeit negative, Yehoshua’s spies told him nothing at all.

Finally, who was the “zonah” Rachav? Why is she so significant? Why was she given a speaking part in the opening chapters of the Prophets? Why were she and her family saved? And why does the Talmud think so highly of her?

Rabbi Dunner examines the original text of both our Parsha and the Haftara, and looks at some of the Midrashim and commentators, to show how Yehoshua’s spies, together with Rachav, were the required catharsis for the dreadful episode of the spies in this week’s Parsha.

 

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