Moshe Rabbeinu’s passing just before the Bnei Yisroel were about to enter the Holy Land must have come as a terrible blow and shock to everyone. Now, Moshe would be missed more than ever before. They had suffered the great loss of his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam all in the very same year. How could anyone ever replace their rebbi Moshe – a human angle that had been able to enter into Heaven itself? He had been like a father to them for the past forty years. He, and his beloved brother Aaron, and sister Miriam, had preformed countless miracles for them both in Mitzrayim and throughout their travels in the Midbor. They had just witnessed as Moshe, single-handedly, had killed the large giant Og the King of Bashan with one mighty blow of the sword and the other giants he had killed.. And now when they needed him most, he was gone. They felt completely abandoned, lost, all alone.
Who was this Yehoshuah bin Nun who Moshe had appointed to replace him? Many may have felt that he was an unproven leader who lacked the great experience and great leadership qualities of their master Moshe. Could they rely on him to lead them in battle against the mighty kings that ruled the land? Could he, too, perform miracles as did his great master Moshe? The fear of the unknown can be very great. Many must certainly have had their doubts. Even Yehoshua himself surely felt it an impossible task to fill his great rebbi’s shoes and needed Hashem to boost his confidence and encourage him. He knew all too well that the job was not an easy one and he remembered all too clearly the many rebellions and difficulties his rebbi Moshe had gone through during the past forty years. The job was certainly not one he looked forward to. There were times that his own rebbi Moshe felt that it was far too difficult and wanted to give it up but Hashem would not allow it.
Hashem encouraged him and told him that he would be with him just as He had been with his rebbi Moshe. He must strengthen himself and would soon see great miracles as he had seen in bygone times. However, Hashem warned him not to veer even one iota from the mitzvos Moshe had taught him. Only if you are constantly immersed in Torah study will I be at your constant side.
During the thirty days the Jews mourned for the loss of their dear rebbi, 3,000 laws that Moshe had taught them were already forgotten. Fortunately, they had amongst them the great scholar Osniel ben Knas who was able to retrieve them with his brilliant Torah scholarship.
They still had the River Yarden to cross, and then they would finally be in the Promised Land. The journey had taken much longer than originally intended. Because of their sins, the short journey that could have taken only a few days or at most a few months had stretched out to an incredible forty years and nearly all those who had left Mitzrayim had died in the Midbor. It was a new generation that had been born in the Midbor and had not personally witnessed all the great miracles that took place inMitzrayim that was now finally about to enter the Promised Land. Some of them must have looked at their newly appointed leader with great skepticism wondering if he was capable of fulfilling the great task Moshe had delegated to him.
It was on the 7th day of the month of Nissan that Yehoshuah gathered together all the Jewish officers and told them to go around the camp and tell everyone to begin preparing for their journey. In three days they would be crossing the Yarden into the Promised Land. They still had mon left over, which miraculously didn’t spoil as it usually did.
Yehoshuah also reminded the tribes of Reuvain, Gad, and half of Menashe who had already received part of their territory on the side of the Yarden where they now camped, of their obligation to join the rest of the tribes in their war against the Canaanite kings who awaited them after crossing into their land. They were to leave their wives, children, and cattle behind and cross the Yarden along with everyone else.
The tribes responded that they didn’t need any reminder and would obey Yehoshuah just as they did Moshe their rebbe. “Anyone who dares to ignore you will be punished by death,” they told him.
During the thirty days of mourning, Yehoshuah had sent two spies into Eretz Canaan in order to obtain an accurate description of what was happening so that he could plan accordingly. He choose Kalaiv who was already quite familiar with the land and also the great tzadik Pinchas, Aaron’s grandson who had received fame for having killed Zimmri and had been responsible for stopping the terrible death plague that had been spreading around the camp. He knew that these two great tzadikim could be fully trusted and that Hashem would stand at their side.
Their mission was not to find out what kind of land it was, since they already had a full report from the previous spies who had entered it nearly forty years ago. Their mission was one of intelligence gathering and nothing more. Yehoshua told them to disguise themselves as ordinary peddlers selling pots and pans and to pretend they were deaf so that people will not be careful to talk in front of them and also in order to prevent them from getting into a conversation with others. The less they talk the better. “Also make sure to check out the city of Yericho since this is the first city we will come to after we cross the Yarden and it’s probably there that all the kings have set up their armies from preventing us to enter,” Yehoshua told them.
Kalev and Pinchas set out on their dangerous mission with full confidence and trust in Hashem. They decided that the best place to pick up the local gossip was at the fancy inn of a very special smart, intelligent, and beautiful woman named Rochav. Many distinguished people and government officials would frequent her inn and that was certainly the best place to hear the latest news and gossip and learn more about what the people were planning to do about the imminent invasion of the Jews.
Rochav obviously knew her customers quite well and despite their clever disguise, she immediately recognized these two foreigners sitting in her inn for what they were. She treated them very nicely and with great respect and assigned them a nice and comfortable room in which to spend the night.
It seems, however, that there were others whose suspicions they must have aroused and soon the local police came looking for them at Rochov’s inn. They politely informed Rochov that the two strangers who were staying in her inn were in all probability spies and asked her if she knew where they were. Rochov, who seemed to have a woman’s intuition already had suspected that they were Jewish spies by the holy way they had acted, and decided that she would try to save them.
“Just wait here as I check and see where they are,” she told the officers.
She quickly entered Kalev and Pinchas‘s room and told them that the police were waiting downstairs to arrest them and therefore they must quickly hide. She took them to the roof and hid them under the piles of flax which lay there to be dried.
She then went downstairs and told the police officers that she had indeed seen the two men they were looking for but it seems that they had already checked out and left. “They can’t be too far away and I’m sure if you give quick chase you may still be able to catch them,” she said apologetically.
Later that night when the coast was clear, she went up to speak to them. “Listen to me my friends,” she said. “You have nothing to hide from me and I’m here to save you. I’m fully aware of all the miracles you’re G-d has done for your people. I am also certain that your G-d will give you this land. All the government people of this land stay at my hotel and I’m fully aware of how much they fear the impending disaster. I know that there is no power on earth that can oppose your great G-d. In fact, I, too, desire to become a member of your great nation. I wish to ask you for just one favor in return for having saved your lives. Please, I beg of you, to spare the lives of my parents, brothers and sisters. I plead with you to just grant me this one request. After all, I’m risking my life on your behalf.”
“Your request will be granted,” was their immediate reply. “However, you must do exactly as we tell you or we cannot guarantee your safety. You must tie a red thread on the outside of your window and make sure your family stays inside the room. If you reveal this secret to anyone else, then we will renege on our promise to save you.”
Fortunately, her inn was built on top of the city wall, and therefore, she gave them a heavy rope which they could use to climb down the wall to safety. She advised them to hide out in the forest for the next three days before returning. This way they would avoid the ongoing intensive search for them.
Pinchos and Kolev followed her clever advice and soon returned back to camp safely. They told Yehoshuah of their miraculous escape and how frightened the people were of the their imminent arrival. This report must have been very encouraging and gave Yehoshuah added strength and courage for what lay ahead.
On the 9th day of Nissan, only one day before the Bnei Yisroel would cross the Yarden River, everyone got up bright and early in order to go from their encampment atShittim to the shores of the Yarden.
Early on the 10th day of Nissan, Yehoshuah once again instructed the officers to spread the following message. “As long as Moshe was alive, the clouds of glory led the way. Now, however, the holy Aron shall lead the way. We must follow the Aron but keep a respectful safe distance from it. We must still remain no further than 2000amos from it. Upon reaching the Yarden, the four Leviyim who are carrying the Aron should give it to the Kohanim who will carry it across the Yarden.”
The Aaron of Hashem now led the way and was followed with the coffin that held Yosef’s bones that they had been carrying through the desert for the past forty years as well as the coffin of Yehuda. It would be in the great merit of Yosef’s coffin that the Yarden would now split.
As the Bnei Yisroel reached the banks of the Yarden River, the waters were full and it flooded over upon its banks. However, the Kohanim who now carried tha Arondidn’t stop for a moment and continued marching right on. The moment their feet touched the water an unbelievable miracle took place. Instead of continuing its flow downstream, the waters suddenly split end kept flowing straight upward into the air forming a giant wall to their side. There was now a wide dry path in front of them, allowing them to cross to the other side. The wall grew taller and taller until it was visible for many miles. Not only did the Bnei Yisroel witness this great miracle but so did all the many Canaani people who stood on the other side.
The Kohanim remained standing at their point of entry waiting for everyone to cross over to the other side.
Hashem now commanded Yehoshuah to have twelve men lift one giant stone each from the river-bed and carry it with him to the place they were going to be staying. There they were to set them up as a monument so that later generations would remember the great miracle that happened on this great day. Yehoshuah was also commanded to set up another twelve stones on the very place where this great miracle had occurred.
When all was done, the Kohanim stepped back and the waters of the Yarden came crashing down with enormous force. Suddenly the Aaron went soaring into the air carrying the Kohanim along with it to the other side. The Bnei Yisroel stood aghast at the great miracle that they had just witnessed. Yehoshuah’s prestige suddenly went soaring.
Instead of stopping to rest, the Bnei Yisroel continued their journey for a distance of 60 mil until they reached the two mountains named Har Gerizim and Har Evol. There, Yehoshua built a Mizbeach and offered sacrifices of thanks to Hashem for all the miracles they had just witnessed.
They also put down the twelve stones they had taken out of the Yarden and began chiseling out the words of the Torah on them. They also translated the entire Torah into all seventy languages which they also chiseled out on these stones. They covered them with lime so that they would last for many years.
The Shevotim were now divided into two groups. Some stood on the mountain of Avol, while the others stood on the opposing mountain of Grizim. The Kohanim and theLeviyim stood in the middle. Yehosua turned to those who stood on the Mount Grizim and repeated the blessings that Moshe had said they would be rewarded with if they fulfilled the Torah and they all answered Amen. He now turned to those who stood on Mount Gerizim and repeated the curses that would chas v’shalom come upon them if they failed to keep the Torah’s commandments. They all answered Amen.
After this, the Bnei Yisroel dismantled the mizbeach and carried it along with the twelve large stones to Gilgal where they set up camp.
Yehoshuah now commanded all those who were not properly g’maled to make a bris mila. Except for Shevet Levi who were mal themselves even in the Midbor, the others were now mal themselves properly. They named the place Gilgol which means that they had now removed their shame from themselves by making a proper bris.
Here in Gilgal, they set up the Mishkon and made the second Korban Pesach since they had left Mitzrayim. They had only done it once before as they were traveling in the desert.
On the second day of Pesach, the 16th of Nissan, they cut some fresh barley they saw growing in the nearby fields and brought it for a Korban Omer. This now permitted them to eat from the new wheat that had grown during the winter season. Fortunately, the mon had lasted them until this day.