Rashi to Sh'lach 13:16 notes that Moshe prayed that God save Y'hoshua from the other spies' plot. This is a paraphrase of a g'mara (Sotah 34b) which implies strongly that Moshe did not similarly pray for Kalev.

We know Kalev and Y'hoshua were the only two of the spies who did not participate in the other spies' bearing bad news about the land. (See Sh'lach chapter 13.) Presumably Moshe intuited that there was some planned wrongdoing, which explains his prayer for Y'hoshua; but why not pray for Kalev also? Is it that he thought Kalev was, like the rest of the spies, planning wrongdoing? or what?


7 Answers 7


The Gur Arye explains that Y'hoshua's falling into the spies' plot would reflect poorly on Moshe, whose protege he was. This reasoning doesn't apply to Kalev.

The Avodas Yisrael explains (not in answer to this question) that Y'hoshua did not want the honor of leading the people, and wanted Moshe to retain that position. (See Rashi to B'haalos'cha 11:28.) Moshe was therefore worried Y'hoshua would do something to prevent the Jews' entering K'naan, whither Y'hoshua would be taking them. [This reasoning doesn't apply to Kalev.]

Rabbi Matis Blum, in his weekly "Torah Lodaas" sheet (5773), writes that Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky is said to have answered that Kalev was married to a righteous woman, and that would prevent his falling into the spies' plot; the same, as far as we know, was not true of Y'hoshua.

Rabbi Matis Blum, in his weekly "Torah Lodaas" sheet (5773), writes that Rav Yosef Chaver answered that Y'hoshua, who descended from Yosef who had tattled on his brothers to Yaakov, might be more inclined to speak ill of the land, so Moshe saw fit to pray specially for him.

The book Hege Yona (Jerusalem 5756), by my grandfather-in-law Rabbi Yona Munk, explains that Y'hoshua, described as tolerating everyone's personality (Rashi to Pin'chas 27:16), was of a nature to be influenced by them, whereas Kalev, described as having "a different spirit" (Sh'lach 14:24), was not.

  • 2
    "the same, as far as we know, was not true of Y'hoshua": indeed, he may not even have been married at that point yet - we hear of him marrying Rachav decades later (Megillah 14b, bottom), but AFAIK no earlier wife of his is mentioned anywhere.
    – Alex
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 16:00
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    Similar to R' Munk's approach, I heard in the name of R' Peretz Steinberg shlita that Yehoshua's personality had been more of a passive follower, hence more of the danger. Similarly his name had begun with a heh (a feminine letter and thus more "passive"), which Moshe changed to a yud (more masculine or "active.")
    – Shalom
    Commented Jun 3, 2013 at 16:14
  • @Alex: As you pointed out here: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/17049/603 the Talmud says he had daughters (although, as you pointed out, they may have only been born later).
    – Menachem
    Commented Jun 23, 2013 at 23:41
  • @Menachem, the g'mara there sort of implies they were from Rachav.
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 0:06
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    Kalev was also the one who left the group to go to kivrei avos in Chevron, and was the one who silenced the nation when they came back - you see he was the one more willing to "go it alone" Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 3:31

Rabbi Yochanan Zweig, my Rosh Yeshiva, explains this based on Targum Yonasan to Bamidbar 13:16: "When Moshe saw his humility, he changed his name." Why is humility a negative in this context? Moshe himself was the most humble person alive (Bamidbar 12:3), yet he sees this as a negative?

It must be, then, that Moshe was concerned that his humility would prevent him from taking a stand against the Meraglim. Kalev, he knew, would stand up for what was right. Yehoshua, he was concerned, might be too humble to take such a stand. The future leader of Klal Yisrael needed to learn that leadership means taking a stand.

(Apparently, in spite of Moshe believing in Kalev, Kalev didn't believe in himself, and thus went to Chevron to daven.)


R. Yehoshua Ya’akov in his sefer Imrei Shefer here says that he saw in a certain sefer that since Yehoshua was descended from Yosef who spoke bad about his brothers, he was more liable than all the other spies to speak bad about Eretz Yisrael, since the character traits of the forefathers (both positive and negative) are inherited by the descendants.

As a result of this Moshe might have been suspected of deliberately sending Yehoshua in order to speak bad about Eretz Yisrael, because Eldad and Meidad had prophesized that Moshe would die and that Yehoshua would lead Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael, but if Yehoshua would speak bad about Eretz Yisrael he would punished with death and thus Moshe would continue to lead them into Eretz Yisrael.

Therefore, Moshe prayed for him that he would not speak badly about Eretz Yisrael and be saved from the evil counsel of the spies, and thus Moshe would not be suspected of foul play.

  • The Kli Yakar writes the first half of this (that Yehoshua needed special prayers as he descended from Yosef).
    – Michoel
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 22:09

Maskil l'David explains that Moshe prayed for Yehoshua so people wouldn't assume he had sent Yehoshua to die so Moshe can lead them into Israel.

Rav Eliezer Ben-David explains that Yehoshua was going to have the hardest time sticking to the truth. Since he knew of the prophesy that he would lead the Jews into the land (Rashi Numbers 11:27). If he sang the praises of Israel against the other spies then people would assume he just wanted to be the leader.


Rabbi Reisman brings in the name of the Chafetz Chayim a radically different explanation. He learns there are 2 ways to oppose an evil group:

  1. Battle it in the open, argue with them.
  2. Don't agree and don't disagree p publicly when no decision is necessary. Then, when a decision needs to be made, side clearly with the Truth.

Advantage of 1 is a clear conscience, but no one will attack the person in the second option - he is free to struggle with himself, and his silence greatly increases his inner enemy, but at least there is no outside attack.

Moshe predicted both Yehoshua and Kalev well - he knew Yehoshua would pick the first option (remember how he reacted to Eldad and Meidad's prophecy?) and Calev would pick the second one (notice how he keeps quiet for as long as possible, until in the very end, he is able to quiet down everyone - precisely of the stance he has taken in the past - and he joins Yehoshua, making together with him a pair of witnesses and hence a valid testimony).

So Moshe chose to daven for Yehoshua to reinforce him against the barrage from outside, while Calev had to fortify himself for the internal battle with his yetzer hara - and this is why he seeks his support from davening, one of the most powerful tools in dealing with the yetzer) and his connection to the avos.


The Ksav Sofer connects Yehoshua's inability to speak against the Meraglim to his knowledge of Eldad and Meidad's prophecy that Moshe would die and he (Yehoshua) would bring Bnei Yisrael into the land. He also suggests the possibility that the Meraglim, being senior Nesi'im would be concerned about Yehoshua's recent rise to prominence and might have a plan (perhaps an assassination plot similar to that of Chur?) to prevent his ultimate assumption of the leadership of Bnei Yisrael. He also suggests that Yehoshua, due to his extreme humility would ultimately refuse to lead, so Moshe prayed for him. However, Kalev, learned from Yehoshua's great humility and prayed for Hashem to give him the strength to overcome the influence of the Meraglim. This implies that Kalev would have been a Meragel had he not bucked the trend and overcome the peer pressure through Divine assistance that he himself prayed for. According to all the above, Moshe would not pray for someone to not be influenced and to make the correct choice. That's up to the individual himself. He did pray for someone who he knew would never make the wrong choice but could fall prey to arm from others' wrong choices, to be protected from harm.


Rabbi Elyashiv says Yehoshua as Moshe's talmid there would have been no doubt we wouldn't do anything wrong, all the Meraglim know this. Moshe therefore was worried that if things turned out badly they would possibly try and kill yehoshua, and yehoshua would take a strong open stand about this, so Moshe davened so that Yehoshua would be unharmed. Calev was more of a passive approach, it appear to be like the "Meraglim" until he arrived back to the midbar so Calev was in less threat as he didn't outwardly challenged the Meraglim.

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