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CHAPTER 6 The Battle of Yericho
INTRODUCTION The first five chapters have dealt primarily with Bnei Yisrael's PREPARATION for conquering of the Land, while chapter six - the battle of Yericho - begins the story of its CONQUEST. Recall that Bnei Yisrael now encamp in Gilgal, awaiting their FIRST battle against Yericho a battle that Yehoshua has thus far been planning on his own. FRIEND OR FOE As we quote these four psukim (final three from Chapter 5 and first of Chapter 6), note the flow of topic and attempt to identify the purpose of this 'strange' confrontation: "And it came to pass when Yehoshua was in [the outskirts of]Yericho, and he LIFTED UP HIS EYES AND SAW [compare Breishit 18:2!] and behold there was a MAN standing opposite him with his sword drawn - then Yehoshua approached him and asked: 'Are you on OUR side or with our enemy?'. " (5:13) "Then he answered - NO! For I am G-d's Minister of War – NOW I HAVE COME, and Yehoshua fell on his face, bowed down and asked: What does my Master command his servant?" (5:14) "Then G-d's minister of War commanded Yehoshua: 'TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES from your feet, for the Land upon which you stand is HOLY.' And Yehoshua did as he was commanded. (5:15) [Note - end of chapter, but not of the 'parshia'.] "And Yericho was closed off from all sides, because of Bnei Yisrael, no one could enter or leave." (6:1) So what's going on? Why does G-d's MINSTER OF WAR make a special appearance - simply to inform Yehoshua that he must TAKE HIS SHOES OFF!? If it is so important that Yehoshua remove his shoes, would it not have made more sense for G-d to send His MINISTER OF ETIQUETTE instead! [Or alternately, G-d should have sent His Minister of Zionism to teach him some respect for the 'Holy Land'!] POOR DIVISION The answer to this question is quite simple, for it stems from a 'misleading' division of Sefer Yehoshua [i.e. by King James] between chapters five and six. Let's explain: Because this small 'parsha' (i.e. 5:13->6:1) forms the end of a chapter, it is usually read by itself. However, when we continue reading chapter six, it becomes clear that this 'parsha' does not stand alone, rather it forms the introduction to chapter six - that opens with G-d's instruction to Yehoshua HOW to conquer Yericho The logic is quite simple - for if G-d has sent His MINISTER OF WAR [SAR TZVAH HASHEM] to Yehoshua, obviously that MALACH should present a 'battle plan' of some sort; and indeed that is precisely what we find in chapter six! As Radak explains, even though 6:2 states that G-d Himself speaks to Yehoshua, it is implicit from 5:13-15 that this commandment is given VIA this "malach"! So if this "malach" has come to provide Yehoshua with a 'battle plan', why does he first instruct Yehoshua to take off his shoes? Again, the reason is simple: Because Yehoshua is about to receive a direct prophecy, i.e. G-d's SHCHINA will now appear, in preparation for that "hitgalut", he must first take off his shoes (as detailed in 5:15). Nonetheless, this commandment to take off shoes is NOT the main message, rather a preparatory instruction. (BACK TO THE BURNING BUSH AND MOSHE’S FIRST MISSION) THE MALACH However, a more fundamental question now arises. Why mention this "malach" at all. Why specifically does this 'battle plan' for Yericho need to be introduced by G-d's Minister of War? Why is it important to know HOW G-d transmitted this prophecy? Furthermore, what is the meaning of Yehoshua's original uncertainty concerning the identity of this "malach" (see 5:13)? Recall from the end of Parshat Mishpatim [after Matan Torah, but BEFORE chet- ha'egel] that G-d had promised to assist Bnei Yisrael in conquering the Land. On the other hand, after the events of chet ha'egel, G-d had informed Moshe that a MALACH of a 'lower level' would accompany them. Similarly, throughout the forty years in the desert, there had been numerous times when G-d had come to assist Bnei Yisrael, AND numerous other times that G-d had come to punish them.
Therefore, when Yehoshua sees the MALACH with his sword drawn, he immediately recognizes that it is G-d's messenger. However, he is unsure if he bears good or bad tidings - and hence asks: "ha'lanu ata im l'tzareinu" or you WITH US or AGAINST US (see 5:13). The MALACH answers that G-d has sent him to HELP them in their battle to defeat Yericho - i.e. he is G-d's Minister of War - SAR TZVAH HASHEM. The details of G-d's new battle plan are then presented in chapter six, but beforehand, Yehoshua must first 'take off his shoes' in preparation for this "hitgalut", as explained at the conclusion of chapter five. In this manner, Yehoshua is now informed that G-d has indeed come to assist them, and possibly - the nation has returned to a 'level of relationship' similar to that originally promised to Bnei Yisrael after Matan Torah! WHO'S FIGHTING THE BATTLE? Note that before this MALACH appeared, Yehoshua had been making his own preparations for this battle. Recall that he had already sent 'spies' in chapter two to scout the city and plan an attack; and in 5:13, he himself seems to be scouting the area. Recall as well that Yehoshua's primary concern is breaking through the WALL of Yericho, for once he has done so, his army has their army out-numbered. However, to make a breach in the wall would require a war with many casualties, or a siege of many years. Therefore, to assist Bnei Yisrael, G-d devises a plan through which the WALL will fall down - and thus solve their primary military disadvantage. However, it will also be important that Bnei Yisrael understand that they are victorious ONLY due to G-d's assistance. To assure this understanding, G-d commands Yehoshua to conduct an entire week of 'spiritual preparation'. For SEVEN days, they must walk around Yericho, carrying the ARON - the symbol of G-d's presence, led by SEVEN kohanim, blowing SEVEN shofarot (see 6:2-16), finally circling the city SEVEN times on the final day. This constant reminder of SEVEN will stress the point, to assure that Bnei Yisrael are fully aware of the connection between G-d [and His Torah] and the land that they now prepare to inherit and the military assistance that they are about to receive. Furthermore, it becomes thematically significant that the very FIRST battle against their enemies in Eretz Canaan will be fought by G-d Himself. Even though He may be less directly involved in the battles to follow, Bnei Yisrael must recognize at this initial stage that G-d controls their destiny. Therefore, in recognition of His involvement in their victory, Bnei Yisrael must dedicate all the spoils of that war (that otherwise would naturally belong to the victor) to G-d (see 6:17-19). Furthermore, Yehoshua makes an oath cursing anyone who will ever rebuild the city. Yericho in its ruins will serve as a constant reminder to Bnei Yisrael that it is G-d who has given them this land.
FROM MOSHE’S DEATH UNTIL THE CONQUEST OF YERICHO FOUR VERSIONS
# of days in Adar Day of week on which Moshe died (7th of Adar) 30 days of Mourning Start (Adar) Finish (Nissan) 3 days of Preparation 7th 8th & 9th of Nissan Cross the Yardan River 10th of Nissan 4 days of circumcision, recovery and Korban Pesach 11th thru 14th of Nissan 7 days of Pesach 15th thru 21st of Nissan Days in Nissan of Idleness 7 days of siege of Yericho Start (1st day of week) Finish (Shabbat) # of days from Moshe’s death until conquest of Yericho VERSION A 29 Shabbat 7th - Shabbat 7th – 1st day 1st thru 3rd day of week 4th day of week 5th day thru 1st day of week 2nd day thru 1st day of week 22nd thru 27th 28th of Nissan 4th of Iyar 57 VERSION B 30 Shabbat 8th – 1st day 7th – 2nd day 2nd thru 4th day of week 5th day of week 6th day thru 2nd day of week 3rd day thru 2nd day of week 22nd thru 26th 27th of Nissan 3rd of Iyar 57 VERSION C 29 6th day 7th – 6th day 7th – Shabbat Shabbat thru 2nd day of week 3rd day of week 4th day thru Shabbat 1st day thru Shabbat 0 22nd of Nissan 28th of Nissan 51 VERSION D 30 5th day 7th – 5th day 6th – 6th day Shabbat thru 2nd day of week 3rd day of week 4th day thru Shabbat 1st day thru Shabbat 0 22nd of Nissan 28th of Nissan 52
KO YU NW OR SEFER YEHOSHUA (Shiur #4)
CHAPTER 7-8 The Battle of Ai and Achan; All Israel are Responsible for One Another
Whenever something 'goes wrong', (instinctively) we tend to blame 'somebody else'. Sefer Yehoshua appears to arrive at a similar conclusion, for in chapter seven we find that one person - ACHAN - is blamed for Bnei Yisrael's defeat in their battle against HA'AI! Could that really be so? Does it make sense that an entire nation should be punished so severely due to the personal sin of one individual! 7:1 Introductory remarks [setting the stage] [Note that the parshia actually begins in 6:27!] 7:2-3 Yehoshua sends SPIES to HA'AI, and their report 7:4-9 The defeat in the first battle, and Yehoshua's prayer 7:10-15 G-d's response - find the 'sinner' who caused the defeat 7:16-26 Singling out Achan & his punishment 8:1-2 G-d's command to fight HA'AI again (and HOW to fight) 8:3-8 Yehoshua's plan to defeat HA'AI (using the ambush...) 8:9-17 Stage One of the battle - the fake retreat 8:18-24 Stage Two of the battle - the ambush works! 8:25-29 Summary information concerning this victorious battle 'DOUBLE' BLAME Chapter seven leaves us in doubt concerning who really is to blame for the original defeat. On the one hand, it opens with a very harsh statement concerning all of Bnei Yisrael: "VA'YIMALU BNEI YISRAEL BA'CHEREM And the children of Israel transgressed by taking from the booty..." (7:1); however that very same pasuk continues with "VA'YIKACH ACHAN - And ACHAN took...", indicating that it was only Achan who sinned. This quandary continues later in the chapter when G-d explains to Yehoshua WHY Bnei Yisrael have been punished. First G-d declares: "CHATAH YISRAEL - Israel has sinned!" (7:11); but only two psukim later G-d instructs Yehoshua to find the lone individual who has taken from the booty. So who is to blame - all of Bnei Yisrael or only Achan? THE NEW BATTLE PLAN If ACHAN's sin was ONLY reason why Bnei Yisrael lost the first battle against HA'AI, then we should expect the following sequence of events to follow: 1) Achan must be punished for his sin. 2) Bnei Yisrael can then resume their battle against HA'AI 3) To prove that Achan's sin was the ONLY reason for their defeat, the second battle should be fought just like the first, i.e. a frontal attack by 3000 soldiers (see 7:4!). However, after Achan's punishment (see 7:20-26), we find quite the opposite. Instead of sending another unit of 3000 men to attack, G-d instructs Yehoshua to launch a totally DIFFERENT style of attack. This time, Bnei Yisrael take full advantage of their numeric superiority by setting two ambushes (one of 5000 men and another of 30,000 men) before the remainder of the army engages HA'AI head on. [See 8:1-9 for more complete details.] This battle is very different than the original battle where only 3000 soldiers were sent into battle. This time, Yehoshua employs a much better military strategy. Furthermore, G-d Himself commands Yehoshua to take his entire army to battle! At first glance, G-d's battle plan in chapter 8 appears to contradict His primary message in chapter 7! From chapter 7 it appears that Achan's sin is to blame; while from chapter 8 it appears that the first battle was lost due to poor military planning. So why does G-d change the battle plan?
'HEADLINES' Recall that before his battle against Yericho, Yehoshua had also sent spies to assist him in forming his battle plans (see chapter 2). Let's compare their report to the report of the spies sent to HA'AI. It is pretty safe to assume that when the spies return to Yehoshua, their detailed report contained more than 'one line'. As military spies, it is their duty to provide their commander with as much military information as possible. But, Sefer Yehoshua summarizes the reports of each of these two spy missions with simply 'one line'. Let's compare. Spies sent to Yericho (see 2:24): "And they said to Yehoshua: for G-D has given the entire land in our hands, and in fact, all the inhabitants of the land are quaking before us." Spies sent to the Ai (see 7:3): "And they reported to Yehoshua: It is not necessary to send up ALL of the troops - 2, maybe 3 thousand should be enough to go up and attack - do not trouble all of the troops for the people are few." Just like the 'headlines' of a newspaper story, these 'one line' reports reflect the gist of the reports of these two spy missions. Clearly, the report of the spies of Yericho reflects their perception of the AND OF G-D behind all of the events that they had observed. In contrast, the report of the spies of HA'AI does not mention G-d at all! Instead, their report reflects their overconfidence in their own military might. WHAT LED THEM TO THIS OVERCONFIDENCE? One could suggest that the victory over Yericho, even though it was won with the help of G-d's miracle, left the army with a sense of overconfidence in their own military capabilities. After all, even though G-d helped them make a 'breach in the wall', the remainder of the battle they fought on their own (see 6:20-21). However, this is the precise reason WHY G-d found it necessary to perform a miracle in the FIRST battle in the conquest of Eretz Canaan - IN ORDER that the people realize that even though they are fighting, they must relate that victory to G-d's assistance. For this very reason, it was forbidden to take from the booty of Yericho – so that the people could show their recognition that G-d was fighting for them. Therefore, by not taking from the CHEREM of Yericho, Bnei Yisrael show their recognition that G-d has fought for them. Consequently, when ACHAN takes from the CHEREM, it reflects his own understanding that he truly deserved this booty. In other words, ACHAN totally misunderstood the purpose of the G-d's miracle at Yericho. THE WORST OF THE BUNCH Even though Achan was the only person who actually took from the CHEREM, there were probably many more who didn't view this as anything so terrible. Achan may have been the worst of the bunch, but his actions may have reflected an overall feeling within the army that they deserve credit as well for the victory at Yericho. This attitude is seen once again in the spies' report to Yehoshua, and in the military's own decision to accept that report and its subsequent poor battle strategy. Therefore, ACHAN's personal sin AND the misguided report of the spies - both stem from the same problem of overconfidence caused by a under appreciation of G-d's assistance in the battle of Yericho. Obviously, Achan's sin's was much more severe; and hence his punishment was harsher. However, Bnei Yisrael themselves are also at fault - but to a much lesser degree; hence they too are punished by losing in their first battle against HA'AI. This background enables to explain all of our original questions: WHO IS TO BLAME? BOTH Achan AND Bnei Yisrael; and hence the chapter intentionally connects Achan's personal sin to a more general sin in the nation's attitude (see again 7:2 & 7:11). As explained above, even though Achan's sin is more severe, both sins are thematically related. One could suggest that the national mood of overconfidence provided the setting that allowed Achan to take this attitude to the extreme of actually taking from the CHEREM. From this perspective, it is easy to understand why the entire nation carries collective responsibility for Achan's sin. WHY IS THE BATTLE PLAN CHANGED? Once again, based on the above, the change in battle plan also makes perfect sense, since the original battle plan itself was a result of this basic sin of national overconfidence. G-d's battle plan for the defeat of HA'AI (see 8:15) reflects a more conservative military approach, based on the true relative strengths of the armies involved. Not only must G-d teach Yehoshua how to plan his battles, He must also remind the people not to be so overconfident in their military ability. [This explains why this Sefer has such detail to this new battle plan.] KOL YISRAEL AREYVIM ZEH LA'ZEH Based on the above shiur, we can arrive at a very important conclusion concerning Chazal's principle of "kol Yisrael areyvim zeh la'zeh". Collective responsibility for the sin of an individual becomes logical when that individual's sin stems from the nation's sin (even though that sin may be at a much lower level). Individual behavior is highly influenced by the public mood and national standards; and hence the public becomes responsible for the behavior of the individual within that society.
KO YU NW OR SEFER YEHOSHUA (Shiur #5)
CHAPTER 8:30-35 THE MIZBAYACH ON HAR EIVAL
Re-living Har Sinai? That appears to be what the last five psukim of chapter 8 are all about. But why does Yehoshua fulfill the Biblical commandment to build a MIZBAYACH on Har Eival specifically now, after his victory against HA'AI? INTRODUCTION In our previous shiurim on Sefer Yehoshua, we have noted the numerous parallels between the events of "Yetziat Mitzraim" and "knisah la'aretz" [entering the land]. The reason for these parallels is rather simple. According to G-d's original plan, the same generation that left Egypt was supposed to enter the Promised land. It was G-d's hope that the extraordinary events of Yetziat Mitzraim would impress Bnei Yisrael in such a manner that would facilitate their ability to properly establish G-d's special nation in Eretz Canaan. But due to their sins, that generation never made it to the land. Instead, they died in the desert, and now, a new generation must prepare to fulfill that same destiny. Therefore, in Sefer Yehoshua we find how G-d creates similar situations that will leave a comparable impression on the new generation. The last (but most significant) parallel of this type is recorded at the end of chapter eight (after Bnei Yisrael's victory over HA'AI) when Yehoshua gathers the entire nation at HAR Eival. At both events, we find that Bnei Yisrael build a MIZBAYACH, offer OLOT & SHLAMIM, and are taught G-d's laws = the TORAH! Based on our introductory remarks, the reason for this parallel event is rather obvious. Had Bnei Yisrael not sinned (at chet ha'egel), this gathering at Har Sinai would have been their last assembly before they were to embark on their journey to conquer Eretz Canaan. During that gathering, Bnei Yisrael studied all of the laws that they would need to keep as they conquered the land and established their communities. Now, some forty years later, the new generation stands in a similar situation, and therefore, Yehoshua gathers them together on Har Eival for a similar type of ceremony. BEFORE OR LATER With this background, we can examine our second question, regarding WHEN this ceremony took place. (A)From the simple reading Sefer Devarim 27:1-8, it seems that Yehoshua should have performed this mitzvah on the SAME DAY that they crossed the Jordan River. And indeed - Rashi, Radak, and Ralbag (based on Sota 36a [R' Shimon] & Tosefta chapter 7) all agree that the events described in Yehoshua 8:30-34 actually took place earlier, i.e. on the day they crossed the Jordan! [However, they do not explain why this event isn't recorded until after the battle of HA'AI in chapter 8.] (B)The Yerushalmi (Sota 7:3) offers an additional opinion [R' Yishmael], that this event on Har Eival actually took place at a LATER date, i.e. some fourteen years later - AFTER the conquest of Eretz Canaan had been completed! [There as well, we don't find an explanation why the events are not recorded in chronological order.] (C)The third possibility (and simple pshat) is that these events took place specifically NOW, as recorded, i.e. after the battle against HA'AI. However, if so, we must explain why Yehoshua fulfills this mitzvah specifically at this time. On the other hand, if these events took place either earlier or later, then we must explain why they are recorded here, even though the took place at a different time. Now, we must tackle the real question. That is, why did this event take place specifically NOW (according to B), or why is RECORDED specifically now (according to A or C). Or, in other words, what does Ma'amad Har Eival have to do with the battle against HA'AI.
MAASE AVOT SIMAN LA'BANIM Recall Avraham Avinu's FIRST 'aliyah' to the land of Israel. His first stop is Shechem, where he builds a MIZBAYACH and then travels on to BET-EL, or more precisely: between Bet-el and HA'AI! There again, he builds a MIZBAYACH and calls out in G-d's Name. [See Breishit 12:1-8, note how Yaakov follows a similar path when he returns to Eretz Canaan in Breishit 33:18-20, 35:9.] This points to a 'thematic' connection between Shchem and HA'AI, which can explain why this event at Har Eival (a mountain overlooking Shchem) is either recorded [A & C], or takes place [B], immediately after the victory over HA'AI (which is next to Bet-el /note opening sentence in Yehoshua 7:2). Even though this thematic connection is quite weak, we can strengthen it by considering once again our parallel between Yetziat Mitzraim and "knisa la'aretz". Recall our earlier discussion of the parallel between the miracle of crossing the Jordan River and "kriyat Yam Suf". As the following table illustrates, we can show how this parallel between Yehoshua & Sefer Shmot continues: SEFER YEHOSHUA ============== Splitting of the Jordan (chapter 3) Wall of Yericho tumbles (chapter 6) War against HA'AI (chapter 7/ "kidon") Ma'amad Har Eival SEFER SHMOT ============ Splitting of the Red Sea (chapter 14) 'Wall' of Red Sea kills Egyptians (see 14:22-28) War against Amalek (chapter 17/ Moshe's hand) Ma'amad Har Sinai
Again, these parallels are not totally 'convincing', but they do point a certain progression of events in Sefer Yehoshua that is similar to the events of Yetziat Mitzraim. In any case, they can help us better appreciate why Yehoshua decides to fulfill the mitzvah of Har Eival at this time; or alternately - why these events are recorded specifically here, even though they may have taken place at an earlier or later time.
Acknowledgements: THE TANACH STUDY CENTER [http://tanach.org] Sefer haDoros; The Little Midrash Says; The Sequence of Events in the Old Testament
10TH Nissan 2488 2488 or 2489
On the day they crossed the Jordan River During the year of the crossing, after the conquest of Ai 14 years after the crossing (7 years of conquest and 7 years of the apportionment of the Land)
Sotah 36a Malbim commentary to Yehoshua 8:30 Sotah 33b Tosafot (according to R. Yismael)