Friday, May 31, 2013

an obligation to speak out

Va’yamusu ha’anashim motzi’eiy dibas ha’aretz ra’ah… v’Yehoshua bin Nun v’Kalev ben Yefuneh chayu min ha’anashim ha’heim h’holchim la’sur es ha’aretz.” (14:37-38)  This entire second pasuk seems redundant.  Once the Torah mentions the punishment given to the other meraglim, to the exclusion of Yehoshua and Kalev, isn’t it obvious that they went unpunished?  There are many answers – I just want to share two:

Some see a hint here to the idea in Chazal that a tzadik can receive the portion in olam ha’ba of a rasha, and vice versa, the rasha can receive the bad lot that might have been in store for the tzadik.  The pasuk is not just telling us that Yehoshua and Kalev went unpunished, but more than that – they received the reward that was in store for the other meraglim had they not gone astray.

How does this work -- how can I get someone else’s portion of olam ha’ba?  R’ Ahron Kotler (Mishnas R’ Ahron) explains that it’s always easier to do mitzvos and learn Torah when you see your neighbor doing the same, and vica versa.  The tzadik who overcomes the negative influence of his neighbor acting wrongly deserves double reward – the reward for the good itself, as well as the reward for not being pulled down by the influence of his neighbor.  The rasha deserves a double punishment – punishment for the wrong itself, and punishment for the influence it has on others.  (Let’s remind ourselves of his hesber in a few week’s when we get to Chazal’s derasha on “nachamu nachamu” that there was a double nechama for the double sin that caused galus and we ask ourselves what this idea of a double sin means.)

The Ohr haChaim writes that surely there were tzadikim other than Yehoshua and Kalev in Bnei Yisrael.  Yet, we don’t find that these other tzadikim were spared punishment – they too, like the rest of the dor hamidbar, died before reaching Eretz Yisrael.  The extra pasuk comes to tell us that it was only the fact that Yehoshua and Kalev were “min ha’anashim ha’heim” and could have been part of the cabal, but instead took an independent stand l’shem shamayim, going against the grain, that saved them. 

In other words, when there is a moment of crisis, you can be the biggest tzadik, but that’s not going to save you from punishment if all you do is sit on the sidelines and watch.  Sometimes there is an obligation to protest, and I would add, even if, as in the case of Kalev and Yehoshua, there are greater people (like Moshe and Aharon) in charge, and even if it comes to naught. 


  1. One could add that this is why the righteous of Yerushalayim were killed during the first Churban.

  2. R' Chaim - ( I know this is off topic) have you by any chance given shiurim on the Mishnas Yomi website?
    If so, Yasher Koach - I have benefited :)

  3. I haven't done so - maybe someone else with a similar name.

  4. check out
    must be :)

  5. To this i saw a vort of the kotzker in the r shlomo freifeld book. He asked why was there such a horrible gzeira of army draft in russia. Says the kotzker, cause when nepolian and his army marched through, there were parades, and yidden were there. They didnt protest. Yes they werent part of the army but if they didnt protest its considered they are in it. and if they're in it, then mmeila they need to be inlisted.