Saturday, June 01, 2013

Rahav and Pesach

The following is so obvious that someone must have written it before, but a very cursory search did not find anything, so I decided to write it up myself too.

The haftarah for parshat Shelach tells of a successful spying mission - when two spies sent by Yehoshua infiltrated the city of Yericho, visited a woman named Rahav, and returned with the report that the conquest was inevitable.

In return for Rahav's help, she and her family were saved from the city's ensuing destruction. The circumstances of their protection are interesting:
  • Rahav was to be saved, along with whatever family members were in her house. (2:18)
  • If any of them left the house, they would be killed. (2:19)
  • Rahav was to put a red thread on her window to signal that the inhabitants should be protected. (2:18)
  • When the spies left Rahav, to avoid their pursuers, she advised them to head for the mountain and stay there for three days. (2:16)
These circumstances are extremely reminiscent of an earlier event - the Israelites' protection from the 10th plague in Egypt:
  • The Israelites slaughtered the Pesach sacrifice - one per family. (Shemot 12:3)
  • They were not to leave the house until the plague was over (12:22)
  • They were to smear the (red) blood on the doorposts of their house to indicate they should be protected.
  • The plague was punishment for Pharaoh's refusal to allow a three-day journey perform a sacrifice at "God's Mountain" (3:12)
Evidently, Rahav's procedure is supposed to suggest the Pesach sacrifice. In general, this sacrifice is a symbol of the national covenant as members of God's people (see i.e. Bamidbar 9:7, and the connection between Pesach and circumcision). With Rahav having performed a procedure so similar to korban pesach, it is no surprise Chazal say she converted to Judaism (and in fact married Yehoshua).

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