Better the Second Time Around

 Dedicated to the memory of Louis Levine z"l, Baruch Aryeh ben Avraham Halevi on his fifth Yahrzeit, 19th Sivan

Many similarities and differences can be found in the stories of the spies in Parshat Shlach and the Haftara in Yehoshua 2:1-24.


Parshat Shlach, Bamidbar 13:1-3 begins with the words: “God spoke to Moshe saying: Send forth men , if you please and let them spy out the Land of C’naan that I give to B’nai Yisrael, one man each from his father’s tribe shall you send, every one a leader among them. Moshe sent them forth from the wilderness of Paran at God’s command, they were all distinguished men, heads of B’nai Yisrael.”


The Haftara states: “Yehoshua bin Nun dispatched from Shittim two men, spies, secretly saying, go observe the Land and Jericho


Out of the twelve “distinguished men” in Parshat Shlach, only two ended up reporting on the land in a “distinguished manner”, the rest of the men spoke negatively about the Land. Yehoshua who had been one of the “good” spies on the original mission must have learned from experience and only sent two men this time.


The fact that the names of all of the spies are listed in Bamidbar 13:4-16 may have made the whole mission too public and given these men too much honor which they did not end up deserving. In Yehoshua the mission is done secretly and the Navi never even tells us the names of the spies although Rashi suggests that they were Calev (the only spy aside from Yehoshua on the previous mission who brought back a good report) and Pinchas.


Radak explains that Yehoshua did not want to scare B’nai Yirael and therefore the spies were sent secretly as he knew that there was nothing to worry about.


Moshe’s spies were asked to report on the entire Land, their mission took forty days. Yehoshua’s spies were told to observe the Land and Jericho. When they went to Jericho they were able to get a sense of what was going on in the Land and their mission only lasted for a few days.


In Bamidbar Raba 15 we learn that Jericho is the key to the Land of Israel. Once Jericho is captured then the whole land is captured.


When the spies that Moshe sent returned they spoke to all of B’nai Yisrael and started with some positive reports and continued with negative reports. Yehoshua’s spies reported directly to him and explained: (Yehoshua 2:24) “For God has given all the Land into our hands; also, all of the inhabitants of the Land have melted before us.”


 Since Yehoshua had been on the first mission and saw everything that went wrong, he was able to learn from the mistakes of the past and tailor the second mission to his own needs without having to get too many people involved.

Rav Yisachar Yaakovson points out that the results were very different as well. Because of the sin in Parshat Shlach, B’nai Yisrael received the punishment of the entire generation having to die in the wilderness. The success of the mission in Yehoshua opened up the doors to the successful conquest and settlement of the Land of Israel.