The ideas expressed here are from various sources. There will be commentaries from chanoch, whichn will be clearly identified.
We utilize a website to read the source known as Mechon Mamre.
chanoch adds: It is important to realize, according to the teachings of the Sages, two things. Each verse we read has 70 explanations. Each verse applies to us in this generation.
The Book of Joshua is the direct continuation from the end of Deuteronomy which narrates the death of Moses. Prior to his death, Moses had already said to Israel: "For I know that after my death you will surely go to ruin and depart from the path that I have commanded you, and evil will befall you at the end of days because you have done evil in the eyes of HaShem to anger Him with the work of your hands" (Deut. 31:29).
Main Ideas expressed in the Book
Joshua leads the children of Israel to cross into the land (Josh. 1:1-5:12)
Inheriting the Land of Israel (Josh. 5:13-12:24);
Dividing the Land among the tribes (Josh. 13-22)
Joshua charges the People to obey and serve the Lord (Josh. 23-24)
After Moses dies, the Lord commissions Joshua to cross over the Jordan and lead His people into the promised land (Josh. 1:1-4). Promising victory, the Lord emphasizes that Joshua must meditate on the book of instruction given by Moses (Josh. 1:7-8). Joshua sends two spies into the first city, Jericho, and learns that “everyone who lives in the land is panicking” because of them (Josh. 2:9) Reminiscent of the Red Sea some forty years earlier, the Israelites experience the Jordan River miraculously part and they are able to cross over on dry ground (Josh. 3:16-17).
After circumcising the men and celebrating Passover (Josh. 5:1-12), it is time to take the land. Joshua has an encounter with the Lord and he realizes that God will be the one to fight the battles (Josh. 5:13-15), which starts with the miraculous defeat of Jericho (Josh. 6). Following the Lord often becomes a problem for the Israelites, and this generation is no exception. Achan defies God’s command to commit all the plunder to Him (Josh. 6:18-19) by stealing some of it for himself and hiding it in his tent (Josh. 7). His severe judgement is a reminder that all sin, whether that of the Canaanite or the Israelite, will be dealt with appropriately. Numerous battles are won and the land is secured (Josh. 10-12).
Joshua divides the land at the Lord’s command, specifying boundaries and borders in chapters 13-22. Finally, before he dies, Joshua appeals to the people, warning them and admonishing them to stay faithful to the Lord, avoid idolatry and “get rid of the foreign gods that are long you and turn your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel” (24:23).
The book of Joshua was written to teach us about the faithfulness of God and His ability to give His people the victory when they trust in Him. Secondarily, it also demonstrates the severity of His judgement upon sin and disobedience. The promise given to Abraham in Genesis 17:8) that His descendants would inherit Canaan has finally been fulfilled! God is faithful! As Joshua and the people trusted in Him, the Lord fought their battles. This happened at Jericho, where the only thing the Israelites did was march, blow trumpets, and trust God.
They never drew a sword, fired an arrow, or threw a punch. In short, they simply obeyed. God gave them the victory. God even stopped the sun to buy Joshua more time to defeat the five Amorite kings (Josh. 10:12-14). For those that disobey and commit themselves to vile practices, they will surely be destroyed. This is why God destroyed the Canaanites (Lev. 18:24-25) and even some of the Israelites (Josh. 7:24-26). The Israelites were God’s tool to deal with the defilement that was present in Canaan. If they defiled the land, Joshua reminds them, God would destroy them (Josh. 24:20).
God fulfills His promises.
God had promised Abraham’s descendants that they would inherit the land of Canaan (Gen. 17:8). The book of Joshua victoriously documents this promise being fulfilled against all odds. From Abraham’s deception (Gen. 12:10-20), to the golden calf incident in the wilderness (Exod. 32), to the thievery and disobedience of Achan (Josh. 7), and on and on. God still kept His covenant and gave the land to His people, in spite of their failures.
God fights for His people.
The book of Joshua is a book of war. A few battles are documented, most are not. When the people trusted and obeyed, God fought their battles (Josh. 10:42). What seemed impossible a generation earlier, was now taking place: victory for Joshua’s people. It was God who caused the walls of Jericho to fall (Josh. 6:1-21), who gave the winning strategy to Joshua (Josh. 8:1), and who stopped the sun for him to have more time (Josh. 10:12-13).
Sin will be judged.
A rather shocking event takes place in Joshua 8. Achan, all of his family and possessions are stoned and then burned because he took something he desired unlawfully. It seems like a rather harsh punishment for disobeying the Lord and stealing a Babylonian cloak and some gold and silver. But God was making a point that sin will be judged. He was not against the individual, whether Israelite or Canaanite, he was against the sinful practices.
Serve the Lord.
In the very first verse of the first chapter, Moses, who has died, is described as “the Lord’s servant”. Joshua was Moses’ assistant, and is now commissioned as the new leader of the Israelites; he is God’s new servant, called to stay close to the Lord by meditating upon God’s Word. The book concludes with Joshua calling together all the people and exhorting them to choose whether or not they will serve the Lord. He vows his allegiance to God and gravely warns them about the ease of falling into idolatry.
How does this relate to us?
God keeps His word. He raised up a nation from a man and brought them into their own land. His promise to Abraham in Genesis was fulfilled in the book of Joshua. We can trust Him; we can trust His written word and we can trust that He will complete the work that He has begun in us. God was patient and long-suffering. Along the way, there were many occasions of sin and failure, yet God’s plan and promise was ultimately fulfilled.
In this life, we will have many battles. They will not necessarily be physical battles but they will nonetheless be times of intense conflict and struggle. In these times, it is important to remember Joshua and his trust in the Lord as the walls toppled down amidst the shouts of God’s people (Josh. 6:20). God is able to fight our battles for us; we need to trust Him and we need to do what Joshua did: meditate day and night upon the Word of the Lord, don’t be afraid, and be strong and courageous (Josh. 1:8-9).
chanoch adds: Do you think meditation is memorizing the written word? Do you think people in this generation are willing to learn the meditations that Moshe and Joshua performed? Our Sefer Yetzirah class will teach you how, if you are willing to practice.
God takes sin seriously; it comes with a high price tag, as Achan learned (Josh. 8). After all, the reason that the Canaanites were being defeated by God is because of their evil practices (Lev. 18:24-25). We must fear the Lord and fight against a casual attitude toward sin. It breaks our relationship with God. We rejoice that sinners find forgiveness as they turn to God and enter into a relationship with Him and His people, like Rahab (Josh. 6:17) and the Gibeonites (Josh. 9:24-27).
We are faced with a choice. We can serve the Lord, as Joshua and his family did (Josh. 24:15), or we can serve gods of our own choosing, as most of the Israelites eventually did (Judg. 2:2). The choice we make is a daily choice. Choosing to serve the Lord means that we are choosing to meditate on His word, obey Him with our choices, and honour Him with our lives.
The Book of Joshua is the direct continuation from the end of Deuteronomy which narrates the death of Moses. Prior to his death, Moses had already said to Israel: "For I know that after my death you will surely go to ruin and depart from the path that I have commanded you, and evil will befall you at the end of days because you have done evil in the eyes of HaShem to anger Him with the work of your hands" (Deut. 31:29).
The entire NaCh - Prophets and Writings will narrate the story and draw out the moral of this departure from the path with its terrible consequences, tracing the history of Israel in their time of glory (the conquest of the land and the building of Solomon's Temple) and their time of decline (destruction of the Temple and exile).
Our rabbis taught that "the face of Moses was like the face of the sun, while the face of Joshua was like the face of the moon" (Bava Basra 75a). Now that the sun had gone down with the death of Moses, it was time for the moon to shine. As long as the moon is aligned with the sun, the entire face of the moon is lit up and perfectly reflects the light of the sun. As long as Joshua reflected Moses' Torah, the people succeeded. Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim (son of Joseph, son of Rachel, Jacob's beloved). The task of Ephraim is to actualize the keeping of the Torah in this real, material world (and thus Rachel signifies the Shechinah, the Indwelling Presence in this world). Keeping the Torah to perfection in this world had to be accomplished in God's chosen land, the Land of Israel , and thus Joshua's task was to lead the people in and conquer the land. But when the moon is not aligned with the sun, its face becomes successively darkened. Thus it was Ephraim under the leadership of Jeraboam - Yeravam ben Nevat - who led the people away from the path, which brought about the exile, as we will see later. The people of Israel today must study and ponder the story of the NaCh and its moral in order to gain possession of the Land of Israel forever and shine its light to the whole world.
chamoch adds: The Land of Israel is a gift to the Children of Israel. It is also a responsibility. It must be earned through service to HaShem. Are you a Child of Israel by choice? Do you make this choice daily?
Joshua ch. 1 vv. 3-4 reiterates the boundaries of the Promised Land as already laid down in Numbers 34, 1-15. Here in verse 4 we simply have a brief depiction of the "breadth" of the land (from the Wilderness of Zin up to the Euphrates ), and it's "length" (from those two points until the Great Sea , the Mediterranean ). From verse 3 we learn that AFTER Israel have conquered the entire Promised Land, then "any place where the sole of your foot steps I will give to you", thereby incorporating other territories (see Rashi on vv.3-4).
chanoch adds: Have you looked at a modern map? Do you know what this area encompasses?
The condition upon which Israel is able to conquer and retain the Land is made completely clear here at the beginning of the Prophets: "Be strong and very firm to guard and practice according to all the Torah that Moses my servant commanded you." (v. 7). "And the book of this Torah shall not depart from your mouth." (v. 8). Everything depends on KEEPING THE TORAH, and this depends upon CONSTANT STUDY OF THE TORAH BY DAY AND BY NIGHT. For then HaShem your God will be with you.
chanoch adds: What is the difference between study of the Torah and Meditation on the written words of the Torah? Which part of Israel connects to you?
Rashi proves from the text that it was on 7 Nissan that Joshua gave orders to prepare the people to cross the Jordan "in another three days". 7 Nissan was the conclusion of the 30 day period of mourning for Moses, who died on 7 Adar (just as he had been born on that day, 3 months exactly before 7 Sivan, the day he was cast into the river and the date of the giving of the Torah 80 years later.) 10 Nissan would be an appropriate day for the supernatural miracle of the parting of the Jordan, as it was the anniversary of the day when the Children of Israel took the Paschal Lamb in Egypt just prior to the Exodus. Taking the lamb for sacrifice indicates submitting to the power of nature, symbolized in the constellation of Aries, the "Ram", to the higher power of God. God controls nature and can bend it at will. God has the power to give a tiny nation dominion. If the people of Israel would keep to God's covenant they would always be above nature.
Joshua reminds the tribes of Reuven, Gad and the half of Menashe who had taken their territories east of the Jordan of their commitment to help their brothers conquer the land of Canaan . Today this can be taken as a message to the Jews living in the Diaspora of their responsibility to identify with and help their brothers and sisters living in Israel in their struggle to settle the land in the proper way.
chanoch adds: What are some of the other 69 meanings to this moral message? As a student of Kabbalah have you asked why these 3 parts of Israel chose to stay out of the land directly?
chanoch adds: There are 18 Verses in Chapter 1. Why was this chapter written with 18 verwses? The Answer is the connection to the Hebrew word Chai = Life. Following the Mitzvot leads to eternal life..
chanoch adds: Rabbi Nachman reveals that all the healing herbs known to man are concealed in the words of chapter 1 of the book of Joshua. Or is it 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 = רהב - A GREAT HEROINE
chanoch adds:Rahav in Hebrew translates as arrogance - conceit - haughtiness - boastfulness. The gematria of Rahav in Hebrew is 210 which connects to the energy of "going down". This is a spiritual law that one must frall before they rise spiritually. This does not have to happen in the physical world since the physical world is an illusion.
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 Aleinu 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.
chanoch adds: It is said that Rahav became the wife of Joshua.
Please note: Joshua 2:1-24 is read as the Haftara of Parshas Shelach Lecha, Numbers 13:1-15:41. chanoch adds: Why do you think the Sages chose this connection between the essence of the parasha and this Haftara? Give both a physical and spiritual explanation. Spiritual is certainty. Physical is spies.
chanoch adds: There are 17 verses in chapter 3. This connects to the Hebrew word Tov through its gematria. Tov translates as "good". What is the essence of goodness? One answer is connecting to the plan of Creation. The entry to the Land of Israel by the Children of Israel is an aspect of the Plan of Creation and is therefore "good".
"The sea saw and fled, the Jordan turned backwards." (Psalm 114:3)
Psalm 114 compares the greatness of the miracle of the splitting of the Jordan , enabling the Children of Israel to cross easily on dry land into their homeland, to the greatness of the splitting of the Red Sea , whereby they had been saved from their Egyptian enslavers. Likewise Joshua, who presided over the splitting of the Jordan , is specifically compared in today's text to Moses, who raised his staff to split the sea (Joshua 4:14). However it was not his staff that Joshua raised. Instead he instructed the Children of Israel to follow the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the Earth.
The Midrash on Psalms 114 asks what it was that the sea saw to make it flee. It answers that the sea "saw" the Ark (coffin) of Joseph being carried up from Egypt . Through the merit of Joseph, who bent and controlled his physical passions in order to serve his Maker, God bent nature and caused the sea to part for the Children of Israel. Now Joseph's descendant, Joshua, who had learned the Torah from Moses, sent the Ark of the Covenant ahead of his people to teach that God is stronger than nature and can bend it to his will. In the Ark were the Tablets of Stone and Moses' Sefer Torah.
It was necessary for the people to purify themselves to experience this miracle (ch 3 v 5) because they were about to enter a new path through which their observance of God's Covenant -- His Torah -- would enable them to transcend natural law. This was one of only three occasions when the Ark was carried not by the Levites but by the Cohanim (priests) - the other two occasions were in the siege of Jericho and when the Ark was returned from the Philistines.
To impress the lesson of this great day upon everyone, in verse 9 Joshua says to the people: "Draw close to me over here!" Our rabbis taught that "Joshua assembled the entire nation BETWEEN THE TWO POLES OF THE ARK, and this was one of the places where the little held the great".
Skeptics will wonder how this was possible. Even those who sincerely want to believe often find it hard if not impossible to understand and accept the sometimes apparently quite outlandish and rationality-defying statements found in rabbinic Midrash ("exposition, searching out"). Since this series of study notes on NaCh will rely heavily on teachings of the Talmud and Midrash illumining our biblical texts, let me say at the very outset of the series that the Bible is the Word of the Living God, revealed to us through His prophets and sages. As soon as you scratch beneath the surface of the biblical words, you see that they are far from what they appear - "deep, deep, who can find it?" The Bible teaches about the spiritual dimension of this material world in which we live. Since this spiritual dimension is often quite unapparent to those sunk in materialism, the sages of the Midrash and Talmud - who lovingly counted every single word and letter of the Hebrew text and who were alert to its every subtle nuance and allusion - developed a unique poetry of allegories and riddles in order to encourage us to jump out of our pre-existing misconceptions about the nature and purpose of the world and rethink everything we thought we knew.
chanoch adds: There are differences in opinion regarding the midrash and even different levels of midrash. Midrash is still being writtenh by our current generation. Today's midrash is considered on a lower level than all previous midrashim. The orthodox tradition teaches that the earliest midrashim like the "Book of Jasper" is written through an anagram of the letters in a set of certain verses. Other midrashim utilize permutation of the letters of words and verses. In the orthodox tradition midrash is the words of Torah just slightly less than the Writings. In the teachings of the reform movement the midrash are stories. Some think midrashim are told to children and fools. Others perceive midrashim as very deep intellectual spiritual and emotional stories. What are midrashim? The answer is up to you. It requires one to read some midrashim to make an infored decision, in my opinion.
Joshua's bringing the entire nation "between the poles of the Ark" may be understood as his having succeeded in bringing everyone within the bounds of a totally new level of consciousness emanating out of the Ark and what it represented, in which they all perceived that God alone rules over everything. "The Living God" (v. 10) alludes kabbalistically to the Sefirah of Yesod, the Covenant. It is precisely this quality of moral purity, embodied in Joseph the Tzaddik, that would drive out the Seven Canaanite Nations, who were the physical, mental and ideological KELIPAH (husk) over the Covenant (corresponding to the 7 days prior to circumcision, during which the Orlah-foreskin still hides the holy crown).
chanoch adds: There ere 10 Caanaite nations, yet only 7 were defeated by the Children of Israel with HaShem's help. Did they wage war on the other 3? We are still fighting these battles today in our generation.
The greatness of the miracle of the splitting of the Jordan was enhanced because it was Nissan, springtime, when the melting snows of winter made the river so full that it was bursting its banks. It was in the merit of the Israelites having taken and slaughtered the Paschal Lamb (alluding to Aries, head of the constellations) on the 10 th of Nissan 40 years earlier, bending the constellations under the will of God, that the new generation witnessed this new, unheard of miracle of the splitting of a flowing river.
The Talmudic discussion of the splitting of the Jordan is contained in Sotah 35a ff. Just to further irritate the skeptics, the Talmud states that according to Rabbi Yehuda, when the river split and the flow from the north backed up, it caused a huge cubic pillar of water 12 by 12 miles large corresponding to the size of the Israelite camp. Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon (bar Yochai) objected, saying that the pillar was more than 300 miles high so that all the kings of the east and the west saw it, as it says, "When the kings of the Emorites heard." Just to increase the mystery, the rabbis said of the city of "Adam" mentioned in verse 16, "Did you ever in your life hear of a city called Adam? No, this alludes to Abraham, 'the great man (Adam) among giants' (Joshua 14:15). It was in Abraham's merit that this miracle took place" - because he was the first to bend nature to his will when he circumcised himself.
Joshua 3:5-7, 5:2-6:1 and 6:27 are read as the Haftara on the First Day of Pesach
chanoch adds: There are 24 verses in chapter 4. Is this the third day similar to the third day of creation? Is it a connection to Tiferet or Binah or Daat? How do we explain the insertion of chapter 3 or the energy of goodness? Welcome to the tool of asking questions.
According to the Talmudic account in Sotah, the essential gist of which is quoted with characteristic brevity in Rashi's commentary on our text, the day of the crossing of the Jordan was one of superhuman activity by the twelve representatives of the tribes who took up stones from the Jordan to set up in Gilgal, and indeed superhuman activity by the entire people. This was a day to remember for ever.
Altogether there were three sets of 12 stones. The first had been set up by Moses in the land of Moab (Deut 1:5 and 27:8), and on them he wrote the entire Torah. Then Joshua set up a second set of stones in the Jordan itself (Joshua 4, verse 9), while a third set of stones was taken from the Jordan and set up in Gilgal (v. 8). The Torah was likewise written on these stones - all 3 sets.
chanoch adds: Is it the same Torah on all 3?
However the third set of stones was not merely taken directly from the Jordan to Gilgal. According to the Talmud, on the very day of the crossing of the Jordan the entire people journeyed to Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival, built an altar, coated it with lime and wrote the entire Torah on it, offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, ate and drank, recited the blessings and the curses, all in accordance with Moses' instructions (Deuteronomy ch. 27). It was only after this that they took the stones THAT SAME DAY and carried them to Gilgal, where they were set up to educate the future generations.
chanoch adds: Why is it done in this process? What level of midrash is this story? What is taught by a deeper look into the Names mentioned?
Thus on the very day of their entry into the Land, the Children of Israel wrote the Torah not merely on parchment but onto the very rocks and boulders of their new Land. The whole purpose of this was to teach their children and descendants in all the generations to come a profound lesson about how God works through history (ch 4 vv. 6-7). It was through the power of God's Covenant, inscribed in His holy Torah, that the Children of Israel entered their land. Using the stones to stimulate the children's curiosity and give them a lesson in history is reminiscent of the annual Seder Night recalling the Exodus. (The ancient idolaters, including the Canaanites, were wont to set up stone circles as part of their highly sophisticated systems of worship of the stars. The twelve stones of the twelve tribes, corresponding to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, were the ultimate TIKUN (repair) for this idolatry.
Ch 4 vv. 10 & 15-19 go back to narrate further miracles relating to the splitting of the Jordan . It was only when the priests carrying the Ark first dipped their feet into in the water by the east bank of the river that the main miracle - the splitting of the river -- occurred, enabling the entire people to cross on dry land. Rashi, reflecting the Talmudic discussion, which is based on hints in our text, explains that after the people crossed the river to the west bank of the Jordan , the priests returned with the Ark to the EAST bank. The moment the priests stepped out of the water, the river returned to its normal flow, after which the priests crossed the river OVER THE FLOWING WATER, CARRIED BY THE ARK - thus graphically showing the entire nation that THE ARK CARRIES THOSE WHO CARRY IT and not vice versa (see Rashi on vv. 16 and 18.).The Torah may seem like a heavy yoke, but in fact it carries those who practice it - it carries them above and beyond nature!!!
The lesson of this unforgettable day in the history of the Children of Israel is summed up in the concluding verse of our text (ch 4 v 24): "In order for all the peoples of the land to know that the hand of HaShem is mighty, in order that you should fear HaShem your God all your days."
chanoch adds: There are 15 verses in this Chapter 5. The number 15 connects to the Name of God Yah - Yud Hai. Yah is a metaphor and a practical connection ton then worlds of Atzilut and Briah. These two worlds and their corresponding Sefirot connect to the process of becoming pure ande potentially Holy.
It was through the power of the Ark of the Covenant that the River Jordan had split to enable the Children of Israel to walk into their home country on dry land. Immediately after their entry into the Land, it was necessary to inscribe the mark of the Covenant on the very flesh of all the males as laid down in the Torah (Genesis 17:1-14, Leviticus 12:3) as a sign that observance of the Covenant is the absolute condition for possession of the Land.
chanoch adds: Many males of this current generation have violated the Brit - circumcision through masturbation and sleeping with women of other nations. Masturbation has been taught, by Satan through medical professionals, as necessary for male health. The availability of women, due to removal of fear of pregnancy through the pill availability, is the physical cause of this violation of the Brit. In order for the return to the land permanently will require each of these malews to do Teshuvah. Of course, the Mashiach will allow people to return to the Land and then teach them how to do Teshuvah. The complete Teshuvah as taught by the Kabbalah.
The circumcision was urgent as they had entered the Land on 10 Nissan and four days later everyone would have to offer and eat of the Pesach lamb, which was only permitted to the circumcised since partaking of the Paschal lamb is an intrinsic part of the Covenant. Our rabbis teach that immediately following their entry into the Land, during those four days before Pesach the people also went through purification from defilement from the dead using the ashes of the Red Heiffer so as to be able to bring the Pesach sacrifice in a state of complete purity.
At the time of the Exodus from Egypt all the Israelite males had been circumcised as part of their "conversion" to the faith of Israel . But according to the simple meaning of our text (PSHAT), the new generation that had been born during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness had not been circumcised. The rabbis explain that since the people were journeying in the wilderness by the word of God and might at any time be called upon to break camp and travel, it was impossible to circumcise the baby boys. Furthermore, they teach that the north wind, which has curative powers, did not blow throughout the forty years in the wilderness so as not to disperse the Cloud that led the people (see RaDaK on Joshua 5:2). [That beneficial north wind is the same wind of divine power that would blow through the strings of King David's harp and awaken him at midnight, Berachos 3b.]
On the other hand, Tanna deVei Eliahu (the Midrash of Elijah the prophet) states that it is not possible that the people who received the Torah at Sinai could have neglected the mitzvah of circumcision in the wilderness. Rather, they had only performed the first part of it - the actual MILAH, cutting off the foreskin - but had failed to perform the second part, PERIYAH, the peeling back of the membrane, which is an intrinsic part of the mitzvah ("if one cuts off the foreskin but does not perform PERIYAH, it is as if he has not circumcised"). This was why God told Joshua to circumcise them "a second time" (v. 2) - i.e. to complete the mitzvah.
The circumcision was performed in the location of the Israelites' first encampment in their land, which to mark this mass demonstration of recommitment to the Covenant was named GILGAL for the reason explained in our text (v. 9): "I have ROLLED OFF (GALosi) the shame of Egypt from upon you" -- for the Egyptian astrologers saw blood on the Israelites and thought it was a sign they would be defeated, not knowing that it was the blood of the circumcision, through which they would be victorious (Rashi). GILGAL is also related to the Hebrew word GILGUL which has the connotation of recycling - reincarnation. Each and every generation must rededicate itself to the Covenant because history goes in cycles.
Eating of the "produce of the land" from the day after Pesach (v 11) brought the Children of Israel to a new mode of being. For 40 years in the Wilderness their food had been the miraculous, spiritual Manna. It was because they were now going to be living in a real, actual country making a living using natural methods, agriculture etc. that they first had to rededicate themselves to the Covenant, through which we cut the flesh to indicate that our task is to bring this material world under the law of God. The Covenant enables the material world (MALCHUT) to receive spiritual blessing, and thus ARI (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, outstanding 16 th century Kabbalist) points out that in our verse (v. 11) the Hebrew word for produce, EEBUR, is made up of BOR (a "pit", signifying the inherently "empty" receiving Sefira of Malchut) together with the letter AYIN (=70), signifying the flow of all the seven Sefirot of Building, each of them containing all 10 Sefirot - 7 x 10 - into Malchut.
The 16 th of Nissan, when they started to eat the produce of the Land, is the day of the Omer offering in the Temple : it is only after this offering that it is permitted to eat from the new harvest (Leviticus 23:14).
Now that the people were purified, God's Angel - a being so fearsome that even Joshua was uncertain if he was for us or against - appeared to protect the people. "NOW I have come" (v. 14) - in the time of Joshua, but not before! For Moses had insisted that God Himself lead the people into the Land and not through a mere angel (Exodus 33:15). But now that Moses had departed, only a trace or residue of the exalted providence of his time remained in the form of this angel - Michael , Israel 's protective angel (see Likutey Moharan II, 5). The angel impresses on Joshua that the Land of Israel is not like any other: "Take off your shoe from your foot, for the place upon which you are standing is holy". Similarly, the priests went barefoot in the Temple . (Zohar Chadash 59a indicates that the removal of the shoe alludes to Joshua's having to separate from his wife in order to be ready to receive prophecy at any time just as Moses had been.)
chanoch adds: There are 27 verses in Chapter six. Students of Kabbalah know one meaning of this number - all 27 letters of the Hebrew Alef Beit. In addition this word caf zion can be translated as "like Zion" or "seven like". In reverse the word Zach translates as pure - virginal - transparent - lucid - clear - innocent - spotlewss.
"And Jericho was closed up" (Ch 6 v 2). The Hebrew word for "closed up" is doubled, indicating that they wouldn't let anyone in or anyone out. Targum Yonasan says they had gates of iron with bars of bronze. ARI explains that Jericho (YEREICHO) alludes to the moon (YAREIACH) which signifies MALCHUS, the receiver - this world, which must receive the spiritual flow from above. But under the Canaanites, Jericho was completely closed up - i.e. surrounded by walls and barriers - KELIPAH, the evil husk - preventing the divine flow from entering and manifesting in this world.
Now that the Children of Israel were in the Land, they could not expect that all their affairs would be run miraculously by God as in the wilderness without their having to take any action here on earth. They had to act in some way in the material world in order to conquer Jericho (Radak). While their daily encirclement of the city can be seen as an exercise to demoralize the enemy, its significance goes far deeper. Our rabbis teach that the seven days of encirclement started on a Sunday, culminating with seven circuits on the Shabbat. This was not coincidental: the entire exercise came to prove that Israel's conquest and possession of the Land depend upon observance of Shabbat - the weekly Shabbat, the seven year Sabbatical cycle of six years of agricultural work and then rest -- Shemittah - in the seventh year, and then the seven cycles of seven years culminating in the 50 th "Jubilee" year, called after the YOVEL - the ram's horn of freedom sounded in that year.
Sounding the Shofar - signifying man's wordless cry to God from the very depths of the heart - was an integral part of the ritual that led to the capture of Jericho . The entire ritual was built around sevens. It came to undermine the idolatrous Canaanites, whose religions were built around the worship of the 7 planets. The Israelite processions must have been a most awesome spectacle, with the men of the tribes of Reuven and Gad leading, followed by the Shofar-blasting priests and the Ark, followed by Dan at the rear gathering up any stragglers (Rashi on v. 9). The entire camp of Israel was involved in this Shabbos demonstration!
The Talmud Yerushalmi in Shabbos explains why Joshua declared Jericho and all its plunder CHEREM -- completely dedicated to God. This was because the city fell on Shabbos and it is forbidden to benefit from labor performed on Shabbos. The first conquest in the Land of Israel came about not through the agency of man but essentially through God's miracle. Nobody was allowed to have material benefit from God's miracle as this would detract from His glory. Joshua gave the city the status of IR HANIDACHAS - an idolatrous city, all of whose property must be destroyed (Deut. 13:3-19).
The ethics of the commandment to destroy the Canaanites completely will be addressed in a future installment. Suffice it to say here that had they been willing to accept the One God they could have saved themselves, as Rahav did. The rabbis taught that Joshua himself took Rahav as his wife and their descendants included prophets and priests.
Joshua's grim oath (v 26) that anyone who tried to rebuild Jericho would pay with the lives of all his sons was actually fulfilled many generations later in the time of King Achav, as we will learn in a few months time when we reach the Book of Kings I ch 16. The TaNaCh is first and foremost a moral teaching on a grand scale. God is very patient with His creatures but He always fulfills His word in the end.
Joshua 3:5-7, 5:2-6:1 and 6:27 are read as the Haftara on the First Day of Pesach
chanoch adds: This Haftarah has 19 verses. Why is it split between 3 chapters? The number 19 refers to Chavah -"Mother of Life". Is this a hint to the energy of Pesach - Freedom connecting to "Chavah - life"?
chanoch adds: There are 26 verses in this chapter. The gematria of the Name of God Havayah is 26. This indicates that HaShem is still with the Children of Israel, in a concealed manner, even when they make terrible mistakes.
The heady mood of self-confidence engendered among the Israelites by the spectacular collapse of the walls of Jericho was quickly punctured by the disaster at the city of Ai , caused by the sin of Achan ben Karmi in embezzling from the treasures of Jericho that Joshua had dedicated to God. "And Israel sinned with the devoted treasure." A single individual's sin is the sin of the whole people, for we are all responsible for one another! The Hebrew root of the word sin in v. 1 is MA'AL. While referring generically to sin, this word specifically indicates stealing from HEKDESH, property dedicated to God, such as Temple property, for one's own personal benefit. This sin leads to the corruption of religion when people use what belongs to God for their own personal pleasure and enrichment.
"Pride comes before a fall": heady after the capture of Jericho, the spies sent by Joshua to check out Ai (mentioned in Genesis 12:8 as one of Abraham's first stopping places in the Land and site of his second altar there) returned and advised that only a small force was needed to take the city "for they are few" (v. 3). In saying this they showed that they did not yet understand that for God, victory in the Land of Israel depends not on numerical advantage but only upon our loyalty to Him. It was the fatal flaw in loyalty expressed in Achan's embezzlement that caused the reverse at Ai. "And they smote ABOUT thirty-six men" (v 5). Rabbi Yehuda said literally 36 men were lost, but Rabbi Nehemiah pointed out that the verse says "LIKE thirty-six men " (the KAF of KISHLOSHIM is comparative). The one man who was lost in the battle was LIKE (the equivalent of) thirty-six men (36 = a majority of the 71-member Sanhedrin): this was Yair ben Menashe (Numbers 32:41; Bava Basra 121b) - it was a national disaster for even a single Israelite to be lost.
chanoch adds: The loss of even 1 Child of Israel requires all of the Children of Israel to wait at least 20 years while that reincarnated soul grows to adulthood.
Our text shows the proper reaction of a true Israelite leader when even a single man looses his life in war. "And Joshua tore his garments and fell on his face on the ground." (v.6). Unlike contemporary leaders, who appoint commissions of enquiry into their failures in order to blame someone else, Joshua took personal responsibility. Indeed God told him that it was his own fault because he had stayed back in the camp instead of going out to battle against Ai in front of his men. Moreover it was he who declared Jericho CHEREM (dedicated/destroyed) on his own initiative without being so commanded by God. Therefore Israel would be CHEREM until the sinner was punished (Rashi on v. 10).
God could have simply TOLD Joshua directly who the guilty man was, but instead He revealed his identity indirectly through a series of lotteries that were held publicly to establish from which tribe the sinner was, from which clan of that tribe and from which family. There was an ulterior purpose in turning the exposure of Achan into a national spectacle using the lottery (GORAL): this was because the Land was destined to be divided up among the tribes and families using the very same method of LOTTERY, as Moses had been commanded (Numbers 33:54). Having seen how the holy spirit governed the lottery in a capital case like Achan's, the people would accept its validity in matters of property (Rashi on v. 19; Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 86).
chanoch adds: Another reason: If Joshua was told in aa manner that was not clear ton everyone, it is possible for people to think that it was Joshua who made upon the identity.
Rashi (on v. 20) explains that before Achan's confession the situation was explosive. Achan was in denial and the members of his tribe (Judah) were getting ready to make war against Joshua (Ephraim) for accusing their leader of a crime. It was only when Achan realized his continuing silence would cause the death of many Israelites that he confessed. Joshua's messengers RAN to Achan's tent to find the booty (v. 22) in order to prevent men from the tribe of Judah getting there first to hide it.
"And I saw in the booty a robe of Shin'ar." (v.21). Shin'ar is Babylon (Genesis 10:10). Explaining what a Babylonian robe was doing in Jericho , Rashi (v. 21) says that every foreign power wanted a foothold in Israel and no king felt content until he established his influence there. Thus the king of Babylon had a palace in Jericho , and left special robes there for him to wear when he visited. The presence of foreign kings explains why the tiny country of Israel had no less than THIRTY-ONE of them, as we will see in the continuation of the book of Joshua. Likewise today every self-respecting nation demands a say in what happens in Israel !
It was through his confession that Achan redeemed himself, becoming the archetype of the sinner that confesses (following in the footsteps of his tribal ancestor, Judah, who was the first to confess - Genesis 38:26). "Everyone who confesses has a share in the world to come" (Sanhedrin 43b). The law that a condemned man confesses before his execution and that this brings him atonement is derived from our text. Thus Joshua said to Achan, "As for your having sullied us, God will sully you ON THIS DAY" - i.e. in THIS WORLD but not in the World to Come, because confession brings atonement. Achan's atonement before Joshua is one of the main foundations of Rabbi Nachman's teaching on confession of one's sins before a Torah sage (see Likutey Moharan Vol. 1 Discourse 4).
chanoch adds: There are 35 verses in this chapter. 35 connects to a Hebrew word that translates as "voice". Another phrase translates "and his loving".
Achan's confession and punishment cleansed the Israelites of the flaw that led to their defeat at Ai. At God's command they now used a brilliant military ruse against Ai, engaging the men of the city in battle and then feigning retreat in order to lure them out of the city so that a waiting ambush could enter unopposed and set the whole place on fire (Joshua 8:1-29). Sometimes the best way to advance and make gains is by first retreating a little.
After the capture of Ai, the text gives an account of the ceremonies that took place at Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Eival after the entry of the Children of Israel into the Land. Rashi (chapter 8 v 30) comments that the narrative is not written in order, because Joshua's building of the Altar on Mount Eival, the writing of the Torah on the stones and the solemn ceremony of reciting the Blessings and Curses before the entire nation in fact all took place on the very same day that they crossed the Jordan (see KNOW YOUR BIBLE on Joshua ch 3). The description of the sacrifices and the ceremony in today's text relates back to the commandment given by Moses in Deuteronomy ch 27, where he says all this was to be done "on the day that you cross the Jordan" (v. 2).
Since the ensuing chapters of Joshua will recount the conquest of the Land in detail, the positioning of the account of the recital of the Blessings and Curses right here underlines yet again that Israel 's conquest and possession of the Land are conditional upon our observance of God's Torah.
chanoch adds: When current Leaders say the Mashiach is immanent this requirement needs to be true for the people. It is not nedcessary that every Child of Israel perform all Mitzvot. Yet there are 6 eternal Mitzvot that needs to be learned.
chanoch adds: There are 27 verses in this chapter. 27 connects to the 27 letters of the Hebrew Alef Beit.
All the Canaanite kings throughout the land " gathered together to fight with Yoshua and with Israel WITH ONE MOUTH" (ch 9 v 2).
This was all out war not only against Israel but against the One God who had promised them the Land. "In three places we find the people of the world rebelling against the Holy One blessed be He: at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1), in the war of Gog and Magog (Psalms 2:2) and in the days of Joshua. Why does it say 'with ONE mouth'? Because they went against God, of whom it is said, 'Hear, O Israel, HaShem is ONE!'" (Tanchuma). Since many today are convinced that the world is in the throes of the war of Gog and Magog, this Midrash underlines the connection between many aspects of our present text about the war in the days of Joshua and the times we are living in now.
For Israel in the time of Joshua, the war for the conquest of the Land was a holy war. The decadent Canaanite star-worshippers, suddenly threatened with being driven out of their lovely homeland, doubtless saw the Israelites as a new breed of religious fanatics waging a dangerous Jihad that had to be thwarted at all costs. Yet after witnessing God's miracles on behalf of the Israelites, many of the Canaanites were already demoralized and fearful, and felt that "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em".
However, in the Torah God had strictly forbidden the Israelites to make any covenant with the Cananites and their gods or permit them to dwell in their Land "lest they make you sin against Me when you serve their gods, for they will be a snare for you" (Exodus 23:32-3).
The classic biblical commentator RaDaK (Rabbi David Kimche 1160-1235) in a lengthy comment on our text v. 7 explains exactly what the Israelite warriors were demanding of the Canaanites. They were not intending to kill them no matter what. The commandment to destroy the Canaanites applied only if "they make you sin". However, if they would agree to uproot idolatry from among them and accept the 7 Universal Commandments of the Children of Noah, they would be allowed to remain in the Land on condition that they agreed to serve and pay taxes to the Israelites - i.e. subordinate themselves to the Israelite national agenda of building God's Temple and spreading His light to the nations. Only if they refused these conditions and refused to evacuate would they be killed. The one difference between the Canaanites and any other nations against whom Israel made war was that if other nations refused to make peace and insisted on waging war, the Israelites would on defeating them kill only their males but keep their wives and children as slaves. However, if the Canaanites made war, the Israelites were commanded by God to kill them all, men, women and children.
For some this may raise agonizing ethical issues, which I cannot address except by saying that the biblical commandment to exterminate these nations is evidently founded on the premise that they were a thoroughly evil influence that had to be nullified completely for the sake of God's plan to reveal Himself to the entire world by replacing ancient idolatry with faith in the one God. It must be emphasized that nowhere in Judaism is there any justification whatever for the wholesale extermination of any nation excepting the Amalekites and the Canaanites, both of whom have now completely disappeared. If today some evil criminals and terrorists BEHAVE like Canaanites and Amalekites, then the individuals or gangs exhibiting such behavior should be brought to justice by the legitimate forces of law and order in order to neutralize their destructive influence.
Yerushalmi Shavuos 6:5 states that on entry to the Land, Joshua sent three written proclamations to the Canaanites. "Whoever wants to make peace can make peace; whoever wants to make war may make war, and whoever wants to evacuate may leave."
Some of the Canaanites departed voluntarily and went to N. Africa ( Carthage ) where they received a land as prosperous as the one they left. Some sources state that some of the Canaanites went to Europe ( Germany ).
Since the Gibeonites knew that they could save themselves without leaving if they agreed to the Israelite conditions, RaDaK (ibid.) asks why they resorted to the ruse described in our chapter, and answers that having seen how the Israelites had destroyed Jericho and Ai, they were afraid that the Israelites might not adhere to their conditions.
The Gibeonites were actually Hivites (v. 7). Their deception of Joshua and the Children of Israel was a deep historical irony, as the Hivites had tried to "convert" and intermarry with Israel in the time of Jacob (Genesis ch 34) when Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite raped Dinah. Jacob's sons tricked the men of Shechem into circumcising, but "on the third day" when they were in great pain, Shimon and Levi entered the town and killed them all (for having failed to protest the rape of Dinah, which flouted the Noahide code.) Thus in our chapter, we read that "they ALSO acted with cunning" (v. 4). This was the cunning of the serpent - in Aramaic, a serpent is HIVIA, from the same root as the Hivites.
Students of Kabbalah will note that the fake old provisions, clothes and shoes the Gibeonites used included "crumbs" (NEKUDIM) alluding to the Kabbalistic World of Chaos, Nekudim, the root of evil (see 138 Openings of Wisdom, Opening 36ff). RaDaK, noting that moldy bread is covered in red, green and black spots, also relates NEKUDIM to Laban's SPOTTED flock (Genesis 30:32ff), likewise bound up with the mystery of the world of Nekudim.
Midrash Tanchuma shows the parallel between how the serpent tricked Adam and Eve into sinning in the hope of killing Adam and marrying Eve, and how the Gibeonites tricked the Israelites into making a forbidden covenant with them: "If they kill us they will violate their oath, while if they keep us alive they will violate God's commandment: either way they will be punished and will not inherit the land."
The Gibeonites were not true converts since they converted not because they wanted to serve the One God but out of fear (verse 24). It was "at the end of THREE DAYS" that the Israelites found out that they had been deceived: this is a hark-back to Shimon and Levi's deception of the men of Shechem "on the third day".. Despite the Gibeonites' deception, the Israelites, having publicly sworn to protect them, could not violate their oath as this would have been a HILUL HASHEM, desecration of God's Name (Gittin 46a).
Joshua therefore gave the Gibeonites the status of a caste of Temple laborers who were not permitted to intermarry with Israelites (in this respect they were similar to a MAMZER, a child born of an incestuous union). They appear on the stage of history again in the time of King Saul and King David, and after the destruction of the First Temple they went into exile to Babylon with the tribe of Judah , returning to Israel with Ezra. The Gibeonites are unknown today.
chanoch adds: There are 43 verses in this chapter. 43 connects to the Hebrew word Luz which is a bone that relates to the Resurrection of the Dead. Other wordes with this gematria is gadol = large. The word gam = also. The phrase "teach or learn love" also has this gematria.
"And when Adoni-Tzedek king of Jerusalem heard.." (ch 10 v 1). The Midrash comments on his name: "This place ( Jerusalem ) makes its inhabitants righteous - Malki-Tzedek (Genesis 14:18), Adoni-Tzedek. 'Righteousness (TZEDEK) will dwell in it' (Isaiah 1:21; Bereishis Rabba 23).
Since Jerusalem was to be the place of God's Temple , it is significant that the main war of the Canaanites against the Israelites was initiated by the king of that city. However, Adoni-Tzedek's "righteousness" was for the sake of appearances. Instead of confronting the Israelites directly, he devised a roundabout way to provoke them by following the classic Middle East method of staging an attack on the pro-Israeli "collaborators", the Gibeonites.
The Israelites were honor-bound to come to their aid, and God fought for Israel , raining down from heaven stones of ALGAVISH on the backs of their fleeing enemies (AL GAV ISH -- "on a man's back"). The giant stones littering the area of Beit Choron (ch 10 v 11) were visible in Talmudic times and are mentioned in Berachos 54b as a spectacle over which one should make a blessing for the miracles performed for our ancestors.
The truly outstanding miracle in our chapter is how Joshua caused the sun and the moon to stop in their tracks in order to give the Israelites more time to chase after and destroy their enemies (verses 12-14). "Then Joshua SPOKE" - his words were a prayer and a song (see RaDaK ad loc.). The Talmud states that the battle took place on a Friday, the eve of Shabbat, and Joshua was afraid lest the Israelites would come to violate the Shabbat (Avoda Zara 25a). Midrash Tanchuma states that from the time the sun rises until the time it sets, it sings a song of praise to God. Joshua commanded the sun to "BE SILENT in Giv'on" - for if the sun were to cease to sing, it would immediately stop in its tracks. The sun asked Joshua why it should stop singing since it was created on the fourth day while Joshua, a man, was created only on the sixth. Joshua replied that God had given Abraham possession of the heavens (Genesis 14:19), and moreover, the sun had bowed down to Joseph, Joshua's ancestor (Genesis 37:9). The sun said, 'If I don't sing to God, who will?' "THEN JOSHUA SPOKE", as if to say, "I WILL!!!" The "Book of Righteousness" (Joshua 10:13) in which this was already prophesied is the Torah, in which it is written that Jacob promised Joseph that the fame of the seed of Ephraim would "fill the nations" (Genesis 48:19; see Rashi on Joshua 10 v. 13).
No human can explain or understand how exactly Joshua succeeded in "bending time" to his will and extending the day by as much as 36 hours according to some rabbinic opinions. Pirkey d'Rabbi Eliezer states that Joshua saw that the Canaanite astrologers were planning an attack on the Israelites on the rapidly approaching Shabbat and this was why he prayed to extend the Friday. That God "listened to the voice of a man" (v. 14) indicates that the power of holy prayer is greater even than the influence of the stars and planets, which govern time, while prayer can elevate us beyond time.
chanoch adds: There are 23 verses in this chapter. 23 connects to the Hebrew Letters after Mashiach, who will reveal the 23rd letter as part of his service / work in this physical world.
The book of Joshua recounts the conquest of the Land in six not particularly lengthy chapters (6-11), yet at the end of the account it says "Joshua made war with all these kings for MANY DAYS" (ch 11 v 18). Thus we see that our text presents only the highlights and main contours of what was in fact a lengthy process: the NaCh is in essence God's moral teaching, not a detailed military history. Nevertheless, the strategy of the conquest is clear. It began with Jericho , which our sages call the "lock" of Eretz Israel . Jericho is the only good gateway between the south west of the Land of Israel and the territories east of the Jordan , which had been conquered in the days of Moses and had been given to the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menasheh. The conquest of Jericho thus ensured the link between the Israelite populations on both sides of the Jordan as well as cutting off the Canaanite nations from possible help from elements east of the Jordan hostile to the Israelites.
chanoch adds: Is military strategy a teaching for how to live a life? Yes the strategy for conquering the Land is included in chapter 11 it has broader teachings. One teaching in the Book of Prophets is morality yet it is not the only purpose in the teachings.
We may understand the significance of the conquest of Ai (ch 7-8) and the subjugation of Givon (chs 9-10), both in the hills of Shomron north of Jerusalem, when we take into account that in the times of Joshua much of the center of the Land was covered by extensive forests (see Joshua ch 17 vv 14-18). The conquest of these two cities thus brought the entire central region of the country, which was relatively uninhabited, under Israelite control. (Shechem, the largest city in the area, was inhabited by Hivites, and evidently submitted to Israelite dominion at the same time as their clansmen the Hivite Giveonites.) Israelite control of the center of the country cut off the Canaanite city states of the north (Hatzor etc.) from those of the south, and they were thus unable to unite to fight all together against the Israelites.
chanoch adds: This strategy is not just military. It also relates to creating the 3 columns of the Tree of Life.
After the defeat of the five Emorite kings in the south, as described in the previous chapter (10 vv 1-11) Joshua did not immediately destroy their cities but instead turned against Makedah, Livnah, Lachish and Eglon (ibid 28-35), these being the key cities guarding the approach to the mountains of Judea dominating the south of the country. The mountain region was thus cut off from the coastal plain, thereby isolating Mount Hevron from all possible assistance from the west, north and south. Joshua then went up to conquer Mount Hevron and the rest of the southern regions of the country, which meant that the entire south and center of the Land were now under Israelite control.
The hardest part of the conquest was that of the north, as described in our present text, Chapter 11, because the city-state of Hatzor, under King Yavin, was the most powerful influence in the region, possessing great wealth as well as "a very great number of horses and chariots" (11, 4), of which the Israelites had none.
Kabbalistically, we must look at the Land of Israel not through the spectacles of modern geography, where every map is aligned along the north-south axis. Instead, we must bear in mind that, Kabbalistically, the all important axis is the center column, corresponding to the daily journey of the sun from east (Tiferet) to west (Malchus). When you face east, the south is to your right, corresponding to Chessed, Kindness, while the north is to your left, corresponding to Gevurah, Strength. South and north are thus the two arms. The Israelites entered the Land from the east (Tiferet) and first conquered the center (Ai, Giveon), then the south (Chessed) and then the north (Gevurah). Thus the king of Hatzor, the major power of the north, was Yavin,(Heb. = "he will understand"), alluding to the left column root sefirah of Binah.
God commanded Joshua to break the ankles of all their enemies' horses and burn all their chariots (v 6) even though the prohibition of BAL TASHCHIS ("do not destroy" Deut. 20:19) forbids wanton destruction. RaDaK (v 9) explains that the Canaanites had put their trust in the power of their horses and chariots, and God did not want the Israelites to plunder them in order to ensure that they would not also come to put their faith in military might. It was not necessary to kill the horses. All that was needed was to cut their hooves so that they would not be of any use in battle.
As we have seen, our text gives a brief account of what was in fact a long process of conquest and subjugation. Joshua was criticized for taking "many days" to conquer all the kings of Canaan . God had promised him that "as I was with Moses, so shall I be with you" (ch 1 v 5), which indicates that Joshua should have lived to the age of 120 like Moses. However, the Midrash tells us that Joshua feared he would be taken from the world as soon as he completed the conquest, and was therefore inclined to tarry. God said to him: "Moses your teacher did not act like that when I told him to exact vengeance from the Midianites and then die (Numbers 31:1) - he made war on them immediately. Since you think this way, I shall SUBTRACT from your years (Joshua - like his ancestor Joseph - died at the age of 110.) 'Many are the thoughts in a man's heart but it is God's counsel that will stand'" (Bamidbar Rabbah 22:7). Sometimes the stratagems we devise to stave off perceived dangers actually bring those very dangers nearer.
"IT WAS FROM GOD TO HARDEN THEIR HEARTS"
The Canaanites themselves caused their own destruction by refusing to submit to the Israelite conditions for remaining in the Land - giving up their idolatry. As v 20 states, their recalcitrance was sent by heaven. RaDaK explains that God hardened their hearts similarly to the way He hardened the heart of Pharaoh, in order to punish them for their sins, and secondly, in order to enable the Israelites to destroy them as God had commanded Moses so that they would not cause the Israelites to sin.
chanoch adds: Please remember the purpose of HaShem hardening hearts is to bring a person to the level of personal free chpice.
The recalcitrance of the Canaanites has been mirrored in modern times by that of the Arabs who have systematically resisted the return of the people of Israel to resettle their ancestral lands. Many Jews find it impossible to understand the unrelenting opposition of the Arabs to Jewish settlement of the Land - and indeed, it is impossible to understand it in rational terms. It might appear that the Arabs would have a lot to gain from peaceful cooperation with a people who have time and time again manifested their God-given blessing of being able to turn a tiny strip of land in the dry, backward Middle East into a flourishing, prosperous jewel of a country. Those Arabs who agree to help the people of Israel in our national mission as laid down in God's road map in the Bible will indeed have a place and a role in the future order as foretold by the prophets. But those who refuse will one day discover that their trust in bombs, missiles and machine guns is entirely misplaced.
"AND THE LAND RESTED FROM WAR"
"This means that the Canaanites did not rise up again and gather to make war against the Israelites because they saw they had been defeated in all the wars. Likewise the Israelites remained in the territories they had conquered but did not conquer more land. When Joshua was old, God told him to urge on Israel to conquer the remaining territories and He ordered him to divide up the Land in his life time. Joshua began with the tribes of Judah and Joseph, because he was told prophetically that they were the heads of Israel and would stand on the boundaries of Israel , Judah to the south [Chessed] and Ephraim to the north [Gevurah], with the other seven tribes between them. Once the territories were allotted to each tribe by the lottery, they considered the whole land to have been conquered as all the boundaries were in their hands and any remaining Canaanites were locked in between. (RaDaK on v 23).
chanoch adds: 7 Tribes between the 2 leading Tribes totals 9 Tribes. Where are the other 3? One is Levi who does not get a portion only receiving cities. One is Shimon who receives parts within the other Tribes portion. Is there a Tribe missing? No there are the Tribes of Reuben and Gad, outside the land, which totals the 13 Tribes.
chanoch adds: There are 24 verses in this chapter. 24 connects to the day and night, each with 12 hours. Each 12 relates to the Tree od Life being 4 x 3.
In Hebrew the number 31 is written with the letters Lamed (=30) and Aleph (=1). The two possible permutations of these two letters make up two Hebrew words. The first is EL (literally, "power" but also "God" - as such it is pronounced KEL except in prayer since this is one of the seven names of God that may not be erased). The second is LO (= "no"). The 31 kings all said "No" to Israel , and paid for their intransigence with their very lives in order to show that "it is God's counsel that will stand".
chanoch adds: El can also be translated as "teaching unity".
When the Five Books of Moses are written on a parchment scroll for the public reading of the Torah in the Synagogue, the scribe must observe detailed rules and conventions in writing the text. In the same way, there are specific rules governing the writing of the Prophets and Holy Writings on a parchment scroll (some communities read the weekly Haftara and the Megillot from valid scrolls). Yerushalmi Megillah ch 4 tells us that in the parchment scroll of Joshua, the names of the 31 kings of Canaan must be written similarly to way the names of the 10 Sons of Haman hanged on the tree are written in Megillas Esther. The 31 kings are written each on a separate line with the name at the beginning of the line and the repeated word "ONE" (vv. 9-23) at the end. Perhaps the repetition of the word ONE comes to emphasize that although Israel were faced with a multiplicity of enemies, they were all sent by the One God who ultimately destroyed them all.
chanoch adds: Why are there 31 Kings yet only 10 nations in the Land? Only 7 Nations were defeated in the conquest of the Land. In my opinion these Names of the 31 relate to different Names of Klipot. A Name analysis will show us these negative essences.
With the completion of the summary of the conquest of the Land in Chapter 12, we are ready for the account of its allocation by lottery to the Tribes of Israel as narrated in the coming chapters.
chanoch adds: There are 33 verses in this chapter. 33 connects to the the Sefirah of Hod Shebe Hod. This is the Holiday of Lag B'Omer.
"And Joshua was old, advanced in days" (Joshua 13:1). The deeper meaning of this verse is illumined by Rabbi Nachman's teaching that the true elder constantly advances in holiness and wisdom with every single day and every hour and minute.
In terms of the literal chronology of our text, God's command to Joshua to divide the land even though it was not yet fully subdued came after seven years of conquest following the Children of Israel's entry. This is learned out from today's text Chapter 14 v 10 where Calev ben Yefuneh - Joshua's fellow spy among the twelve sent by Moses from the wilderness at the start of what became 40 years of wandering - says, "God has given me life this FORTY-FIVE years" (i.e. it was 45 years since God's promise to give Calev the land he trod upon in his visit to Israel, since he was the only faithful spy out of the twelve besides Joshua). Rashi on this verse says that it is from here that we learn that the conquest took seven years, because Moses sent the spies in the second year in the wilderness, and the remaining 38 years of wandering with another seven for the conquest make a total of 45.
According to the dating system of the rabbinic historical Midrash SEDER OLAM ("Order of the World") followed in this series (which puts the Destruction of the Second Temple in the year 3828 = 68 of the Common Era), the Exodus from Egypt took place in 2448 (1312 B.C.E.), with the death of Moses and Joshua's subsequent entry into the Land in 2488 (1272 B.C.E.).
Joshua had been 44 at the time of the sending of the spies, and was 82 when he entered the Land. Thereafter he ruled over Israel for 28 years until his death at the age of 110, and was thus 89 at the time of the commencement of the division of the Land.
chanoch adds: Each of these numbers teaches something significant. Ask if you are not sure if each numbers significance.
Today's text and the texts of the coming days are filled with the names of various peoples and tribes and very many place-names. These are chapters filled with the love of God's holy Promised Land and its every mountain, hill, plain and river. Many profound secrets are woven into these subtle texts. By way of introduction to the coming chapters of the book of Joshua, let us establish some basic principles relating to the Land God has given to Israel .
In the "Covenant between the Parts" God promised Abraham "this Land from the river of Egypt until the great river, the River Euphrates. The Keinite, the Kenizzite and the Kadmoni. And the Hitite, the Perrizite and the Refa'im. And the Emorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite". (Genesis 15:18-20). This is the "Promised Land".
As noted by Rashi (ad loc.), ten peoples are listed here - whereas in the time of the conquest of Joshua, the Israelites were commanded only to take possession of the lands of the seven Canaanite nations. The three other peoples listed in God's promise to Abraham, the Keinite, Kenizzite and Kadmoni, refer to Edom , Moab and Ammon, which are destined to come under the rule of Israel in time to come.
The geographical definition of the Holy Land promised to Abraham is "from the river to the river" - the entire Mediterranean arm of the "Fertile Crescent" from the western point of the Euphrates all the way to the eastern arm of the Nile delta (this is the usual interpretation of "the River of Egypt" though some identify it with with Wadi Arish).
A similar definition of the Promised Land is in God's Covenant with Israel at Sinai, where the territory is "from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines (Mediterranean) and from the wilderness until the River ( Euphrates )" (Exodus 23:31).
King David conquered most of this area, and under King Solomon the entire area was indeed under the sway of Israel: "And Solomon was the ruler over all the principalities from the River (Euphrates) to the land of the Philistines and the border of Egypt" (Kings 1, 5:1-5). After Solomon, the Israelite influence waned but in the later history of the kingdom of Israel , King Jeraboam ben Joash restored most of the lands over which Solomon had held sway. Thereafter, however, the Israelite grip on the land was lost when first the Ten Tribes went into exile and subsequently Judah .
The period from the conquest of the Land by Joshua until the destruction of the First Temple in 3338 (422 B.C.E.) is one of 850 years, in which the people of Israel practiced the laws and customs of their fathers with varying levels of fidelity, following the agricultural and other laws of the Torah. After Ezra's return from exile in Babylon, with the rebuilding of the Second Temple, there followed another period of more than 700 years of continuous Jewish residence in the Land of Israel until several centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple.
Knowledge of the exact boundaries and divisions of the Land is important in order to know how the various agricultural laws of the Torah apply in different regions. (For example, in Temple times the Omer barley offering could not be brought from east of the Jordan ; certain details of the laws of tithing of produce are different in Ammon and Moab from Israel west of the Jordan , etc.)
Most of Chapter 13 of our text today deals not with the allocation of the lands of the Seven Canaanite nations but with the territories EAST of the River Jordan which had been taken in the time of Moses and given by him to the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menashh, as related in the Torah in the later chapters of Numbers (chs 21 ff) and again in the early chapters of Deuteronomy. The conquest and division of these territories are recounted in detail in our present chapter, Joshua 13. Their topography is given in detail - from the territories to the south taken from the Emorite (Canaanite) king Sichon comprising areas of Moab and Ammon (current day Jordan) through the fertile Gil'ad (also in Jordan) up to the Bashan taken from King Og, a remnant of the (Canaanite) Refa'im (Bashan includes parts of the present day Golan heights and other parts of Syria and Jordan).
From Biblical times until after well after the destruction of the Second Temple , the Israelite population thus spread both in the " Land of Israel " WEST of the Jordan and also in the ancestral territories given to them by Moses EAST of the Jordan (MEY-EYVER LA-YARDEN). Their respective populations were in constant communication (thus Mishneh Rosh HaShanah describes how the news of the Sanctification of the New Moon was signaled by torches from mountain to mountain across vast swathes of territory until everyone knew it.)
The political geography of the Middle East since 1948 has concealed the intimate bond that exists for Israel between the east and west banks of the Jordan . Prior to 1948, Palestine was a generic term for territories that are now divided up between present day Egypt , Jordan , Syria , Lebanon and Israel . The name Palestine was given by the Romans after the destruction of Jewish sovereignty in the Land, and was originally intended as an insult to the Jews by calling their ancestral homeland by the Latinized name of their traditional national enemies, the Philistines. [The Philistines were not a clan of the Canaanites but a powerful sea-faring invader people who came in waves from earlier habitations in the Mediterranean area from the times of Abraham and thereafter.] When in 1917 Britain assumed the mandate over "Palestine" and made the "Balfour Declaration" stating that its government "viewed with favour the establishment in PALESTINE of a national home for the Jewish people", the term Palestine still referred to territories stretching from east of the Nile through present day Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
It was only in the years after 1917 that sprawling " Palestine " was successively trimmed, cut down and redefined until the State of Israel was left with territory that is only a small part of the Promised Land given by God to Abraham. It is deeply significant that the extensive areas that did not come under Israelite possession in the times of Joshua are still beyond the borders of the State of Israel.
chanoch adds: There are 15 verses in this chapter. See my comments regarding 15 from chapter 2.
The allocation of the Land amongst the Children of Israel in the time of Joshua was determined by the GORAL or "lottery" involving the High Priest (Elazar son of Aharon) and the "King" (Joshua student of Moses) using the Urim VeTumim - holy spirit channeled through the High Priest's breastplate inscribed with the luminescent Hebrew letters of the names of the Tribes, which would flash one after another to reveal divine messages.
The main narrative of Chapter 14 concerns the request of Calev to receive the territory where he alone had trod as a Spy 45 years earlier. Numbers 13:21 hints through the use of the Hebrew singular "and HE came to Hebron" that Calev alone out of the spies had the courage to risk the perilous journey to Hebron, the burial place of Adam and the three Patriarchs, in order to pray (see Rashi ad loc.).
Here at the very beginning of the chapters dealing with the allocation of the Land of Israel among the tribes, the prominent positioning of Calev's request to receive Mount Hebron as the very heart of the royal tribe of Judah 's portion shows the supreme importance of Hebron to Israel and the Jewish people. King David ( Judah ) reigned in Hebron for seven years before he reigned in Jerusalem - he had to bind himself to the Three Fathers in Hebron before taking his position as the "fourth leg of the Throne". Joshua Chapter 14 shows the antiquity of Judah 's bond with Hebron , which will never be broken.
chanoch adds: The goral has been a significant tool with the Torah. It always allocates Land. Over the centuries people have used it with Books of Tanach - Chumash - Talmud - Books of Responsah - Writings of Sages. Perhaps the Zohar as well. The Rabbi's have always saif these Gorolot are not acts of chance. Since there is nothing left to chance. The use of the Goral is a tool to keep the non believers in the fold so to speak.
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