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by Mordecai Kornfeld
of Har Nof, Jerusalem
Founder of the Dafyomi Advancement Forum

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Parashat Shelach 5757


As for my servant Kalev, since he was of a different spirit and he chose to follow me I will bring him to the land to which he came (when he spied the Land of Israel) and his children will conquer it. [Rashi: Chevron (the city which Kalev visited while traveling with the spies -- see Rashi 13:22) will be given to him as his portion of the land.]

(Bamidbar 14:24)

Why was Kalev singled out in this verse as the one who "was of a different spirit?" Didn't Yehoshua also follow the words of Hashem and refuse to go in the evil ways of the other spies? Shouldn't he also have been praised and rewarded independently, just as Kalev was?

The Alschich (16th century Safed) suggests that this question can be answered through a deeper understanding of the words of the verse. The conventional understanding (see Rabbeinu Bachye) of the words "he was of a different spirit," is that Kalev was not of the same spirit as the other spies; he chose to trust fully in Hashem's promise that the land will be theirs. The Alschich, however, proposes that these words mean exactly the opposite. Kalev was rewarded because he was *originally* of a different spirit, i.e., of an *evil* spirit, and was almost swept up in the counsel of the spies. However, Kalev later *changed* his spirit, conquering his evil inclination and refusing to join the spies in their evil plot.

Yehoshua, on the other hand, never entertained any evil thoughts. Moshe Rabbeinu had prayed for his pupil Yehoshua before sending him out with the other spies, and Moshe blessed him that he should have no desire at all to sin (Rashi 13:16). (Even without Moshe's blessing, how could Yehoshua even consider rebelling against his mentor to whom he was so closely attached, as in Bamidbar 33:4)? That is why Kalev was singled out as being "of a different spirit," and why he was rewarded with the city of Chevron. (Alschich 14:22 -- see also Ohr Hachaim and Malbim 14:24.)


We may add that it now becomes clear why specifically the city of Chevron was the proper reward for Kalev's behaviour. The city of Chevron was noted for the unusual might of its gargantuan occupants, the "Bnai Ha'anak" (Bamidbar 13:22). The Torah makes a point of telling us that the spies started their Israel tour with the city of Chevron, home of the Bnai Ha'anak. Undoubtedly, this demonstrated that they already had unworthy intentions. They had decided to discourage the Jewish People from entering Eretz Yisrael and they were looking for ways to give the Jewish People a disheartening report. News of the Bnai Ha'anak would be enough to scare off even the most stout-hearted of warriors.

When the Jewish People eventually took over and divided Eretz Yisrael, not all of the Shevatim conquered the inhabitants of their allotted portions. They let them be, for fear of the military prowess of the Canaanite natives. If so, there certainly was reason for concern that the tribe allotted Chevron would be intimidated by the mighty Bnai Ha'anak, and would leave the city unconquered. It was therefore appropriate that Kalev, who had proven his valor in face of the Bnai Ha'anak and who had remained undaunted by their power, should be granted Chevron as his portion in Eretz Yisrael. He certainly would follow through with conquering his portion of the land!

Yehoshua, on the other hand, never had been of "a different spirit." He had only showed his valor under the influence of Moshe Rabbeinu's blessing and tutelage. Since Moshe was destined to pass away before the Jewish People entered the Land of Israel, there would be nothing to deter him from being intimidated by the Bnai Ha'anak after entering Eretz Yisrael.


Hashem praised Kalev in the verse with which we began by calling him "my servant, Kalev." This is an extraordinary praise; a praise the Torah normally reserves for the most righteous of people, such as Avraham Avinu, the first of our forefathers (Bereishit 26:24) and Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest of the prophets (Bamidbar 12:7). What did Kalev have in common with Avraham and Moshe?

The Alschich's words answer this as well (as the Ohr Hachayim hints in his commentary on this verse). Avraham Avinu's ultimate test was to sacrifice his son at Hashem's request. Killing his only son was against every natural tendency of Avraham's. Aside from his love for his only son Yitzchak, whose birth did not come easily, Avraham's very nature was to show kindness and mercy to all who dealt with him. If he could bring himself to slaughter his son out of his love for Hashem, this demonstrates that he was able to conquer all of his personal desires and emotions for the service of Hashem (see Kol Eliyahu, #17). This is the sign of the true "servant," who gives precedence to the will of his master over his own will. Because he to conducted himself in such a manner, Avraham was the true "servant of Hashem."

Similarly, Moshe Rabbeinu conquered his personal desires and gave precedence to the will of Hashem over his own natural impulses. The Ohr Hachaim on Devarim 33:1 tells us that Moshe is referred to as "Ish Ha'elokim" ("The man of G-d"), because his modesty and good traits (for which he is referred to as "Ish"- a perfect man) were not natural to him, but rather came to him through his fear of Hashem ("Elokim" -- The basis for this analysis seems to be in Yalkut Shimoni #739). Through his fear of heaven, Moshe overcame his natural tendencies. Perhaps this is why he, too, is referred to as a "servant" of Hashem.

Kalev also had to struggle intensely with his natural impulses and desires (his "different spirit," as mentioned in this verse) in order to resist sinning along with the spies. Therefore he, too, joined the ranks of those who were called "Hashem's servant."

This, then, is what the verse means when it states, "And *my servant* Kalev, since he was *of a different spirit* and he chose to follow me...." Because he rejected his original spirit, he deserves to be called, "My servant!

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