The haftarah for Shelach tells about the spies Joshua sent to Jericho, to do espionage in the land of Canaan.1

Joshua sent two spies and, they came to the home of a woman who was a zonah named Rahab. Rashi explains that the word zonah here means an innkeeper who sold food, related to the word mazon (others follow the more common translation of “prostitute”). They were spotted entering her home, and the king sent messengers to get them. Rahab hid them on the roof and told the messengers that the two men had left. She suggested that they go after them, which they did immediately, thereby saving the lives of the two spies. She told them: “I know that G‑d has given the land to you, and that your dread has fallen upon us, and all the inhabitants of the land have melted away because of you.”2 She asked them to spare her family when they invade, and they gave her their word. As a sign, they told her to put a red string in her window, and everyone in her home would be spared. She lowered them down a rope from her window, which was built into the city’s wall, and suggested that they hide in the mountains for three days, until the search party returns. They took her advice and hid for three days. They then returned to Joshua and informed him of their findings.

The connection to the parshah is that Shelach tells about the men Moses sent to check out Canaan.

This brings up some questions, however. The haftarah is meant to resemble the parshah, but the haftarah is very different and in some ways completely the opposite of the parshah.

First, the story of the 12 men that Moses sent ends to the detriment of the Jewish people—the entire generation was punished to die in the desert, and not enter the Holy Land. Whereas only good came out of Joshua’s spies.

Second, G‑d didn’t command Moses to send his men, He said: “Send for yourself men.”3 In other words, if you want to send them, go ahead. As far as G‑d was concerned, it was unnecessary. However, it is obvious that Joshua was commanded by G‑d to send the spies because he lived through the fiasco with Moses’ spies, and he certainly wouldn’t have risked repeating that unless he had a direct command from G‑d to send spies.

Third, regarding Moses’ spies, G‑d says: “Send for yourself men and they should inspect the land of Canaan.”4 They are called “men” and told to “inspect” the land—not to spy or search out the land–whereas Joshua’s spies were called “men who were spies.”5 It says that word got to the king that two men came “to search out the land,”6 and that the king sent messengers to Rahab to capture the men because “they came to search out the entire land.” 7 There is no mention of inspection.

Fourth, Moses sent 12 men, while Joshua only sent two.

Fifth, whereas Joshua’s spies were sent in total secrecy as is the normal way in espionage, Moses’s spies were not a secret at all. It was known by all the Jewish people that each tribe had a representative in the group. When they toured Canaan, they made no effort to conceal themselves; they traveled as a conspicuous group, and didn’t split up and secretly check out the different regions of the land.

Sixth, Moses’s men went all over Israel, while Joshua’s spies went only to Jericho. And in Jericho itself, they made it no further than the home of Rahab.

With all these inconsistencies, it is clear that the haftarah is different than the parshah. So why do we read this haftarah with Shelach?

Another question: Every story in the Tanach has an eternal lesson for us. What is the lesson from the stories of the spies?

Why Spy?

There are two reasons to send people to check out a country before invading it. One reason is to seek out the best way of invading it, by finding its weak points, scouting passageways for entry and escape, and to gather information about the people, their abilities, demeanor, etc.

The other reason is not tactical, but rather to see how good the land is. What are its natural resources and positive qualities? This information is needed to boost the morale of the people who will be invading.

In Moses’s case, G‑d was leading them, and He was going to deliver Canaan into their hands. Tactical espionage wasn’t necessary because they knew that they were going to win. Moses wanted to send spies so that the people would hear how good the land was, and that would generate great joy among the nation to want to go up to the land.

For this reason, it was done openly, and every tribe needed to have a representative because they had to hear from their own leader how good it was. Therefore, all 12 men had to tour the whole country to see that it was all good because at that point in time, the tribes didn’t know where in the land they would be settling. They weren’t really spies at all. It wasn’t a mission to seek out the best way of capturing the land; it was more a tour of the land to see the qualities of the land G‑d was giving us.

Even though ultimately the spies scared the people and weakened their resolve to go up and capture the land, they did accomplish the mission of telling them how good the land was. Even though they were punished not to enter the land, they had heard how good it was, and that stayed with them.

Joshua didn’t need to get the people excited about the land; Moses’s spies already accomplished that. His spies were sent to gather information, so it was done in total secrecy, and only two people were sent to be as inconspicuous as possible. Because even though G‑d would be with them, it wasn’t the same as in the time of Moses. They would have to fight real battles; nothing would be handed to them.

When they came to Rahab, she provided them with all the information they needed—that the Canaanites were afraid and their morale was down. It was unnecessary for them to continue.8

Although the stories don’t parallel each other, Joshua’s spies were the continuation and the completion of Moses’s spies. The ultimate goal of both groups was to conquer the land. The first group told the people how good the land was, and the second got the information that lead to the conquering of the land.9

Rashi10 tells us that the two spies that went to Jericho were Caleb and Pinchas. Caleb, together with Joshua, was from the original group of spies that Moses sent. Like Joshua, Caleb didn’t join the 10 spies who gave a bad report, and Joshua knew that he could be trusted. Being the leader of the royal tribe of Judah, he represented all 12 tribes.

The question is: Why did he send Pinchas? Pinchas was a Kohen from the tribe of Levi, which wasn’t counted as one of the 12 tribes. They also didn’t go into battle or receive a portion of the land. They were given over to serve G‑d, and to teach and guide the Jewish people in the ways of G‑d—spiritual pursuits, that was their lot.

Joshua was thinking long-term. Although in the immediate, Levi wasn’t going to receive a portion in the land, in the future when Moshiach comes, they will. The Talmud says: “In the future the land of Israel will be divided into 13 tribes.”11 Why will Levi also have a part of the land? This is because, as the Rambam says: “In those days [of Moshiach] there will be more knowledge, wisdom and truth,”12 so much so that “there will be no involvement in the whole world, but to know G‑d … as it says,13 ‘The world will be full of the knowledge of G‑d, just as the water covers the sea.’ ”14 So the tribe of Levi won’t be busy teaching and guiding, and their having land won’t take away from their holy work. So why should they not be granted a portion of the Holy Land? This is why Pinchas, from the tribe of Levi, was included.15

We are left with one question: What is the eternal message for us in the stories of the spies?

To answer this question, let me take you to a deeper place.

We each have a neshamah (a G‑dly soul) that comes into our bodies and into our animal souls, similar to the spies coming into the land of Canaan. The ultimate goal is to conquer the land and make it holy—to turn Eretz Canaan into Eretz Yisrael. Similarly, we are meant to affect the body and the animal soul, which naturally crave the pleasures of the world, and make them holy to do G‑d’s will.

There are two ways to do this, symbolized by the two sets of spies. In Moses’s time, the Jewish people were at a very high level; they were tzadikim. Their job was to inspect the entire land and the seven nations that lived there. The seven nations symbolize the seven emotional attributes that we each have. The idea here is to inspect your emotional makeup, and if need be, change your attributes to align with G‑d’s will. The problem is that the average person doesn’t have control over their emotions and certainly doesn’t have the ability to change them, and it takes incredible power to make that kind of change. A tzaddik has that power, but most of us are not at that level, how can we make our bodies holy?

That is where Joshua’s spies come in. In Joshua’s time, they weren’t at the level of tzadikim. They only went to Jericho, the entryway to the land of Israel. But change the Jericho, and you will eventually conquer the entire land. Jericho (Yericho) is like the Hebrew word rayach, an “aroma.” In Kabbalistic teaching, aroma refers to the “garments” of the soul, which surround it. You may not be able to change your emotional makeup of your animal soul, but you have the power to change its garments. Just as a garment is an expression of who you are, the garments of the soul are how it expresses itself.

What are the garments of the soul? Thought, speech and action. Speech and action are easier to control than your thoughts since you cannot stop thinking, but you can always choose to think about something else, effectively controlling your thoughts. Change the garments, and eventually, with G‑d’s help, you will be able to change your emotional makeup as well.16

Rahab changed and became a great woman. She converted, married Joshua and eight of her descendants were prophets. Neriah, Baruch, Sheraiah, Machseiah, Jeremiah, Chilkiyah, Chanamel and Shulam were all Kohanim. Chulda the Prophetess was her descendant as well. She is named as one of the four most beautiful women who ever lived, together with Sarah, Abigail and Esther.17

May we merit the completion of our Holy Land, when G‑d will add the land of three more nations, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Dedicated to the memory of Bubby Miriam Friedman, who passed away this week. I grew up across the street from her. She was a special woman who brought up an amazing family of wise rabbis and teachers, great singers, and good and kind people. I know how much she was loved. May the entire extended Friedman family be consoled.