In these listings, the tribes of Levi is of course not included. In order that there will be a total of 12 tribes, we count separately the two half tribes which make up Yosef. The half tribes of Ephraim and Menashe, the sons of Yosef are added to complete the count at 12.
Look in each listing. Sometimes the tribe of Ephraim comes first, and sometimes the tribe of Menashe comes first. What is the reason for this inconsistency?
When their grandfather Yaacov gave them blessings he did a strange thing. Yosef came to Yaacov with his sons so that they could be blessed. He placed them in the expected order, the firstborn Menashe opposite Yaacov's right hand, and Ephraim, the younger opposite Yaacov's left hand.
Yet Yaacov crossed his hands, placing his right hand on the head of Ephraim and his left hand on the head of Menashe, bestowing the blessing of the firstborn upon Ephraim. Even though Menashe was the firstborn, Yaacov gave the firstborn's blessings to Ephraim!!
A question is in order here. Why didn't Yaacov, if he wanted to give the blessing of the firstborn to Ephraim, just ask for Ephraim to be placed opposite his right hand? Why did he cross his hands? The verse even says, ". . .seekail ess yadav. . .". Yaacov knowingly changed the position of his hands.
I heard once from one of my Rebbes, that although the right hand of Yaacov was on the head of Ephraim, his right foot was opposite Menashe. That means that Ephraim, received the firstborn's blessing in the realm of the spiritual, (concealed) while Menashe got the firstborn's blessing in the realm of the physical! (revealed)
When, in any listing of the tribes, Ephraim appears first, it can be deduced that the subject at hand is one of primarily spiritual import, or as a hint to something deeper lying beneath the surface. On the other hand, when Menashe appears first, we are to understand the subject according to its simple implied meaning. (See Parshas Miketz for more implications of this idea.
With this information, we can look again at our Parsha, and also solve a number of difficulties.
In our Parsha, Calev, of the tribe of Ephraim is listed first. This means that the mission of the explorers is not one of regular reconnaissance as is usually thought. The fact that Ephraim is first, hints that there is something deeper to be learned here.
A careful examination will reveal that there is no mention of the word "meragel" (spy), not in noun form, and not in verb form in the entire Parsha! Nevertheless, our Parsha is always referred to as the Parsha of the "Meraglim", the Spies. They are not actually called "Meraglim" until later in Parshas Devarim (Deut. 1:24), when Moshe Rabbenu recounts for them their history in the desert. He refers to them, in retrospect, as spies.
The 12 Tzaddikim who were sent in to the Land were told, ". . .vayasuru ess eretz k'na'an", to tour and explore the Land. Not like spies who look for ways to conquer and to take over ,there was no need for that since Hashem already promised them the Land. Rather to travel through like tourists, to take as much as much as possible and to come back with good impressions and a positive report of the advantages and the beauty of the Land. Their job was to encourage and assure Israel concerning their imminent entrance into the Land.
With the exception of Yehoshua and Calev, they tragically misunderstood the mission. We live with the consequences to this day.
My prayer is that soon may we be able to heal this wound, to dwell in the Land of Israel in peace in the Light of Hashem, and to see only good in the Land.
Here is a story about looking for the good in everything.
Once the two Tzaddikim, Reb Yaacov Yosef of Polonye, the "Toldos", and Reb Nachman of Horodenka were travelling to Mezhibuzh to spend Shabbos with their Rebbe, the Baal ShemTov. It was Friday, and they set out from Polnoye with their horse and wagon in time to arrive in Mezhibuzh by midday.
They hadn't even travelled half the distance, when they saw ahead of them a broad regal carriage, trimmed with gold and ivory, and drawn by four white horses. Obviously it was the carriage a wealthy and important individual. It was making its way along the road leisurely, as if Shabbos wasn't to be expected later in the day. Passing was impossible at this time of year due to the mountainous snowdrifts piled high along the both sides of the road. They had no choice but to slow down and to follow along behind.
The "Toldos" became very agitated and began to bewail the situation, predicting that they would surely have to profane the Shabbos if they wanted to spend Shabbos in Mezhibuzh. Reb Nachman however, kept calm, reminding his companion that everything would be okay, that all that Hashem does is for the best. Moreover, as disciples of the Baal ShemTov, they had learned that Hashem guides everything that occurs in the world, and therefore their situation was certainly Hashem's hand at work.
Less than an hour passed before they had to come to a complete halt. Spread out on the road ahead as far as the eye could see was a company of Russian soldiers, and they were marching at pace that confirmed that their job this morning was to compact the mud of the road with their feet.
Now the "Toldos" became doubly agitated, not knowing who to lash out against first. But Reb Nachman assured him that everything in Hashem's plans are for the ultimate good.
The commander of the company, seeing the regal looking coach coming his way, obviously recognized that a personage of some importance was inside and gave orders for the entire company to thin out and make passage for the dignitary and his "entourage". In moments the two Tzaddikim, following close behind the carriage of the dignitary, were beyond the sea of soldiers, continuing on the road to Mezhibuzh.
Not more than a few more minutes passed until they came to a fork in the road. The dignitary in his coach went one direction, the Toldos and Reb Nachman the other. Regaining speed, they arrived in Mezhibuzh with ample time to prepare for Shabbos.
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