OU Torah Insights Project
Yehoshua Bin Nun and Calev Ben Yefuneh united against the scheme of the other
ten spies, they were not of the same mind, or manner, in their opposition.
The differences between them, according to the Chafetz Chaim, reveal two very different ways to present unpopular
positions in the face of a hostile majority.
is clear from the beginning that Yehoshua and Calev will carry themselves
differently. Yehoshua receives a
blessing from Moshe Rabbeinu to save
him from the other spies; Calev does not.
During their tour of the land of Canaan, Calev goes to pray at the
graveside of the Patriarchs in Chevron, while Yehoshua remains with the group.
Finally, at the end of the episode, Calev is singled out for
maintaining a different spirit. No such praise is given to Yehoshua.
In his book, Guarding the Tongue, the Chafetz Chaim offers two ways to fight against a popular consensus: One can fight it constantly and openly, or one can bide his time silently, waiting for the right moment to arise, and then strike decisively.
are, he says, advantages and dangers
to both methods. An open and loud
opposition offers continual protection against any influence from the
majority. At the same time, the majority knows where the opposition stands,
will seek to suppress it.
On the other hand, a
silent opposition, while safer, is also vulnerable to inner erosion and even a
collapse in resolve.
who was an open opponent, needed special protection from the other spies, and
therefore received a blessing from Moshe. Calev, however, was a silent
opponent, and therefore needed a reservoir of inner strength, which is why he
went to pray at the graveside of the Patriarchs. Their legacy represented the
inner strength Calev would need.
the delivery of their opposition was different.
Yehoshua cried out against the spies, but he was ineffective.
His opposition was expected, and the spies were able to dismiss him as
the lone angry man.
report, however, came as a surprise. He had an attentive audience, because he
was expected to deliver the final blow to Yehoshuas position.
This is why his support of Yehoshua, brought about a desperate attempt
by the spies to prove their point with a fusillade of slander against the
Chafetz Chaim points out that
sometimes the Torah mentions Yehoshua first and sometimes it mentions Calev
first. Although Yehoshua was the
main student of Moshe and succeeded him as leader, Calev is still mentioned
first at times to emphasize that both approaches are valid.
loud, predictable opposition may be the way for some, but a quiet, directed
opposition is more appropriate for others.
Feldman is rav of Congregation Emek Beracha, formerly known as the Palo Alto
Orthodox Minyan, in Palo Alto, California.