Shelach Lecha


In this week’s parasha we read of the mission to spy out the land of Israel. From the outset, Moses is concerned. G-d had promised that He would take His people to a ‘land flowing with milk and honey,’but the spies might be overwhelmed at the challenges they would see in the land and bring back a negative report.

But Moses knows that amongst the spies there are two men he can rely on: Joshua and Calev. Joshua is already known as the main disciple of Moses. He was the one asked to lead the battle against the Amalekites [Shemot 17:9.] He was the one who stood on Mount Sinai when Moses went up to receive the Torah. [Shemot 24:13.] Yet, Moses singles out Joshua for special attention. He changes his name. “Moses renamed Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua.” [Bamidbar 13:16]

The Targum Yonatan explains that Moses decided to change Hoshea’s name when he saw how humble he was. He was concerned that this admirable quality might lead to weakness. When confronted with the views of the other spies Joshua might not have the courage to oppose them. By adding a yud to his name, which is one of the letters of G-d’s divine name, Moses hoped to provide Joshua with additional strength.

But what about Calev? Why did Moses not feel that he would benefit from some spiritual reinforcement? The answer is a fascinating one and is provided by the text itself. When G-d says He is going to punish the spies for giving a bad report, He adds:

“But my servant, Calev, because a ruach acheret – ‘different spirit’ was with him and he followed Me wholeheartedly, I shall bring him to the land to which he came, and his offspring shall possess it.” [Bamidbar 14:24]

What is this ‘different spirit’ that Calev possesses? Rav Elie Munk (in his commentary, The Call of the Torah) explains that we know from tradition that Calev was married to Miriam, the sister of Moses. She was a woman with the gift of prophecy and, as a young girl in Egypt, had shown extraordinary courage. From tradition, we know her as one of the midwives who resisted Pharaoh’s command to kill the Hebrew baby boys. She was the one who had watched over her baby brother Moses floating on the Nile. She was the one who stepped in with alacrity to offerto find a Hebrew nurse when Pharaoh’s daughter was prepared to rescue Moses. The ‘different spirit’ that Calev enjoyed came from his wife who inspired him to be strong under all circumstances. His marriage to Miriam had drawn out these qualities in his own personality and enabled him to stand firm when the challenge arose.

May we be the one to draw out the best qualities in our partners and friends, so that, if tested, they become the best version of themselves.