Joshua and Caleb were in the minority of the twelve scouts in encouraging the Jewish nation to return to the Land of Israel.
In the weekly Torah portion of Shlach, Moses sent the twelve scouts (also translated as spies) to survey the Land of Israel before entering it, following the exodus from Egypt.
Ten of the scouts, all respected community leaders, brought back fearful reports stating, “We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we… There we saw the giants… in our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers…” (Numbers 13:31-33)
They brought back giant clusters of grapes and other fruits as evidence to both the abundance of the land, and their fear of the giant inhabitants that had settled there.
They declared their desire to remain in the desert rather than attempt to ascend to the Land of Israel. Only two, Joshua and Caleb had an inspirational message and encouraged the Jewish nation to enter the land regardless of perceived danger.
The city of Hebron is mentioned and references are made to the grape harvest. Today, grapes are still prevalent in the region and the land and climate is ideal for growing them.
Numbers 13:22 states, “They went up in, the south, and he came to Hebron.”
Rabbi Abba ben Joseph bar Ḥama, better known as Rava, is one of the most cited rabbis in the Gemara. In Sotah 34b, he explains why the phrase is “and he came” rather “and they came”:
“It teaches us that Caleb separated from the counsel of the scouts and went to pray in the Cave of the Patriarchs, saying to them: ‘My fathers, pray on my behalf that I may be delivered from the plan of the scouts.”
The ancient Tomb of Machpela, burial place of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs is a site of prayer and a source of inspiration today as it was back then.
The Tomb of Othniel
About 200 meters west of Beit Hadassah, at the top of a rocky incline, is a burial cave. On a busy residential street, known today as Policeman’s Square, is a multi-chambered burial cave, corresponding to how the Mishna, in Bava Batra 101, describes the traditional burial practices of the Jewish people in that time period.
Throughout the generations, it has been revered as the tomb of Othniel Ben Knaz, brother (kinsman) of Caleb. The site has been mentioned by many travelers over the generations.
For a full description of the Tomb of Otniel, click here.
Originally published on en.hebron.org.il on June 24, 2016 here.