Monday, November 20, 2006

Spies and Kohanim

In the haftarah of P' Shelach (Yehoshua 2), Rachav twice hides the two spies that Yehoshua sends to Yericho. The first time, she quickly sticks them out of sight when the king demands that she turn them over (to which she responds that they already left), while the second time, she hides them in the flax arranged on her roof as an overnight solution where they can stay until the gates of Yericho open again in the morning and they can escape (although they ended up not even using the gates, as she lets them out through her window, which was located on the wall - perhaps she was only willing to lay herself on the line in this way once they swore to spare her life).

In first instance, rather than using the logical plural object form, וַתִּצְפְּנֵם , similar to the word used in the second instance, וַתִּטְמְנֵם, it instead uses a singular object form, וַתִּצְפְּנוֹ. One explanation given is that in this scenario, she quickly hid each one in a separate place, wherever there was room to fit them, and so the verse uses a singular object form. Yalkut Shim'oni (8) explains that the two spies were Kaleiv and Pinchas, and Pinchas did not require hiding, since he was able to make himself invisible. An interesting point, though, is that Pinchas did not claim that he had this ability due to his being the great Pinchas, but rather because he was a kohein, and, according to the verse in our own haftarah (Malachi 2:7), a kohein is analogous to a mal'ach, who can make himself invisible at will. I found this to be an interesting additional drasha on this verse, besides the more well-known one that only one who is on the spiritual level of a mal'ach can teach Torah.

On a side note, the navi makes a point of using two different words when referring to the two different forms of hiding. It's interesting, therefore, that the Yalkut Shim'oni explains the word ותצפנו as נטלה אותן להטמינם, connecting the two words together, saying that the former word meant that she took action to more securely hide them but apparently did not have time, so hid (one of) them quickly, and only afterwards succeeded in hiding the two of them.

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