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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jericho and Joshua, Why Did the Walls Come Tumbling Down?

This Shabbat I gave the class to the longest running Torah shiur lesson in Shiloh, twenty-nine years.  Our Women's Class, aka שיעור נשים Shiur Nashim is given by a different person every week, male, female, rabbi, layman.  And our group consists of women of various ages from all backgrounds, all corners of the world.  Since I'm taking three Tanach, Bible courses in Matan, including Al haPerek, an independent-guided study program I've volunteered to treat my friends to some of the riches I'm now learning.

In Al haPerek we're still studying Joshua, which tells of the entrance to and conquest of the Land of Israel by Bnai Yisrael, the twelve tribes of the Jewish People.  I decided to base my shiur on the questions we received for Chapter 6.

The language of the shiur  was Hebrew, and some of the shiur is lost in translation.  This post will just have a bit of what I said.   I'll just ask you to look at the text to see which words are repeated.

ד וְשִׁבְעָה כֹהֲנִים יִשְׂאוּ שִׁבְעָה שׁוֹפְרוֹת הַיּוֹבְלִים, לִפְנֵי הָאָרוֹן, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי, תָּסֹבּוּ אֶת-הָעִיר שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים; וְהַכֹּהֲנִים, יִתְקְעוּ בַּשּׁוֹפָרוֹת. 4 And seven priests shall bear seven rams' horns before the ark; and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the horns.
ה וְהָיָה בִּמְשֹׁךְ בְּקֶרֶן הַיּוֹבֵל, בשמעכם (כְּשָׁמְעֲכֶם) אֶת-קוֹל הַשּׁוֹפָר, יָרִיעוּ כָל-הָעָם, תְּרוּעָה גְדוֹלָה; וְנָפְלָה חוֹמַת הָעִיר, תַּחְתֶּיהָ, וְעָלוּ הָעָם, אִישׁ נֶגְדּוֹ. 5 And it shall be, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the horn, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall go up every man straight before him.'
ו וַיִּקְרָא יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן-נוּן, אֶל-הַכֹּהֲנִים, וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם, שְׂאוּ אֶת-אֲרוֹן הַבְּרִית; וְשִׁבְעָה כֹהֲנִים, יִשְׂאוּ שִׁבְעָה שׁוֹפְרוֹת יוֹבְלִים, לִפְנֵי, אֲרוֹן יְהוָה. 6 And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them: 'Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven rams' horns before the ark of the LORD.'

Lots of שבע sheva seven.  Round and round Jericho seven times, seven priests and seven shofrot, rams horns.  Joshua ordered the people to join in and shout.  And the walls came tumbling down. When it comes to Jewish liberation of the Land of Israel, miracles continue in the Land of Israel.  So many times I've been taught that entering the Land of Israel heralds the end of "unnatural" life, like the daily receiving of the mahn, but until this day, G-d has been helping us with our wars.

כ וַיָּרַע הָעָם, וַיִּתְקְעוּ בַּשֹּׁפָרוֹת; וַיְהִי כִשְׁמֹעַ הָעָם אֶת-קוֹל הַשּׁוֹפָר, וַיָּרִיעוּ הָעָם תְּרוּעָה גְדוֹלָה, וַתִּפֹּל הַחוֹמָה תַּחְתֶּיהָ וַיַּעַל הָעָם הָעִירָה אִישׁ נֶגְדּוֹ, וַיִּלְכְּדוּ אֶת-הָעִיר. 20 So the people shouted, and [the priests] blew with the horns. And it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the horn, that the people shouted with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.

Jericho was in our hands without shooting an arrow, throwing a stone, stabbing with a sword. The initial territorial victory needed no physical weapon. We just needed to work with G-d.  But that wasn't enough. To hold the Land we had to do more.

כא וַיַּחֲרִימוּ, אֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר בָּעִיר, מֵאִישׁ וְעַד-אִשָּׁה, מִנַּעַר וְעַד-זָקֵן; וְעַד שׁוֹר וָשֶׂה וַחֲמוֹר, לְפִי-חָרֶב. 21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, both young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.

Yes, not very "pc."  The only Jericho residents to be saved were Rachav and her family.  That was her reward for saving Joshua's two spies.  In addition, Jericho wasn't to be rebuilt.  It was to stay destroyed as a reminder.


And something else...
The root שבע shin-vet-ayin also means oath שבועה shvu'ah.  Where do we see, today in modern day, a seven time circling?  At a wedding, the bride circles her husband seven times.  The כתובה Ketuba is known as a "marriage contract," but in actuality it isn't a contract, because only the groom signs it, not the bride.  It's a written pledge/oath/promise by the husband to his wife.  Her circling of her husband seven שבע sheva times symbolizes her oath שבועה shvu'ah in return to him.

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