My Name is Caleb | Parashat Sh’lach

I was there with Joshua when we saw the Promised Land. I heard the other tribal leaders report back to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community[1]. We all saw the same land, but what they saw was different. They did see a land flowing with milk and honey, just like what Joshua and I saw. But where we saw victory, they saw defeat. They said there was no possibility that we could conquer it because the cities were fortified, the people were giants and were stronger than we could ever be[2]. I couldn’t let their voices alone be heard. I called out to the people, “Let us, by all means, go up, and we shall gain possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.[3]


The people wouldn’t listen. They cried and bemoaned how God had led them out of Egypt only to have them killed upon entering this so-called Promised Land[4]. I could never understand how, after all of the miracles that God performed for us from the plagues in Egypt, to splitting the Red Sea, and even simply producing water in the middle of a wilderness, how could they not believe that God would help us and be there, too? I went from person to person, trying to convince them that the land was good. I knew that if they wouldn’t stop crying something bad would happen to them, but they wouldn’t listen. Defeated, I thought to myself, “If they wouldn’t listen to God, why would they listen to me?”


To hear the decision proclaimed that all who served as slaves in Egypt would never make it to the Promised Land was shocking. Then, to see them die in the wilderness was devastating[5]. I never recovered.


Joshua was a different story. He gained personal strength and emerged as the leader. I was so proud to see him lead. He stood just as strong the very first day that he took leadership as the day when we returned with our report. I hid.


My hiding took different forms. First, I tried to change my name and the names of those around me. At first, I was Caleb son of Jephunneh[6]. Later, I was Caleb son of Hezron[7]. I tried to hide my heritage by changing my wife’s name first to Azubah and then to Efrat[8]. But people figured out who she really was. Initially, people didn’t recognize her because of her illness, so Azubah was a fitting name because everyone abandoned her. I loved her and I was with her as she recovered from the skin affliction with which she had been struck. As she returned to health, her beauty returned. It was as if curtains finally opened and revealed her true beauty which is why I would sometimes call her Jeriot. But, no matter how many times we changed her name and tried to escape our true identities, our neighbors would discover who we were. It was particularly difficult for my wife as they would point and say, “Miriam! Miriam! Sister of Moses![9]


Joshua sought glory. I sought quiet. It was not easy. As we entered the land, I was given my choice of where to live. I chose Hebron[10]. I had been there once before. When we spied the land, we traveled in a group for the majority of the time, but I broke away. I couldn’t stay away from Hebron. I needed to visit the graves of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There, I prayed for my fellow leaders not to be led astray by each other. I prayed that they would have the strength to speak the truth when we returned to our people[11]. My prayer went unanswered. I learned from that moment that prayer cannot change the hearts of people. Prayer could only change me. My prayer gave me the strength to stand up and speak my truth. As a reward, I get to live out the rest of my life in Hebron.


There is an irony in my story. When I first came to Hebron to pray, I was alone. I prayed by myself. But now, in order to pray, you need a minyan, a gathering of ten people to make the prayer valid. Why the number ten? Because of the ten other scouts who went out to spy the land. It is the ten of them, the ones who opposed God, who are needed to pray. Not Joshua and not me. We are not counted for the minyan[12].

I am settled now. Not just in the Promised Land, but in my soul. In this place, I am connected to my ancestors and I can finally be at peace in our people’s story. With power and might, Joshua achieved greatness. My path was different. With faith and on the merit of my ancestors, I stood up to those who desired to lead us astray. I had my moment of greatness and it was enough. My hope is to live a beautiful life, to live the values I learned from my brother-in-law, Moses. To be humble. To live simply. To look out for the goodness in others and to be satisfied with what I helped to create.



[1] Numbers 13:26

[2] Numbers 13:27-33

[3] Numbers 13:30

[4] Numbers 14:1-3

[5] Numbers 14:23

[6] Numbers 14:6

[7] I Chronicles 2:18

[8] I Chronicles 2:18-19

[9] Sotah 12a

[10] Judges 1:20

[11] Rashi on Num. 13:12

[12] Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:6



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