Shlach (Diaspora): Caleb the Zionist fighter

Go up there into the Negeb and on into the hill country...My servant Caleb was imbued with a different spirit...

Professor Gerald Aranoff,

Judaism Prof. G. Aranoff
Prof. G. Aranoff

When Moses sent them to scout the land of Canaan, he said to them, “Go up there into the Negeb and on into the hill country, and see what kind of country it is. Are the people who dwell in it strong or weak, few or many? Is the country in which they dwell good or bad? Are the towns they live in open or fortified? Is the soil rich or poor? Is it wooded or not? And take pains to bring back some of the fruit of the land.”—Now it happened to be the season of the first ripe grapes.” (Numbers 13:17-20).

The Malbim writes here:

“Moses sent---after the matter of the names of the men who were the princes of the tribes, he made known that the mission was to tour and not to spy. He detailed to them clearly at the time of sending them that their mission was to tour the land and not to spy.  He said “When Moses sent them to scout לתור the land of Canaan” not to spy. He clarified this in the detail matters that he commanded them at the time of sending. He said to them “Go up there into the Negeb.”  Were they to go on a spy mission to see the land in its nakedness --- they would’ve gone a different route, to seek a way that would be easier to enter from there to the land.  Further he told them “Go up … on into the hill country.”  The hill country was also a place more difficult to conquer, as recorded in the Book of Joshua.”

According to the Malbim and to other commentators, Moses sent the 12 spies only to tour, meaning to explore and to survey, not to do a spy mission. First, the Amelekites and others, tough enemies of the Israelites, were there in Negeb, blocking that way to enter Israel.  Spies, have to worry how to sneak, unnoticed, into enemy territory.  True spies would choose easier ways.

Second, true spies would avoid going to the base of the warrior strength of the enemy, also for fear of capture.

Hevron was the base of the warrior strength of the Amorites

 “So Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and assigned Hevron to him as his portion. Thus Hevron became the portion of Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, as it still is, because he was loyal to the Lord, the God of Israel.— The name of Hevron was formerly Kiriatharba: [Arba] was the great man among the Anakites. And the land had rest from war”.(Joshua 14:13-15).

Rashi says here:

“And the land had rest from war. Belongs to the earlier matter, that after 7 years conquering the surroundings, the Amorites surrendered and did not ever again gather for war on them. Then they [the Israelites] started to busy with division of the land.  The midrash says that “the great man among the Anakites” is our forefather Abraham, who caused the land to rest from 40 years of war, the 40 years’ delay in the desert, as a reward to the people of Hevron. They paid respect to Abraham when Abraham came to bury Sarah: 'Hear us, my lord: you are the elect of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places; none of us will withhold his burial place from you for burying your dead'” (Genesis 23:6). 

 In the midrash, only Caleb went to Hevron, the rest went elsewhere in Israel.

“They went up and scouted the land, from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, at Lebohamath. They [literal he, Caleb] went up into the Negeb and came to Hevron, where lived Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the Anakites.—Now Hevron was founded seven years before Zoan of Egypt.— (Numbers 13:21-22).

Rashi says here:

“He came to Hevron---Caleb himself went there and prayed on the graves of the Patriarchs, that his fellows not include him in their advices.  As written “none except Caleb son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and his descendants will I give the land on which he set foot, because he remained loyal to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 1:36). “I give the land on which he set foot,” as written “They gave Hevron to Caleb, as Moses had promised; and he drove the three Anakites out of there” (Judges 1:20).”

Caleb was a Zionist fighter!  The Torah credits him with the fact that “he drove the three Anakites out of there.”

Caleb tried to persuade the people not to rebel:

”Caleb hushed the people before Moses and said, 'Let us by all means go up, and we shall gain possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.'” (Numbers 13:30). 

The Torah praises Caleb, for his spirit. 

“But My servant Caleb, because he was imbued with a different spirit and remained loyal to Me— him will I bring into the land that he entered, and his offspring shall hold it as a possession” (Numbers 14:24).

Caleb, Joshua, Moses and Aaron failed to persuade the Israelite community:

“And they said to one another, Let us head back for Egypt. Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembled congregation of the Israelites. And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, of those who had scouted the land, rent their clothes and exhorted the whole Israelite community: “The land that we traversed and scouted is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into that land, a land that flows with milk and honey, and give it to us; only you must not rebel against the Lord. Have no fear then of the people of the country, for they are our prey their protection has departed from them, but the Lord is with us. Have no fear of them!” (Numbers 14:4-9).

Job just then died

In the midrash, Job lived 210 years, the years of רדו, from Jacob’s entering Egypt until the Exodus.  “Afterward, Job lived one hundred and forty years to see four generations of sons and grandsons” (Job 42:16).

Tractate Baba Bathra 15a: “Raba said that Job was in the time of the spies. [The proof is that] it is written here [in connection with Job] 'There was a man in the land of Uz named Job. That man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil' (Job 1:1). And it is written elsewhere [in connection with the spies], 'Is it wooded or not?' היש בה עץ . Where is the parallel? In one place it is Uz עוץ, in the other EZ עץ? What Moses said to Israel was this: [See] if that man is there whose years are as the years of a tree and who shelters his generation like a tree."

Tractate Sotah 35a: “It is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof (Numbers 13:32). Raba expounded: The Holy One, blessed be He, said: I intended this for good but they thought it in a bad sense. I intended this for good, because wherever [the spies] came, the chief [of the inhabitants] died, so that they should be occupied [with his burial] and not inquire about them. [This is how the spies were able to return unmolested.] Others say that Job died then and the whole world was occupied with mourning for him. But they thought it in a bad sense: It is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof.”

The people in ancient Cannan were surely greatly saddened by Job’s death. Job was extremely wealthy: “Thus the Lord blessed the latter years of Job’s life more than the former. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand she-asses” (Job 41:12).  Everyone blessed Job, for his justice, charity, and good works:

“Did I ever brush aside the case of my servants, man or maid, When they made a complaint against me? What then should I do when God arises; When He calls me to account, what should I answer Him? Did not He who made me in my mother’s belly make him? Did not One form us both in the womb? Did I deny the poor their needs, Or let a widow pine away, By eating my food alone, The fatherless not eating of it also? Why, from my youth he grew up with me as though I were his father; Since I left my mother’s womb I was her guide. I never saw an unclad wretch, A needy man without clothing, Whose loins did not bless me, As he warmed himself with the shearings of my sheep.” (Job 31:13-20).

Caleb was a Zionist fighter, in the parsha.  May we be blessed to have Zionist fighters today, may God grant them success as He granted Caleb and Joshua when they entered Israel and fought our enemies.