“We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” — Joshua 2:10–11
The Torah portion for this week is Shelach, which means “send,” from Numbers 13:1–15:41, and the Haftorah is from Joshua 2:1–24.
Mosab Hassan Yousef is the oldest son of Sheik Hassan Yousef, founding leader of Hamas, a terrorist organization responsible for countless suicide bombings and other deadly attacks against Israel. Mosab was raised in Hamas, and by the time he was a young adult, he was an integral part of the organization. Yet, today, Mosab is a devout Christian living in America. After asking some serious questions and studying the Bible, Mosab did a complete turnaround and became a spy for Israel. He changed his faith, his values, and his entire life.
Stories like Mosab’s grip us because it is unusual for a person to change so drastically. It’s difficult for people to change even when the truth is staring them in the eye. Yet as difficult as it may be to change our ways, history has proven time and again that the consequences of not changing are far worse.
In this week’s Torah reading we read about the spies that Moses sent to scout out the land of Israel. In the Haftorah, we read about the spies that Joshua sent to do the same. When these two men enter Jericho, we are told that they stay in the house of a prostitute name Rahab. We aren’t told much about Rahab other than her profession and her role of saving the spies by hiding them from the king of Jericho. However, the Jewish sages teach that Rahab ultimately married Joshua. The lowly prostitute became the wife of the leader of Israel.
What caused Rahab, or anyone for that matter, to make such a drastic change?
Rahab herself shared the answer. She told the spies: “We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea . . .” Rahab explained that the people of Canaan had heard all about the children of Israel and the great things that God did for them. She explained that everyone was afraid of Israel because they knew that “the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” This is why Rahab wanted to join the children of Israel. She recognized that their God was the only true God.
So now the question really is: Why didn’t everyone else do the same?
The answer is because knowing something and doing something are two very different things. Rahab acted on her beliefs, even though it meant risking her life while saving the spies. But because she took action, she saved herself, her family, and generations to come.
It is imperative that we translate our beliefs into actions. Doing so can be challenging, but can ultimately make the difference between life and death – both in this world and in the next.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President