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Yehoshua Reflections

Chapter 6, Verses 5-9

(6, 5)

"And when you will hear the extended shofar blast the entire nation should shout a great victorious call and the city's wall will fall in its place and the people will go directly into the city."

Hashem revealed to Yehoshua that the people's shout would ultimately bring down Yericho's mighty wall. However, their shout would be preceded by a long shofar blast. What was the purpose of this extended blast and why did the Jewish people shout triumph even before the victory actually happened?

A similar blast transpired after the Jewish people received the Torah. They were granted permission to approach the mountain only after an extended shofar blast. Rashi explains that the long blast indicated Hashem's royal exit from the area. At that moment the Divine presence ascended from the mountain to the heavens, thereby permitting the Jewish people to approach the mountain. A similar message was now being conveyed through this shofar blast. It also reflected Hashem's travel: this time Hashem's travel into Yericho. In addition to Hashem's constant assistance in battle, He wished to acknowledge the reclaiming of His land for Hi speople. Eretz Yisroel lay in foreign Canaanite hands for five hundred years and the time had finally arrived for her to be reclaimed. Hashem therefore announced His arrival to the land and reclaimed it through His majestic entry to Yericho.

Yet, the actual conquest was to be done by the people themselves. They would be the ones to shout and it would be their triumphant sound that would bring down the wall. This was to impress upon the people their role in these wars and to reassure them of Hashem's absolute committment to assist them. However, it is interesting to note the Scripture's description of the people's shout. Hashem called for a "truah," the familiar sound of the Rosh Hashana shofar blast. In fact Targum Yonasan translates this truah sound in the very same manner that our Sages understand the shofar sound of Rosh Hashana. This suggests a strong similarity between the people's shout and the Rosh Hashana shofar blast. Nachmanides explains that the truah sound reflects Hashem's majesty. Rosh Hashana is the time to recognize Hashem's sovereignty over ourselves as well as over the entire universe. When recognizing Hashem's majestic arrival, Dovid Hamelech states, "Sound the truah before Hashem the king"{Tehilim 98:6). This teaches us that the truah sound is connected to the recognition of Hashem's majesty (see Nachmanides, essay on Rosh Hashana). In this same manner the Jewish people were recognizing Hashem's majestic arrival. But, instead of the ritual shofar blast, the Jewish people proclaimed this fact with their own voice. They announced at the tops of their lungs Hashem's arrival, giving total recognition to Hashem's claim to His land. Once this was expressed, the battle was over and the wall of Yericho came tumbling down.

(6, 6)

"And Yehoshua the son of Nun called the Kohanim and told them to carry the ark of the covenant and seven Kohanim shall carry seven ram shofars beforethe ark of Hashem"

The Scriptures refer to the holy ark in two different ways, as "the ark of the covenant" and "the ark of Hashem." When discussing the kohanim carrying the ark, it is called the ark of the covenant, representing the treaty between Hashem and His people. The ark contained the Torah which reflected Hashem's commitment to His cherished people as well as their commitment of perfect service to Him. This perfect bond would soon reach its fullest expression with Hashem settling His people in the Promised land. Unlike the experience at the Jordan, performed by Hashem, the miraculous conquest of Yericho would be performed by the Jewish people themselves. Therefore, the ark is appropriately identified as the ark of the covenant, reflecting the objective soon to be realized.

However, as we have seen, the recognition of Hashem's presence plays a significant role in this miracle. This explains the ark's second dimensionas the ark of Hashem. This recognition will be achieved by the kohanim with shofar in hand who walk before the ark to announce Hashem's arrival. The seven kohanim are therefore appropriately described as walking before the ark of Hashem, alluding to the recognition of the Divine presence which rests atop the ark.

(6, 7)

"And he said to the people, "Pass by and encircle the city and the lead tribe shall pass before the ark of Hashem"

The encircling of the city could be viewed as somewhat symbolic. However, if this were the case, no need would have existed for the strong warriors of Gad and Reuven to lead the march. Apparently this act of encircling was an actual act of conquest which called for the lead role of these tribes. They promised Moshe Rabbeinu to lead the Jewish people in all their acts of conquest and this one was no exception. Although this march cannot be explained on a physical level, it seems to have assured the Jewish people of their future control of the city. The encircling reflected that the city was already theirs, locked between their hands. This encouragement called for the lead role of the mighty tribes of Reuven and Gad, who were always prepared with full confidence, to lead the Jewish people to victory.

(6, 8)

"And it was in accordance to what Yehoshua told the people and seven Kohanim carrying seven ram shofars before Hashem passed in front and blew them and the ark of Hashem's covenant followed."

(6, 9)

"And the lead group walked before the Kohanim, the shofar blowers, and the end tribe walked behind the ark constantly blowing the shofar."

These passages basically tell us in detail that everyone followed their orders with the stress placed on the number seven. Apparently, it was important for the Jewish people to view this miraculous experience through the perspective of seven. One possible approach to this could be the following. From the Jewish perspective the world is basically cycles of six. There are six days to a work week, six years to a work cycle etc. The seventh of each cycle is designated as a time for Hashem - a time to identify things with their true Source. Hashem permits us to produce in His world six days each week but on the seventh we must return it to Him. Similarly, He permits us to produce in His land for six years but on the seventh we must return it to Him. In essence the number seven represents Hashem's display of ownership ownership and rightful claim to everything.

With this thought in mind we can understand the relationship of the number seven to the conquest of Yericho. As we have shown, this first stage of conquest was meant to announce Hashem's claim to His land. Hashem created this land and was therefore entitled to give it to whomever He chose. This first victory was in fact Hashem's expression of sovereignty over His land. The time had finally arrived for Hashem to reclaim His land and Yericho would prove this. What better way could there be to convey this?

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