Sefer Joshua Chapter 15 to 24


  • Link To Book Of Joshua Chapter 15 - Then Scroll to Chapter 15
  • chanoch adds: There are 63 verses in this chapter. The number bb63 is the gematria of the spelled out Name of HaShem יוד הי ואו הי. This Name connects to Binah which is Olam HaBah = The World That is Coming.

    "AND THE LOT FOR THE TRIBE OF JUDAH ." (Joshua 15:1)

    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.]

    chanoch adds: What is different today from peoples perception? They don't see that the Holy Spirit is involved in everything that happens in our lives. I once had a conversation with a rabinical student. This person made the following statement to me: I know HaShem is involved with everything in the world. I just can not accept this also includes that it this involvement continues down to weather i get angry with someone or not. HaShem is involved with each and every human interaction and much much more. This is not my opinion. This is my completely experiential knowledge. Can you make the same comment? If not why not? What are you willing to do to elevate your certainty in this perception of our physical reality?

    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'".

    chanoch adds: After the resurrection of the dead each soul will be split into many bodies. This is because each body will receive the components of the soul that completed the soul parts tikune during that lifetime. Thus each body will receive the part of Israel appropriate for each body.


    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 .


  • Link To Book Of Joshua Chapter 16 - Then Scroll to Chapter 16
  • chanoch adds: There are 10 verses in this chapter. The number 10 connects to the 10 Sefirot and all the Worlds associated with them.

    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.


  • Link To Book Of Joshua Chapter 17 - Then Scroll to Chapter 17
  • chanoch adds: There are 18 verses in this chapter. The number 18 connects to the Hebrew word Chai = Life. How does this relate to the material in this chapter?


    Following the delineation of Ephraim's inheritance in the previous chapter (16), our text continues with the account of the division of the Land of Israel among the other Tribes, giving the boundaries of Menashe, Joseph's firstborn, in chapter 17. While part of the tribe of Menashe had already taken their inheritance in the territories captured in the time of Moses east of the Jordan (see Joshua ch 13:29-31), the majority of this populous tribe took their share in the Land of Israel proper, to the north of the portion of Ephraim.


    When God commanded Moses to divide the Land among the tribes (Numbers 26:52-56), the daughters of Tzelafhad (from the tribe of Menasheh) immediately stepped forward to press their claim for their share since their father had no sons (Numbers 27:1-11; see also Numbers 36:1-13). Under Torah law, daughters inherit their father's estate only when there is no surviving son: if there is a son or sons, the males inherit the entire estate and from it they have to pay to support and marry off their sisters.

    chanoch adds: This is not a valid justification since the daughters could provide their own dowries from their share of the properties.

    Now that Joshua was actually dividing the Land, the irrepressible daughters of Tzelafhad again stand up before Elazar the High Priest and Joshua the king to demand their share. Not only are the daughters of Tzelafhad archetypes of the Israelite women that show even greater love and yearning for the Land than the men. They were also very wise (see Rashi on Numbers 27:4) and their insistence on their rights to the Land brought about the revelation of several portions relating to the Torah laws of inheritance.

    An interesting, if somewhat subtle, point relating to these laws comes out of our text today, ch 17 v 5: "TEN shares fell to Menasheh besides the territories of the land of Gil'ad and Bashan east of the Jordan ". Rashi (ad loc.) explains that out of these ten, the daughters of Tzelafhad took FOUR: (1) Tzelafhad's own share as one of those who went out of Egypt, because the Land was divided among those who left Egypt; (2) The share that Tzelafhad took with his brothers in the possessions of his father Heifer, who was also one of those who went out of Egypt; (3) Tzelafhad's "double" share in his father's estate as a firstborn; (4) The share belonging to Tzelafhad's brother, who had died in the wilderness without children.

    Rashi concludes: "The verse did not need to tell us about the shares of the daughters except to teach us that they took the share of the firstborn and also to inform us that their share in the Land of Israel was already under their ownership [MUCHZEKES] from the time of their fathers, for if not, there is a legal principle that the first-born does not take a share in property that is not yet part of the estate and merely DUE (RO-OUIY) to come later. The firstborn takes his double share only from property that has already come into the estate (MUCHZAK)." [E.g. the first born would NOT take a share of a debt owing the estate that was uncollected at the time of death of the deceased but only of lands and goods that were already part of the estate.]

    To those unfamiliar with the intricacies of Torah law, the above may be somewhat confusing, but what it means is that even before the Land of Israel was actually conquered and occupied by the generation of Joshua, it was already in the POSSESSION (MUCHZAK - under the HAZAKAH, "ownership") of the Children of Israel as an ancestral inheritance from those to whom its ownership had been given by God - the generation that actually left Egypt in the Exodus. The same would apply today. Even though the Children of Israel do not as yet control by any means all of the Promised Land, it is all still their property and belongs to them as an ancestral inheritance.


    They were asking for more land because of their numbers. The commentators tell us that these were the Children of Menasheh, who were particularly populous (see Rashi on 17:4), as we learn from the substantial increase in their numbers - by TWENTY THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED -- between the first count of the Children of Israel in the wilderness and the second (Numbers chs 1:35 and 26:34). This was in fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham "Thus - KoH - shall be your seed" (Gen. 15:5). KoH is made up of Kaf (= 20) and Heh (=5) alluding to the TWENTY THOUSAND and the FIVE HUNDRED (Midrash).

    Ephraim was less populous. One reason is that according to the Midrash, many of the Bnay Ephraim were killed prior to the Exodus from Egypt when they tried to calculate the time of the redemption but erred. They went up to Israel before the proper time and when they came to Gath to take possession of the Land, the Philistine inhabitants, who had been born there and were therefore familiar with it, overwhelmed and killed them. It was their bones that Ezekiel saw in his vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones. The sources for this fascinating and very suggestive Midrash are Chronicles 1, 7:21: "The sons of Gath who were born in the land killed them (the sons of Ephraim), for they went down to take their possessions, and Ephraim their father mourned them many days and his brothers came to comfort him" (see Metzudos commentary on this verse). See also Sanhedrin 92b and see RaDaK on Ezekiel 37:1.


  • Link To Book Of Joshua Chapter 18 - Then Scroll to Chapter 18
  • chanoch adds: There are 28 verses in this chapter. The number 28 connects to the Hebrew word Coach = strength or power.


    "And all the assembly of the Children of Israel gathered to Shilo and set up there the Tent of Meeting" (Joshua 18:1).

    This was fourteen years after their entry into the Land (RaDaK). The fourteen years consisted of seven years of conquest and seven more dividing up the Land. All this time the Tent of Meeting made by Moses in the wilderness had stood in Gilgal, their first encampment after crossing the Jordan .

    Establishing the Sanctuary in Shilo signified more settled times: ".and the Land was conquered before them" (ch 18 v 1): Comments Rashi: "From the time the Sanctuary was established, the Land became easy for them to conquer".

    The Sanctuary remained in Shilo for a total of 369 years - until the time of Eli the High Priest, when the Philistines sacked it and took the Ark. Shilo was in the territory of Joseph . It was predestined that the Sanctuary and the Two Temples should stand only in the territories of Rachel's two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. (This is why in Genesis 45:14 it says that on their reconciliation in Egypt , Joseph fell on the NECKS of Benjamin - the Hebrew plural signifies the TWO Temples - while Benjamin wept on Joseph's NECK - the singular alludes to the Sanctuary in Shilo.)

    With the conquest of the Land still in progress, the enterprise of turning the Land of Israel into the light of the Nations was still incomplete, and this was signified in the structure of the Sanctuary in Shilo. Our text here calls it a TENT - because the "roof" was made of skins, as in the case of the wilderness Sanctuary. However the walls of Shilo were stone, unlike those of the wilderness Sanctuary, which were made of gold-coated wood. It would only be in Jerusalem - the place of the Temple forever - that the roof of the Temple would also be of stone.

    The Sanctuary in Shilo will figure in several important passages in the Book of Judges and particularly in the early part of Samuel dealing with Eli and Hannah. The reference in our text today to Shilo makes a fitting start to the chapter delineating the tribal inheritance of Benjamin, youngest son of Jacob's beloved wife Rachel, nestling as it did between the two great tribes of Judah to the south and Ephraim to the north.

    We see from today's text and subsequent chapters that the territories of the different tribes sometimes entered into one another. Similarly, in the human body, the different limbs and organs are closely interconnected and enter into one another.

    chanoch adds: Shilo is a code word. When spelled with a yud after the shin its gematria is 345 = to Moshe = the Redeemer.


  • Link To Book Of Joshua Chapter 19 - Then Scroll to Chapter 19
  • chanoch adds: There are 51 verses in this chapter. The number 51 connects to the Hebrew word NA = Nun Aleph = Please. Other Hebrew Words with a gematria of 51 translate as: "and Adam" - "eat" - Edom = both nation and color red - "my mother " and manyn other words.

    As Rashi notes on this verse, the tribe of Shimon was "second" after Benjamin, the first of the SEVEN tribes that only received their portions AFTER Reuven, Gad and half Menasheh took theirs the east of the Jordan and AFTER the royal tribe of Judah and the first-born Joseph (Ephraim and Menasheh) took theirs to the west of the Jordan. Only after these leading tribes had already taken their portions did Joshua command the remaining seven tribes to send a team of three envoys each to make a survey of the rest of the Land in order to receive their portions (see ch 18 v 7)


    After Benjamin (son of Jacob's beloved Rachel), the remaining tribes out of these seven were - in the order given in our present chapter - Shimon, Zebulun and Issachar (the three other sons of Leah besides Reuven, Levi - who did not receive a portion, and the royal tribe of Judah) followed by Asher (son of Leah's handmaiden Zilpah, as was Gad, who had already taken his portion E. of the Jordan), then Naftali and finally Dan (these last two being the sons of Rachel's handmaiden Bilhah).

    The kabbalistic Sefirot corresponding to the tribes are: Judah-Malchus; Issachar-Netzach of Malchus; Zevulun-Hod of Malchus; Reuven-Chessed of Malchus; Shimon-Gevurah of Malchus; Gad-Hod of Malchus; Ephraim-Ateres-Yesod of Zeir Anpin; Menashe-Yesod; Binyamin-Nekudas Tzion; Dan-lowest limb of Hod of Malchus; Asher-heel of Netzach of Malchus; Naftali-lowest limb of Netzach of Malchus.


    The tribe of Shimon received their portion from part of Judah 's territory (verse 9) since Judah had taken more territory than required for their population (Rashi ad loc.) This is bound up with the fact that Shimon was something of a maverick tribe - Shimon had gone with Levi to kill the men of Shechem (Genesis 34:25) and while both were criticized by Jacob when he blessed his sons ("accursed is their anger. I shall divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel" Genesis 49:7), Levi was "divided" and "scattered" in an honorable way in the Levitical cities, while Shimon was "divided" and "scattered" amidst the territory of Judah. (This is also bound up with the fact that Zimri ben Saloo Prince of the Tribe of Shimon had flouted Moses in taking the Midianite woman - Numbers 25:6 & 14 -- as a result of which Moses did not give Shimon a blessing.) Nevertheless Shimon did receive Beer Sheva, one of the outstanding features of the land since the time of Abraham and now one of present-day Israel 's most important cities.

    chanoch adds: As we see above the Tribe of Shimon relates to Gevurah. Shimon represents harsh judgment similar to the first day of Rosh HaShanah. Levy relates to soft judgment the second day of Rosh HaShanah. The Kabbalist based on hints in the Torah teach that these Tribes need to be separated even within themselves and especially to never combine them as was done in the event at Schem.


    These four tribes took their portions in some of the most fertile and beautiful territories of northern Israel . Although many of the locations mentioned in our text cannot be identified conclusively today, there are many that can be identified (including some whose names survive in the present-day Arab names of the associated villages), and the general areas in which each tribe took their portions can be discerned until today.

    Yissachar and Zevulun took their portions around the Valley of Yizre'el and the Lower Galilee respectively, while Asher and Naftali took theirs in the Upper Galilee, with Asher to the west alongside the Mediterranean coast and Naftali to the east running all the way to the upper Jordan valley. After the time of Joshua, a contingent from the tribe of Dan took a portion in between Asher and Naftali around the sources of the River Jordan (Tel Dan, Banyas), although Dan's main portion was in the center of Israel (Tel Aviv-Jaffo etc. - see below). Dan's joining Asher and Naftali in the Galilee is bound up with their having been neighbors in the Israelite camp in the Wilderness (Numbers 2:25-31).

    chanoch adds: Actually, in my opinion the connection of Dan to Asher and Naftali relates to the attribute of Din = Judgment. Also the expectation that the war of Megiddo = Armageddon will come from the north. Therefore there needed to add additional strength in the north of Israel.

    The locations in which the tribes were to take their portions had already been indicated allusively in Jacob's blessings to his sons and in Moses' blessings to the tribes.

    Zevulun's portion was around Yokne'am (mentioned explicitly in today's text) including present-day Zichron Yaakov. Although the coastal region from Mt. Carmel and northwards was in the territory of Asher, Zevulun also jutted into Asher's portion in order to take a share in the coastal region in fulfillment of Jacob's blessing that "he shall be by the coast and his flank shall reach to Sidon" (Genesis 49:13).

    Our text indicates that the territories of the three tribes of Zevulun, Issachar and Naftali all met at Mt. Tabor . In the light of Rabbi Nachman's teaching that all of the names in our chapters allude to parts of the human body (as discussed in the commentary on Joshua ch 15) it is interesting to examine Rashi's comment on our text, Joshua 19:12, speaking about where Zevulun's portion touched Mt. Tabor . " And it turned from Sarid eastward toward the sunrising unto the border of CHISLOTH-TABOR ". In the words of Rashi, "I say that CHISLOTH has the connotation of CHESALIM, the flanks - it was not on the peak of the mountain or at its foot but on the slope near the middle towards the back and away from the front in the same way as the flanks stand in an animal. And where it says AZNOTH-TABOR [in verse 34, speaking of where Naftali's portion touched Mt. Tabor ] it means near the head in the place of the ears - OZNAYIM." Note how many anatomical terms Rashi introduces here in speaking about the topography of the Holy Land !!!

    Yissachar's territory, as mentioned, included the fertile region of the Yizre'el Valley.

    Asher's territory was in the western part of the Upper Galilee including the coastal strip, and extended way up into present-day Lebanon up to Sidon . The portion of Naftali (the letters of whose name, when rearranged, spell out TEFILIN) was in the eastern Upper Galilee in one of the areas of Israel that is most conducive to spiritual ascent, including the beautiful mountain region around Safed and Meiron, the Kinneret (v. 35) and the lush valley of the upper Jordan (v. 34).


    The well-known phrase "from Dan to Be'er Sheva" seems to indicate that Dan's portion was located in the NORTH of Israel at the opposite end from Be'er Sheva in the south. However, in fact our text indicates that Dan's main portion was in the CENTER of present-day Israel including the locations of present-day Tel Aviv and Bney Brak - still known as the Dan Region - as well as areas further into the interior as far east as Beit Shemesh, Eshta'ol and Zor'ah, near which the grave of Dan ben Yaakov can be visited until today. (Some may wonder whether Dan's role in the wilderness as the tribe marching at the very rear, gathering in the stragglers, has some relationship to the presence of latter-day Tel Aviv is his portion???)

    Dan's additional territory located in the north of Israel around the sources of the River Jordan is mentioned briefly in our text in verse 47. Dan's capture of this territory actually took place after the death of Joshua in the time of Osniel ben Knaz and is described in more detail in Judges ch 18.

    CHAPTER 20 Commentary

  • Link To Book Of Joshua Chapter 20 - Then Scroll to Chapter 20
  • chanoch adds: There are 9 verses in this chapter. The number 9 connects to the Sefirot of Chochmah if we count up from Malchut and Yesod if we count down from Keter. Other Hebrew Words with a gematria of 9 translate as: "His coming" - "troop" - "Brother" - "Flow " and many other words.

    With the division of the Land among the tribes complete, it was now left to Joshua to establish the foundations of a society governed by the Torah that he had received from his teacher Moses. The first foundation of a civilized society is the protection of its citizens from violence and particularly from murder. Human beings all have their own interests, which often conflict with those of others, and strife is inevitable in human society. A successful society is one that can keep this inevitable strife under control without its being allowed to get out of hand. This is why the first institution that Joshua laid down after the division of the land was that of the Cities of Refuge for unwitting killers. This was in fulfillment of God's commandment to Moses that three cities of refuge were to be established in Israel proper - the territories west of the Jordan -- and another three in the territories east of the Jordan (Exodus 21:12; Numbers 35:13f; Deuteronomy 4:41-3 & 19:2).

    Accidents do occur, and in any society where people are active and busy it can always happen that one person may cause another person's death quite unintentionally. The purpose of the Cities of Refuge is to ensure that the accidental killing of one person does not escalate into a bloody cycle in which that person's relatives seek to avenge the death by killing the killer. Torah law provides that intentional murder must be punished with the death penalty, but the unintentional killer can take refuge in one of the Cities of Refuge in order to live securely while repenting for the unintended tragedy that came about because of what may have been some element of negligence on his part.

    In the words of Rambam (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Murder 4:9) "While there are sins that are more serious than bloodshed, they do not destroy civilization in the same way that bloodshed destroys it." It is profoundly ironic that of the three cities of refuge mentioned in today's text in the Land of Israel proper east of the Jordan , two - Hebron and Shechem (" Nablus ") - have been turned into cities of refuge not for unwitting killers but for willful killers and terrorists. Whether the third of the cities of refuge - Kedesh in the north - can be identified with present-day Safed is a moot point, though it was certainly in the near vicinity.

    Let us pray that the tranquil spirit of Safed will spread to all the inhabitants of the Holy Land , and that sanity will return so that willful killers and terrorists are duly punished and unwitting killers sent into exile in order that ordinary law-abiding citizens may once again live securely without fear in a state of true peace.

    chanoch adds: It is expected that Mashiach will add 3 additional cities in the areas added to Israel that represent the 3 nations that were not yet defeated. A brief study of the law of the city of refuge through Kabbalah gives much insight into HaShem's wisdom and mercy.

    Why does someone cause an unintentional death? Usually it is through inattention to the other person. As a result the person's life is totally disrupted. He must immediately leave his life behind and run to a city of refuge which is a city of levites. The Levites spend their time studying Torah since their livlihood is depending on the tithes of the other Tribes. The unintentional murderer now has nothing to do except study Torah which brings one to Teshuvah. Kabbalah teaches that a man born with a sun sign of Virgo - Betulah is being given a test to avoid an unintentional murder sometime during this new lifetime since he is given a tool of being more aware of details as well as having learned to not focus his attentions on himself but on others.

    CHAPTER 21 Commentary

  • Link To Book Of Joshua Chapter 21 - Then Scroll to Chapter 21
  • chanoch adds: There are 43 verses in this chapter. The number 43 connects to the Hebrew word gam which translates as also. It is a word of addition. Other Hebrew Words with a gematria of 43 translate as: "great or large" - "and magnify" - "come from" - "Luz " whichn connects to the resurrection, and many other words.


    Following the establishment of the cities of refuge for unwitting killers (Joshua ch 20), the next step in laying the foundations for a truly Godly society in the Holy Land was to set aside special cities up and down the country for the Levites and the Priests, as God had commanded Moses (Numbers 35:1-8).

    Under Torah law, those who had a special responsibility for maintaining the spiritual bond of the people as a whole with God were not a group of democratically-elected or self-selecting religious leaders. Rather they were a hereditary caste consisting of the entire tribe of the Levites, of whom one family in particular - the descendants of Aaron - were set aside as Cohanim, the priests.

    The Torah had provided a unique system of tithes of produce and other vital necessities to be given by all the people in order to provide the Cohanim and Levites with their livelihood so as to leave them free from the need to earn a living in order not only to serve in the Temple but also to be able to teach the people Torah and minister to their spiritual needs. The Cohanim were to receive Terumah (about 2% of a farmer's crops) together with the first-fruits and first of the dough (CHALLAH), gifts of wool for their clothing, choice parts of animals slaughtered for regular consumption, portions of sacrificial animals and certain other gifts. The Levites were to receive Maaser (10% of the crops) for their livelihood, out of which they were to contribute one tenth as their own TERUMAS MAASER to the priests.

    Our present chapter (Joshua 21) gives an account of the cities set aside from the territorial portions of the other tribes in order to provide the Levites and Priests places for their residence and for their livestock and other needs. (It was not forbidden for the Levites and Priests to work the land, but their main task was to serve in the Temple and to teach and minister to the people.) The account in our chapter parallels the account of the cities of the Priests and Levites given with their genealogies in Chronicles I, 6:39:66.

    Altogether the Priests and Levites received 42 cities of their own together with the 6 cities of refuge for unwitting killers (who needed the presence of spiritual ministers to help them in their repentance) making a total of 48 cities, corresponding to the 48 ways in which the Torah is acquired (Avot 6:6). Of these 13 were for the Cohanim-Priests and the remaining 35 for the Levites.

    From the accounts here in Joshua and in Chronicles it emerges that the different tribes did not contribute equal numbers of cities. Judah contributed the most - 8 cities - while Shimon gave only one. Naftali gave 3 and all the other tribes gave four, "each according to his inheritance" (Numbers 35:8).

    The Cohanim were all concentrated in the territories of Judah (9 cities including that given by Shimon, who lived in Judah ) and Benjamin (4). This made sense since the Cohanim were required to serve regularly in the Sanctuary / Temple -- in Shilo, Nob, Giv'on and finally Yerushalayim - all of which were in or adjacent to the territories of Benjamin and Judah.

    The giving of Hebron - the outstanding jewel in the crown of Judah - to Aaron and his sons - signifies the close alliance between the tribe of Judah and the priesthood ever since Aaron the Priest had taken for his wife Elisheva, sister of Nachshon, Prince of the Tribe of Judah (Exodus 6:23). The royal tribe of Judah took particular responsibility for the establishment of the Temple , which was built through the efforts of David - from the tribe of Judah -- and his son Solomon. It would be David's songs that were sung by the Levites in the Temple as the Cohanim offered the sacrifices.

    The dispersal of the Priests and Levites in cities up and down the Land served a vital function in bringing the Torah and its spiritual message to the people. The Torah's unique method of giving the Priests and Levites their livelihood ensured that they were in constant contact with the Israelite population of independent farmers, who could never separate their business affairs from their religious obligations because the Priests and Levites would come to their very barns and threshing floors in order to collect their tithes and gifts. This was how the Torah to which the Priests and Levites were particularly devoted percolated to the entire nation.

    Today the majority of Jews do not live in agricultural societies and in any case cannot give TERUMAH to the Priests, since it may only be eaten in a state of ritual purity which today's Cohanim are unable to attain in the absence of the ashes of the Red Heiffer to purify them from defilement from the dead. Unless a Levite can PROVE his pedigree, there is no obligation to give him MAASER. Thus although there is still today an obligation to separate TERUMAH and MAASROS from the produce of Eretz Yisrael, the separation is largely symbolic as we cannot give the gifts to their intended recipients.

    The contemporary equivalent of tithes for the Priests and Levites is the charity money given to TORAH SCHOLARS to enable them to pursue their profession of studying and teaching the Torah. Rambam (Maimonides) was strongly opposed to the scholars' relying on charity rather than working to make their living and supporting themselves to study Torah (Laws of Torah Study 3:10-11). However in Rambam's time it was possible to earn sufficient to live off in about three hours work a day (ibid. 1:12). This would probably still be possible today were it not for the extravagances of contemporary "civilization", whose obscene military budgets and many other excesses result in heavy taxation and all kinds of other expenses that eat away at people's income, leaving the majority enslaved to their work for many hours every day. Without the generosity of the brave few who provide financial support for Torah scholars, the Torah would be in danger of being entirely forgotten by the people. Charity support for Torah scholarship is intended not to allow lazy layabouts to smoke and drink coffee all day in front of an open SEFER. It is intended to enable truly sincere and devout seekers to discover and internalize God's Torah and prepare themselves to practice it and teach it to others. In our times of spiritual darkness and confusion there is no worthier charitable cause than that of the Torah institutions that are genuinely and seriously pursuing the study of the Torah as it applies practically in our time and spreading that knowledge among the wider population. Let us pray that as more and more BAALEY BATIM (working householders) make their way to the true Torah scholars to study, the overall level of Torah knowledge among the people will increase to the point where we will be ready to return to the Temple system with its Priests and Levites speedily in our time. Amen.

    CHAPTER 22 Commentary

  • Link To Book Of Joshua Chapter 22 - Then Scroll to Chapter 22
  • chanoch adds: There are 34 verses in this chapter. The number 34 connects to the word Dal which translates as poor or lack. It also can be translated as a doorway to teaching. Other Hebrew Words with a gematria of 34 translate as: "Hearts" - "with or in a heart" - "and lives" - "redeem " and many other words.

    With the Cities of Refuge and those of the Priests and Levites established, the people were ready to settle down to their intended life of Torah, Mitzvos and devotion to God in the Holy Land , "each under his vine and each under his fig tree". The Canaanites had been largely subdued, though not completely defeated, and with the entire Land apportioned to the Tribes, the period of conquest had come to an end. Thus the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menasheh that had taken their territories east of the Jordan were ready to return to their homes, having fulfilled their undertaking to Moses not to do so until they had fought with their brothers for the conquest of the Land west of the Jordan (Numbers ch 32).

    The building of an Altar by the tribes of Reuven, Gad and Menasheh close to the Jordan river near the boundary between the Land of Israel west of the Jordan and their territories to the east set off a confrontation with the other tribes of Israel that was an ominous precursor of what was to come in the times of the Judges and almost led to a terrible internecine war.

    With the building of the Sanctuary at Shilo, it was strictly forbidden to offer sacrifices anywhere else (see Rashi on Joshua 22:12). Torah law explicitly prohibited offering sacrifices on a "private" altar (BAMAH, "high place") once the Sanctuary was at rest in the Holy Land (Deuteronomy 12:6; 12:11). The penalty for violating the prohibition is KARET (spiritual excision), the most severe punishment in the Torah (Leviticus 17:4). The unity of God was to be affirmed through the choice of one and only one place in the whole world for the offering of animal sacrifices by the Cohanim. It was forbidden for each individual to set up his own personal Temple ritual, which could lead to the development of weird and alien cults that would quickly turn into the very opposite of what the Torah intended.

    This was why the 10 Tribes in Israel proper sent Pinchas the Priest with a delegation of tribal representatives ready to make war against Reuven, Gad and half Menasheh. (Pinchas had shown himself the nation's outstanding "zealot" in the time of Moses, thereby earning the priesthood for himself, Numbers 25:7-13.)

    When the three tribes answered and defended themselves against all misconceptions, they invoked three names of God twice over: KEIL ELOKIM HASHEM. (v. 22). The Midrash (Shochar Tov 3) comments: "What did the children of Gad and Reuven see to invoke these three names twice over? For through them He created the world (see Psalms 50:1) and through them He gave Israel the Torah ("for I am the Lord - HASHEM - your God - ELOKIM - a jealous God - KEL"). These three names correspond to the three attributes through which the world was created, with Wisdom (KEL, column of CHESSED, kindness), Understanding (ELOKIM, column of GEVURAH, might) and Knowledge (HASHEM, center column, TIFERET, beauty and harmony) - (see Proverbs 3:19).

    The reason why they built the Altar was not to sacrifice on it but as a sign that they too were Israelites like their brothers east of the Jordan , so that nobody should come along in the future and say they had nothing to do with the people of Israel . They were appealing to their brothers not to drive them away.

    This is a message that could today be addressed to those who consider themselves to be the "mainstream" of Jewry: Do not push away those who are earnestly and sincerely seeking God's true Torah, even if at times they do things that are not comprehensible to you and even seem like verging on the forbidden. A similar message could be addressed to those in Israel to keep their arms open to their brothers and sisters in the Diaspora. Before you jump to conclusions, first ask, enquire and listen carefully.

    Pinchas' mission was a successful exercise in conflict resolution and the Talmud comments, "And Pinchas THE PRIEST heard." (ch 22 v 30) - "Pinchas was not inaugurated as a Cohen until he made peace among the tribes" (Zevachim 101b). May Pinchas in his incarnation as Eliahu HaNavi come soon to make peace among us all! Amen.

    CHAPTER 23 and 24 Commentary

  • Link To Book Of Joshua Chapter 23 - Then Scroll to Chapter 23
  • chanoch adds: There are 16 verses in chapter - 23. The number 16 connects to the male letters of HaShem's Name.

    chanoch adds: There are 33 verses in chapter - 24. The number 33 connects to the Sefira of Hod Shebe Hod. This is the energy of the Light of Torah without the limitations of physicality.

    Together the two chapters connect to the number 49 which connects to the Light of the Omer.


    With thanks to God we can justly feel gratified that we have today reached the concluding chapters of the book of Joshua and can make a SIYIM (the happy "completion" of an entire book or tractate, which it is a mitzvah to mark with a festive meal and a LECHAYIM toast). This first SIYUM comes only two weeks after beginning our one-year cycle of study of NaCh, proving that regular daily study produces results. It does not matter if on some days we were less attentive than we might have liked or if we have forgotten some or even much of what we read. Everything is registered in our souls and in Heaven, and next time around we will catch what we missed this time. The overall gain from studying a whole work and seeing the wide picture far outweighs any loss that may result from not paying attention to every little detail.


    Joshua's address to the nation and its elders, heads, judges and officers points to the lessons that were to be drawn from the conquest of the Land of Israel, one of the most decisive events in the people's history. Having witnessed how God had miraculously defeated the Canaanite nations on their own territory, the people of Israel were to internalize the message that their entire future in the Land depended on keeping God's Torah as a whole, and specifically upon not intermarrying or in any way becoming culturally integrated with the remaining Canaanites, whose pluralistic religions and cultures were the very antithesis of the monotheism of the Torah.

    Joshua warns of the existential danger of Israelite intermarriage with the Canaanites, which would result in God's not driving the latter from the Land, leaving them as "a trap and a stumbling block, whips at your sides and thorns in your eyes until you are destroyed from upon the good land that the Lord your God has given you" (ch 23 v 13). This would occur if the Children of Israel made any compromise with the idolatry of the surrounding nations: just as God had showed His faithfulness in bestowing all His promised good upon the Israelites, so He would show His faith in wreaking vengeance upon them if they betrayed His Covenant.


    Rashi (ch 24 v 26) notes that Joshua had the Ark of the Covenant brought to Shechem to add to the great solemnity of his final reproof to the nation before his death. Our Rabbis cite numerous examples of the outstanding Tzaddikim of the Bible (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David) who only delivered their reproofs immediately prior to their deaths so as not to have to repeat them over and over, causing the recipients embarrassment and bad feelings (Sifri on Deut. 1:1; see Likutey Moharan II:8).

    In his address, Joshua reviews the key events in the formation of the nation and its identity, tracing their roots back to their idolatrous forefathers who dwelled "on the other side of the river (Euphrates)", i.e. in Babylon . The opening words of this passage (vv. 2-4) will be familiar to many since our sages quoted them at the beginning of the Seder night Haggadah, when every Israelite father is commanded to relate our national history starting with shame and ending in glory.

    Joshua emphasizes that the victory of Israel over their enemies was "not through your sword and not through your bow" (v. 12) but only through God, Who controls the entire universe and every tiny detail in it (see Rashi on v. 7). Israel 's mission is to serve the One God and Him alone, and to shine the light of His unity to the entire world. This is why their national mission in the Land of Israel was to eliminate completely all trace of the idolatrous Canaanites - representing the antithesis of God's unity. The commentary Metzudas David (on verse 14) points out that in essence the task of removing idolatry is internal to each person: "Remove the gods that your fathers served on the other side of the river and in Egypt " - "entirely remove any thought of idolatry from your HEART".

    Rashi (on v. 22) comments that Joshua's reason for needling the people until they reaffirmed their staunch commitment not to mingle and assimilate with the nations was that he saw (through holy spirit) that in time to come they would rebel and say "Let us be like the nations" (Ezekiel 20:32). Reflecting on the ravages caused to the Jewish people by the mass assimilations of the past few hundred years should also needle us into mentally and spiritually separating ourselves from contemporary alien influences that can weaken our devotion to the Torah.


    The TaNaCh is a unique work that transcends time and applies to all the generations. As we continue our study of our national heritage, we must have the humility to accept that the apparent simplicity of the beautiful weave of stories through which our prophets taught us God's Torah is deceptive. Buried within and behind the prophetic words and letters of the Hebrew text are layers upon layers of meaning, with multiple hints and allusions flying off in every direction. The rabbis and sages who cherished and revered this literature and knew it forwards and backwards by heart have through their Midrashim and other comments opened tiny chinks in the thick veil concealing the infinite light that shines from the words of these texts.

    Thus we cannot always take the stories of NaCh as simple consecutive historical narratives. For example, some readers ask why ch 24 v 32 on the burial of Joseph's bones in Shechem comes AFTER the account of the burial of Joshua - is it possible that the people have waited THIRTY-EIGHT years after their entry into the Land before burying Joseph's bones, which they had brought up with them from Egypt??? But the truth is that it is not necessary to infer from our text that they did not bury Joseph until after they had buried Joshua. One of the most important hermeneutic principles of the Torah is that "there is no BEFORE and AFTER in the Torah". Events are often juxtaposed in the verses not because of their temporal contiguity but because of their thematic interconnection.

    With Joshua's death and burial in his tribal inheritance in Timnath-Serach in Mt. Ephraim next to Shechem, a whole cycle of history was complete. It was from Shechem that Joseph, Jacob's chosen "first-born", had been stolen by his brothers in accordance with God's deep plan (Genesis 37:14; see Rashi there) and it was to Shechem that he was returned by his brothers, the Children of Israel, in the end. Shechem had been the first place in the Holy Land that Jacob had acquired - he paid good money for it (Genesis 33:19) - and he had given it to Joseph as the "double portion" of the "firstborn" (ibid. 48:22). Joseph's mission (YESOD) was to cause the Divine Presence to dwell in the very Land itself, the material world. The conquest of the Land by Israel under the leadership of Joshua, Joseph's direct descendant, was a crucial stage in the fulfillment of this mission. Now that Joshua had completed his own life's work, it was fitting that he should be laid to rest in Shechem, the very place from which Joseph had been stolen, because Joshua, who like Joseph lived 110 years, was in fact his incarnation. Joshua's burial in Shechem - thereby acquiring his burial place as his eternal possession - was the completion of the cycle that began with Joseph's sale, concluding now with Israel 's possession of the Land. Thus the ATZMOS YOSEPH (literally the "bones" of Joseph, but allusively his very "essence" = ETZEM), were now absorbed into the Land itself. It may be that the physical burial of Joseph's bones actually took place in the early days of the conquest, but it is mentioned here in order to point up the perfection of God's deep plan, through which the cycle always swings around to the end.

    "If Israel had not sinned they would have received only the Five Books of Moses and the Book of Joshua, which is the Registry of the Land of Israel (i.e. of its tribal portions)" (Nedarim 22b). The whole of the rest of the narrative and prophetic portions of the NaCh tells the story of how the Israelites failed to drive out the Canaanites and the terrible consequences to which this led. Some say that the only lesson we learn from history is that nobody ever learns anything from history. It may be true that many fail to draw and implement the lessons of history, but we do not have to be like them. In Joshua's final discourse he emphasizes that we are FREE to choose our own path (ch 24 vv. 14-15). Let us choose the path of life and learn the lessons of our national history now in order not to repeat the mistakes of the past in future.