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The Power Of Prayer And The Power Of A Name

What was the power of Joshua and Caleb? How did they resist the evil counsel of the spies? How did they remain immune to the pressure? 

Prior to their departure, Moses blessed Joshua and prayed that 
he might be protected from the counsel of the spies. In his prayer, 
Moses changed the name of Joshua, who had formerly been known as Hoshea, to Yehoshua, meaning, "May God save you/' Our Sages teach us that this change of name shielded Joshua from the poisonous influence of the other spies. 

There is an amazing Midrash that tells us that the yud that Moses added to Joshua's name came from our Matriarch Sarah. That little letter yud complained before God's Throne, "Why was I removed from the name of that holy woman?" 


At first glance, this may appear to be a strange Midrash. After all, do yuds talk? And again, why was there a need to take the yud from Mother Sarah's name? Certainly Moses could have given Joshua a new yud? And if a change of name could be so powerful, why didn't Moses change the names of all the spies? Let us address all these questions. 

Everything that God created speaks on its own level, even if we do not understand it. And this is even more valid in regard to the Hebrew aleph-beis. The letters of the aleph-beis are alive and have profound dimensions. As a matter of fact, it was with the aleph-beis that God created the world. As for the yud having its roots in Mother Sarah's name, there too lies a basic principle of Judaism. We are a nation that is sustained by zechus avos - the merit of our ancestors. Our wisdom and our vision are gifts bequeathed to us by our Patriarchs and Matriarchs. It was specifically the yud of Sarah Imeinu's name that had the power to endow Joshua with the understanding and foresight to guide the nation to its destiny. 

Sarah was the first to discern the brutal, savage character of Ishmael, who would shoot his arrows and kill for sport. It was Sarah who told Abraham to send Ishmael and his mother Hagar away, for she recognized that it would be disastrous for Ishmael to inherit the land with Isaac. Thus, Moses prayed that Joshua might 
be guided by the wisdom of Sarah and would lead the people to their ultimate calling, establishing the Kingdom of God in the Land of Israel, where righteousness and truth would prevail and evil would be banished. In such a society, there is no room for terror and brutality - the murderous acts of Ishmael. 

Caleb, on the other hand, was saved by the power of prayer. As soon as they entered the land, Caleb departed from the group and made his way to Hebron, the city where our Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried, so that he might pray at their grave site. Those prayers protected him, infused his heart with faith, and enabled him to resist the conspiracy of his comrades. 

The eminent Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt"l, explained that Caleb did not require a change of name, for he was married to Miriam, the righteous prophetess, and if a man is married to an eishes chayil (woman of valor) that, in and of itself, affords protection. 

As to why Moses did not change the names of all the other spies: Blessings work only for those who desire and appreciate them.In vain does one bless someone or change his/her name if he/she chooses to spurn and defile that blessing and that name. Sadly these spies all had their preconceived bias: They were determined to reject the land even before seeing it. Blessings are potent when  we truly desire them, appreciate them, and act upon them.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi  yisroel