"And Caleb quieted the nation toward Moses, and he said, 'We shall surely ascend and conquer it for we can surely do it'." (Num. 13:30)

"Caleb quieted the nation….": The spies began their report by saying, "The land flows with milk and honey. But the people that dwells in the land is very powerful". Upon hearing only this much, Caleb immediately silenced them. So far, all that they had done was to answer the questions Moses had asked. Yet, Caleb already sensed that their approach was not right.

Moses had commanded the spies to first check the people - first, the details necessary to wage the war, and only afterwards to ascertain the extent of the reward, the fertility of the land. Their reply, however, dealt first with the wealth that awaited them.

As soon as Caleb realized that their focus was upon the reward, he silenced them. When one serves G‑d merely because of the promised incentives, one is only prepared to expend effort commensurate with the perceived value of the prize. Their focus, therefore, was certain to result in their declaration that under the circumstances it was not worthwhile to attempt to enter the Land. Caleb…said that they could accomplish even the logically impossible…

Moses' directives must be followed to the letter, for even the smallest digression can lead one far astray.

"We shall surely ascend…": According to the Talmud, Caleb said, "Even if our destination were the heavens and Moses would tell us to make ladders and ascend, we would succeed in all that he instructs". (Sota35a; cited by Rashi) Both Joshua and Caleb equally defied the doubt of their colleagues and declared that the Israelites could conquer the Land.

However, a close look at their words shows a subtle difference between them. Firstly, when both of them spoke, the entire nation wished to stone them; when Caleb alone spoke, he quieted the entire nation, including the spies. Secondly, when both of them spoke they used logical reasoning: "Do not fear the people of the Land, since their protector is gone [meaning that the righteous among them had died - Rashi]", whereas Caleb himself, in addition to presenting logical arguments, said that they could accomplish even the logically impossible when following Moses' command and "ascend the heavens".

These differences reflect an essential distinction in the way Joshua and Caleb resisted the influence of their colleagues: Joshua received inspiration from Moses, who had prayed for him before he left for Canaan. Caleb, on the other hand, sought inspiration on his own.

While in Canaan, he prayed at the graves of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Joshua's resilience was a gift, while Caleb's was self-made. Because Caleb's resilience was the product of his own efforts, his faith had a stronger impact: he was able to silence the doubts of all the people, even the spies. Furthermore, because G‑d desires the efforts of man (Job 14:15) He grants man access to His boundless reality when He sees the efforts being made. Thus, Caleb, who had fought doubt with his own efforts, reached a level of boundlessness, where impossibilities do not exist and "the heavens can be ascended".

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 4, pp. 1313-4; vol. 8, p. 90 ff
© 2001 Chabad of California/www.LAchumash.org