Parshas Vayelech - The Humility of Yehoshua
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וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ משֶׁ֑ה וַיְדַבֵּ֛ר אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה אֶל־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֗ם בֶּן־מֵאָה֩ וְעֶשְׂרִ֨ים שָׁנָ֤ה אָֽנֹכִי֙ הַיּ֔וֹם לֹֽא־אוּכַ֥ל ע֖וֹד לָצֵ֣את וְלָב֑וֹא וַֽיהֹוָה֙ אָמַ֣ר אֵלַ֔י לֹ֥א תַֽעֲבֹ֖ר אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֥ן הַזֶּֽה: יְהֹוָ֨ה אֱלֹהֶ֜יךָ ה֣וּא | עֹבֵ֣ר לְפָנֶ֗יךָ הֽוּא־יַשְׁמִ֞יד אֶת־הַגּוֹיִ֥ם הָאֵ֛לֶּה מִלְּפָנֶ֖יךָ וִֽירִשְׁתָּ֑ם יְהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ ה֚וּא עֹבֵ֣ר לְפָנֶ֔יךָ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָֽה:
And Moses went, and he spoke the following words to all Israel. He said to them, "Today I am one hundred and twenty years old. I can no longer go or come, and the Lord said to me, "You shall not cross this Jordan." The Lord, your God He will cross before you; He will destroy these nations from before you so that you will possess them. Joshua he will cross before you, as the Lord has spoken. (Devarim 31:1-3)
Moshe appoints Yehoshua bin Nun to be his successor. It is Yehoshua who will lead Klal Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael.
The question is, why Yehoshua? There were other worthy people who would have made fine leaders. Otniel ben Kenaz? Calev ben Yefuneh? The Tosefta at the end of Krisus makes it clear that they were all equal to one another. What made Yehoshua unique that it was he who was chosen to be the next in line?
Moshe and Yehoshua: The Sun and the Moon
The Gemara in Baba Basra (75a) relates that the elders of the generation that left Mitzrayim commented, “The face of Moshe shines like the sun while the face of Yehoshua only shines like the moon.”
What is the inner meaning of this teaching?
As we all know, the difference between the sun and the moon is that while the sun radiates its own light, the light of the moon is only a reflection of the sun. This represents two types of greatness. For some, greatness means shining new light into the world. For others, greatness means reflecting the light of others.
Moshe Rabbeinu brought a new light into the world. Yehoshua was the reflection of that light. Both the sun and the moon require a stance of humility, but they represent two different types of humility.
The humility of those that are “sun people” is the recognition that all the powers that they have are gifts from the One Above. For “moon people” their humility is expressed in the complete nullification of the self, so that the light that they shine is completely the light of another.
By way of explanation, when some people relate a piece of Torah from their Rebbe what you are actually hearing is their version of their Rebbe’s Torah. Their light shines so brightly that it becomes mixed in with their Rebbe’s Torah. Others are so completely nullified to their Rebbe that when they relate their Rebbe’s Torah, you are hearing the Torah that their Rebbe said exclusively. There is no hint of the ego of the speaker in the Torah being related. The speaker is merely an extension of the Rebbe’s mouth.
Such was the bittul, the nullification, that Yehoshua bin Nun had with his Rebbe, Moshe Rabbeinu.
וַיָּ֣קָם משֶׁ֔ה וִֽיהוֹשֻׁ֖עַ מְשָֽׁרְת֑וֹ וַיַּ֥עַל משֶׁ֖ה אֶל־הַ֥ר הָֽאֱלֹהִֽים
“So Moses and Joshua, his servant, arose, and Moses ascended to the mount of God.” (Shemos 24:13)
וַיַּ֜עַן יְהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ בִּן־נ֗וּן מְשָׁרֵ֥ת משֶׁ֛ה מִבְּחֻרָ֖יו וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אֲדֹנִ֥י משֶׁ֖ה כְּלָאֵֽם
“Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' servant from his youth, answered and said, Moses, my master, imprison them!" (Bamidbar 11:28)
וַיְהִ֗י אַחֲרֵ֛י מ֥וֹת מֹשֶׁ֖ה עֶ֣בֶד יְהֹוָ֑ה וַיֹּ֚אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ בִּן־נ֔וּן מְשָׁרֵ֥ת מֹשֶׁ֖ה לֵאמֹֽר
“And it was after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying:” (Yehoshua 1:1)
The defining characteristic of Yehoshua is that he was the servant of Moshe Rabbeinu. This does not simply mean that he served Moshe but rather that his entire essence was nullified to his Rebbe, Moshe Rabbeinu.
Moshe is compared to a fish (Bereishis Rabbah 97:4,5) because he was taken out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter (Moshe was born on the seventh of Adar. The Zodiac of the month of Adar is the fish). Yehoshua is the son of Nun. In Aramazic the word Nun means fish. In this sense we can understand that Yehoshua’s dveikus to his Rebbe is such that he is literally called the son of the fish, a reference to Moshe Rabbeinu.
In fact, some suggest that the Yud in the name Yehoshua came from Moshe Rabbeinu himself. When Moshe Rabbeinu was instructed to write that he was ענו מכל אדם, the humblest of all men, he was uncomfortable writing praises about himself. Of course since Hashem demanded that he do so it was perfectly appropriate to write these words but Moshe Rabbeinu left out the Yud from the word anav as a testament to his humility. Upon seeing the humility of Hoshea, Moshe Rabbeinu gifted him with the humble Yud that Moshe had left out of the word anav. In other words, the humility of Yehoshua was such that it allowed for total dveikus to his Rebbe, where even his own name (a reflection of his essence) could be attributed to his Rebbe.
This is what the Gemara in Yevamos (96b) means when it says:
עול לגביה ר' יעקב בר אידי א"ל (יהושע יא, טו) כאשר צוה ה' את משה עבדו כן צוה משה את יהושע וכן עשה יהושע לא הסיר דבר מכל אשר צוה ה' את משה וכי על כל דבר שאמר יהושע היה אומר להם כך אמר לי משה אלא יהושע יושב ודורש סתם והכל יודעין שתורתו של משה היא
Rabbi Ya’akov bar Idi visited Rabbi Yoḥanan and said to him: The verse states: “As God commanded His servant Moses, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua, he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:15). Now did Joshua, with regard to every matter that he said, say to the Jews: Thus Moses said to me? Rather, Joshua would sit and teach Torah without attributing his statements, and everyone would know that it was from the Torah of Moses.
Because of the absolute nullification that Yehoshua had to Moshe Rabbeinu it was obvious to all those who learned from Yehoshua that he was teaching the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu.
This also explains the Medrash in Bamidbar Rabbah (21:14) that teaches that the reason Yehoshua was chosen as the successor to Moshe was because Yehoshua would set up the benches in the Beis Medrash where Moshe would come and teach Torah to Klal Yisrael. The Gabbai in the Shul who sets up the benches is a fine person and certainly is worthy of our respect but that alone does not make him fit to be the leader of Klal Yisrael. Rather the Medrash is expressing that Yehoshua was fit to lead because he was the facilitator of Moshe Rabbeinu’s Torah. On a spiritual level he was totally battul to his Rebbe and even on a physical level he would set up the benches for Klal Yisrael.
Thus, we can understand why Yehoshua was so troubled by the prophecies of Eldad and Medad. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (17a) tells us that they foretold the death of Moshe Rabbeinu and that Yehoshua would succeed him, leading Klal Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael. Perhaps there are those who would not mind such a prophecy. Leading Klal Yisrael into the Promised Land is a tremendous privilege. Yehoshua, in his absolute humility and dveikus to his Rebbe, could not conceive of a reality where he would be the successor to Moshe Rabbeinu and came to the conclusion that it must be a false nevua. In reality it was this very humility that made him the perfect choice to take Klal Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael.
This concept also explains a fascinating Rashi. The passuk in Bamidbar (27:23) tells us:
וַיִּסְמֹ֧ךְ אֶת־יָדָ֛יו עָלָ֖יו וַיְצַוֵּ֑הוּ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה בְּיַד־משֶֽׁה
He laid his hands upon him and commanded him, in accordance with what the Lord had spoken to Moses.
ויסמך את ידיו: בעין יפה יותר ויותר ממה שנצטווה. שהקב"ה אמר לו וסמכת את ידך, והוא עשה בשתי ידיו, ועשאו ככלי מלא וגדוש ומלאו חכמתו בעין יפה:
He laid his hands: generously; over and above what he had been commanded. For the Holy One, blessed is He, said to him, “and you shall lay your hand upon him” (verse 18), but he did it with both his hands. He fashioned him like a full and overflowing vessel, filling him with wisdom in abundance. — Sifrei Pinchas 23, Sanh. 105b
כאשר דבר ה': אף לענין ההוד נתן מהודו עליו:
in accordance with what the Lord had spoken to Moses: [That is,] also with respect to the majesty; He bestowed some of his majesty [radiance] upon him.
Rashi is teaching us, that in laying his hands on Yehoshua, Moshe is literally filling up Yehoshua with his wisdom and his hod (his majesty). Because of the total dedication that Yehoshua had to Moshe Rabbeinu he was able to become an extension, so to speak, of his Rebbe.
Interestingly, Rashi says that Moshe gave Yehoshua with an eyin yafeh, literally a good eye.
This is connected to the Gemara in Rosh Hashana (25a) which says:
א"ל רבי לר' חייא זיל לעין טב וקדשיה לירחא ושלח לי סימנא דוד מלך ישראל חי וקים
Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi once said to Rabbi Ḥiyya: Go to a place called Ein Tav and sanctify the New Moon there, and send me a sign that you have sanctified it. The sign is: David, king of Israel, lives and endures.
Rav Yehuda HaNasi sends Rav Chiya to Ein Tav (literally a good eye) to sanctify the new moon (Yehoshua is called the moon) and is to give a siman that Dovid Melech Yisrael Chai ViKayam (as we brought from the Rambam above Yehoshua is considered a King).
When one sanctifies the new moon, ushering in the next month, it is a semicha of sorts, the bestowing of the malchus on the next month and thus the appropriate siman references the Malchus of Dovid HaMelech. It follows the same pattern as when Moshe gave smicha to Yehoshua.
The Parallel Lives of Moshe and Yehoshua
With this in mind, we can understand why there are so many similarities between Moshe Rabbeinu and Yehoshua. In looking at the personality of Yehoshua we see the reflection of the light of Moshe Rabbeinu.
Moshe was called an Eved Hashem, a servant of God (Devarim 34:5, Yehoshua 1:2, Malachi 3:22) as is Yehoshua (“And it was after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being a hundred and ten years old. - Yehoshua 24:29)
Both Moshe and Yehoshua were considered Kings.
The Medrash in Shemos Rabbah (52) says that when the passuk says:
וַיְהִ֥י בִֽישֻׁר֖וּן מֶ֑לֶךְ בְּהִתְאַסֵּף֙ רָ֣אשֵׁי עָ֔ם יַ֖חַד שִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל
“And He was King in Jeshurun, whenever the sum total of the people were gathered, and the tribes of Israel were together” (Devarim 33:5)
It is a reference to Moshe Rabbeinu who was considered a king.
The Rambam in Hilchos Melachim UMilchamaot (1:3) says:
אין מעמידין מלך בתחילה אלא על פי בית דין של שבעים זקנים ועל פי נביא כיהושע שמינהו משה רבינו ובית דינו וכשאול ודוד שמינם שמואל הרמתי ובית דינו
“As an initial and preferred option, a king may be appointed only by a court of 70 elders, together with a prophet, as Joshua was appointed by Moses and his court, and as Saul and David, were appointed by Samuel of Ramah and his court.”
Thus it is clear from the Medrash and the Rambam that both Moshe and Yehoshua had the status of kings.
Both Moshe and Yehoshua split the sea (Moshe by the Yam Suf and Yehoshua by the Yarden).
Both Moshe and Yehoshua married converts (Moshe married Tziporrah and Yehoshua married Rachav).
The Medrash in Bamidbar Rabbah (22:6) teaches that Yehoshua was even supposed to die at 120 years old just as Moshe Rabbeinu did but his life was cut short by ten years because of a particular aveira that he did.
The Disconnection of Yehoshua
Thus we have seen that the greatness of Yehoshua lies in the fact that he is absolutely nullified to Moshe Rabbeinu and reflects his light as the moon reflects the light of the sun. However this is a two way street.
The Gemara in Temurah (16a) teaches:
אמר רב יהודה אמר רב בשעה שנפטר משה רבינו לגן עדן אמר לו ליהושע שאל ממני כל ספיקות שיש לך אמר לו רבי כלום הנחתיך שעה אחת והלכתי למקום אחר לא כך כתבת בי (שמות לג, יא) ומשרתו יהושע בן נון נער לא ימיש מתוך האהל מיד תשש כחו של יהושע ונשתכחו ממנו שלש מאות הלכות ונולדו לו שבע מאות ספיקות ועמדו כל ישראל להרגו
Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: Just before the time when Moses, our teacher, left this world and went to the Garden of Eden, he said to Joshua: Ask from me all the cases of uncertainty in matters of halakha that you have, so that I can clarify them for you. Joshua said to him: My teacher, did I ever leave you for even one moment and go to another place? Didn’t you write this about me in the Torah: “But his minister, Joshua, son of Nun, a young man, did not depart out of the tent” (Exodus 33:11)? If I would have had any case of uncertainty I would have asked you earlier. Immediately after he said this, Joshua’s strength weakened, and three hundred halakhot were forgotten by him, and seven hundred cases of uncertainty emerged before him, and the entire Jewish people arose to kill him, as he was unable to teach them the forgotten halakhot.
The greatness of Yehoshua was his total connection to Moshe Rabbeinu. In the moment that he felt he had nothing left to learn Moshe Rabbeinu the connection was broken and he immediately fell into a state of confusion. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun and has no light of its own, so too Yehoshua’s connection to Moshe Rabbeinu was so absolute that any break in that connection meant a break in the knowledge of Yehoshua.
Yehoshua and Sarah Imeinu
There is a strange Yerushalmi in Sanhedrin (2:6) that tells us how Yehoshua received his name. As we all know he was originally named Hoshea but Moshe Rabbeinu renamed him Yehoshua before he went into Eretz Yisrael as one of the Meraglim. Where did this Yud come from? The Gemara tells us that Sarah Imeinu was originally named Sarai but Hashem changed it to Sarah. The Yud from Sarai became the Yud in Yehoshua. However, the Gemara tells us an interesting backstory. When Sarai became Sarah the yud complained To Hashem that it was removed from the name of a righteous person? Hashem appeased the Yud by explain that until now you were at the end of the name of a righteous woman, now you will now be put in the front of the name of a righteous man.
What is the connection between Sarah and Yehoshua? Does the Yud really care if it goes in the front of the name or the back of the name? What difference does it make to the Yud if it is in the name of a righteous man or a righteous woman?
Furthermore, why does Moshe feel compelled to change the name of Yehoshua at all?
Humility is a tricky thing. On the one hand it is the humility of Yehoshua that enables him to be connected to Moshe Rabbeinu. On the other hand, sometimes humility stops us from acting. In our humility we may say, let us wait and see how Hashem wants this to play out. Sometimes this is an appropriate posture and yet other times call for more action.
Yehoshua, as a member of Shevet Ephraim, is a descendant of Rachel Imeinu and Yosef HaTzaddik. Rachel stayed quiet when Lavan tricked Yaakov into marrying Leah. Yosef stayed quiet for twenty plus years in Mitzrayim and never sent word to his father that he was still alive. Why did they stay quiet? Humility often means recognizing that God has a plan for us. Rochel and Yosef, both paragons of humility, understood that which is why they chose to wait and see how God’s plan played out.
On the other hand, Yehoshua is also the child of Nun. Who was Nun? The Yalkut Shimoni in Divrei Hayamim (1:7) tells us that Nun was the leader of Shevet Ephraim who prematurely led members of his tribe out of Mitzrayim. The Egyptians chased them down and murdered them. (Yehoshua would complete the mission of his father when he brought the Jews into Eretz Yisrael.)
The message of Yehoshua’s ancestry is clear. Humility requires us to be patient and see how God’s plan unfolds. When we act on our own, we cause destruction.
This however is not a flawless approach. There are times when our humility calls upon us to act and take charge.
This was exactly the concern of Moshe Rabbeinu. If Hoshea were to follow in the path of his ancestral family, his humility would dictate that as the Meraglim are motzei laz about Eretz Yisrael he should stay quiet and watch as events unfold. Moshe, in changing his name to Yehoshua, is sending a message to Hoshea (see Sotah 34b). The Yud, being the smallest of all letters, is the humblest of all letters. Sometimes the Yud goes in the back and sometimes it goes in the front. When the Yud is in the back, it is an indication that humility dictates inaction. When the Yud is in the front it indicates that humility demands action.
This understanding is in accordance with the Targum Yonasan ben Uziel (13:16) who teaches when Moshe saw the humility of Hoshea he changed his name to Yehoshua. It was precisely Yehoshua’s humility that concerned Moshe Rabbeinu. By putting the Yud in the front of Hoshea’s name it was a lesson that his humility should be a call to action.
What is the connection between Sarah Imeinu and Yehoshua?
וַיִּֽהְיוּ֙ חַיֵּ֣י שָׂרָ֔ה מֵאָ֥ה שָׁנָ֛ה וְעֶשְׂרִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה וְשֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֑ים שְׁנֵ֖י חַיֵּ֥י שָׂרָֽה
And the life of Sarah was one hundred year and twenty year and seven years; [these were] the years of the life of Sarah. (Bereishis 23:1)
It is interesting to note that when it comes to numbers 100 and 20 (the larger years) the Torah uses the word shana, meaning one singular year. When it comes to the number 7 (the smallest number) the Torah uses the word shanim, the plural of years. Why is this so?
Furthermore, Rashi cites the Medrash and says that at twenty years old, Sarah had the beauty of a seven-year-old.
The Torah does not focus on external beauty. What is the message we are being taught? This is especially troubling considering that we don’t really think of a seven year old as beautiful.
The Zohar HaKadosh writes that Hashem elevates those who are humble. If someone says that they are not as great as they could be, it is a testament to their humility and ultimately they will be elevated in the World to Come. If someone says that they have reached their potential, they are not acting with humility and God will diminish such a person. The Zohar proves this from our passuk about the years of Sarah Imeinu. The numbers that are largest (100 and 20) are only described as shana whereas the number that is smallest (7) is elevated and is called shanim. (As we will soon see, it is important to note that the smallest number is also the last number of her years.) The large years are made small (shana) while the small years are made large (shanim).
This was the beauty of Sarah Imeinu. The Torah is not referring to external beauty but of the beauty that comes from humility. When someone acts with humility, pulling themselves back to create space for another, they will be seen as beautiful. Even when on a physical level they don’t seem to have beautiful features, the person they make space for will see them as beautiful. It is precisely the smallest, most humble number that indicates the beauty of Sarah Imeinu.
But this beauty causes challenges for Sarah.
The passuk says, “And it came to pass that when Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful.” Only Avraham came down to Egypt? Where was Sarah? Rashi learns that Avraham hid Sarah in a box so that she wouldn’t be seen.
Such was the humility and the modesty of Sarah Imeinu. Knowing that her inner beauty radiated into her external beauty she understood that the Egyptians would murder Avraham to get to her. She was even willing to hide in a box rather than be discovered.
In other words, the beauty of Sarah Imeinu is a function of her humility. This humility is expressed in the last (and smallest) number of her years and causes her to have to hide. As we expressed above, the Yud is the humblest of all the letters. Appropriately it comes at the end of her name. For Sarah, humility requires stepping out of the picture.
Hashem removes the Yud from Sarah’s name and replaces it with a Hey. The Yud complains to God. It does not want to be removed from the name of a righteous person. God responds that now this very same Yud will have a new role to play. Whereas until now the Yud (humility) was female in that it humbly hid behind the scenes, now the Yud would be masculine and play a frontal, more aggresive role. In moving to the front of Yehoshua’s name, humility becomes a call to action. When the Meraglim are not acting in line with God’s command, it is that very same Yud that once forced Sarah to hide in a box that now gives Yehoshua the strength to stand up against the Meraglim. In this fashion the Yud is appeased.
This explains why Moshe tells Yehoshua, חִזְק֣וּ וְאִמְצ֔וּ, be strong and courageous. The natural stance of Yehoshua is to shun the spotlight. To hide in the box, so to speak. To set up the benches for Moshe to teach. To ask Moshe to jail Eldad and Meidad for prophesizing that Yehoshua would be leader. As a leader Moshe is charging Yehoshua with taking a forward role in leading Klal Yisrael. The Yud has moved to the front of his name.
The transformation of Yehoshua can also be seen in the name of his father, Nun. There are two types of nun’s. There is what is known as a nun kefufah (a bent nun) that is found in the beginning or in the middle of a word, and a nun peshutah (a straight nun) that is found at the end of a word (a nun sofit). The Gemara in Shabbos (104a) tells us that the nun kefufah represents one who is bent over and the nun peshutah is one who is straight. Yehoshua, as the son of Nun, has both a nun kefufah and a nun peshutah in his name. This represents the two dimensions of Yehoshua. On the one hand he is first and foremost the nun kefufah, bent over and totally submissive before Moshe Rabbeinu. On the other hand he is being tasked with leadership. He cannot fall prey to the dangers of the Meraglim. Though it is not his first inclination he is required to become a nun peshutah, standing straight and tall in order to lead the nation.
This also explains why the coin of Yehoshua was an ox one one side and a Re’em (a large horned bovine animal) on the other (Yalkut Shimon Yehoshua 17).
The passuk in Devarim 33:17 says in reference to Yehoshua בְּכ֨וֹר שׁוֹר֜וֹ הָדָ֣ר ל֗וֹ וְקַרְנֵ֤י רְאֵם֙ קַרְנָ֔יו, To his firstborn ox is [given] glory. His horns are the horns of a Re'em. Rashi explains that Yehoshua will have the strength of an ox and the beauty of the horns of the Re’em. Why does Yehoshua need beauty to lead? Again, we are not speaking about physical beauty but of the beauty that flows from humility. In his leadership, Yehoshua will embody both strength and beauty. His humility will propel him to act and conquer for the sake of Hashem (like an ox) and since his action flows from his humility he will radiate beauty. In other words, in Yehoshua we see the ultimate combination of the nun kefufah and the nun peshutah, strength and humility at once.
This explains a fascinating Gemara in Sanhedrin (8a). The Gemara tells us that Moshe originally told Yehoshua (31:7) “You will come with the Jewish people into the Promised Land; the elders and you will lead the people together.” Hashem however corrected Moshe and instructed him to tell Yehoshua (31:23) “Be strong and courageous for you will bring the Children of Israel to the Land that I have sworn to them and I shall be with you.” Moshe had told Yehoshua to lead together with the elders of the people. Hashem told Yehoshua, take a stick and beat the elders until they follow your orders! There can be only one leader in each generation; there cannot be joint leadership.
Why did Moshe instruct Moshe to lead together with the Elders of the Nation? Why is Hashem so insistent that Yehoshua lead alone, even beating the Elders with a stick until they fall in line?
In line with what we have explained up until now this makes perfect sense. The humble man leads together with others. Moshe Rabbeinu understood the humility of Yehoshua and therefore instructed him to lead with the Zekeinim. Hashem, who understood the nature of Yehoshua, knew that if Yehoshua were to lead with a team would not lead at all. His humility would put him in the background while others led Klal Yisrael. Hashem instructs Yehoshua that his leadership must be strong and courageous, leading Klal Yisrael on his own.
Still, why would Yehoshua hit the Zekeinim with a stick? The answer to this question will be found in the upcoming section.
Yehoshua and Amalek
When Moshe Rabbeinu renames Yehoshua the passuk (Bamidbarr 13:16) tells us וַיִּקְרָ֥א משֶׁ֛ה לְהוֹשֵׁ֥עַ בִּן־נ֖וּן יְהוֹשֻֽׁעַ:, and Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua. Rashi explains:
ויקרא משה להושע וגו': התפלל עליו יה יושיעך מעצת מרגלים:
And Moses called Hoshea…: He prayed on his behalf, “May God save you from the counsel of the spies.” [The name יְהוֹשֻׁעַ is a compounded form of יָהּ יוֹשִׁיעֲךָ, May God save you.]- [Sotah 34b]
Why are only the first two letters of Hashem’s name found in Yehoshua’s name? Yehuda, for example, has all four letters of Hashem’s name.
It is the destiny of Yehoshua that he battle with Amalek. The Rambam in Hilchos Melachim (1:1) teaches that upon entering Eretz Yisrael we were obligated in three Mitzvos. In order we are meant to appoint a king, wipe out Amalek and build the Beis HaMikdash.
With regards to Amalek the passuk (Shemos 17:16) says:
וַיֹּ֗אמֶר כִּי־יָד֙ עַל־כֵּ֣ס יָ֔הּ מִלְחָמָ֥ה לַֽיהֹוָ֖ה בַּֽעֲמָלֵ֑ק מִדֹּ֖ר דֹּֽר
"And he said, For there is a hand on the throne of the Eternal, [that there shall be] a war for the Lord against Amalek from generation to generation."
Since כֵּ֣ס is spelled without an aleph it is an indication that as long as Amalek exists Hashem’s throne (kisei) is incomplete. What does it mean that Hashem’s throne is incomplete? It means that God’s name is incomplete. The first two letters of Hashem’s name, namely the Yud Hey (Kah), are detached from the final two letters of Hashem’s name, the Vav Hey. Only when Amalek is obliterated will Hashem’s name be complete in this world and his throne will be restored.
This is what the passuk (Zehchariah 14:9) means when it says:
וְהָיָ֧ה יְהֹוָ֛ה לְמֶ֖לֶךְ עַל־כָּל־הָאָ֑רֶץ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא יִֽהְיֶ֧ה יְהֹוָ֛ה אֶחָ֖ד וּשְׁמ֥וֹ אֶחָֽד:
"And the Lord shall become King over all the earth; on that day shall the Lord be one, and His name one."
Of course God is always one but his presence in this world is not completely clear due to the presence of Amalek. When they are wiped out Hashem’s name will be one, that is to say completely transparent in this world.
Rashi in Bereishis (37:1) tells us that Amalek will be destroyed through a descendant of Yosef. Yehoshua, who contains the first two letters of God’s name in his name, and as a descendant of Yosef, is appropriately tasked with restoring the throne of God by wiping out Amalek.
Yehoshua and Amalek stand diametrically opposed to one another. Whereas Yehoshua embodies strength through humility, Amalek is the ultimate expression of gaiva and azus (arrogance and chutzpah). The Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni 261) compares Amelek to a dog. Rav Yitzchak Volozhiner explains that a dog, when struck with a stick, sinks its teeth into the stick. It fails to realize that its real opponent is the person wielding the stick not the stick itself. This is the gaiva and azus of Amalek. When Amalek looks at the world they see only the events that occur around them but fail to recognize who is the mover behind all of those events.
With this in mind, we can now understand what the Gemara in Sanhedrin (8a) above meant when it said that Hashem commanded Yehoshua to lead the Elders of Klal Yisrael and even to hit them with a stick on their head to make them fall in line. Hashem was not only saying that Yehoshua was meant to lead exclusively, He was also expressing the nature of the role Yehoshua was to play. Yehoshua is instructed to hit the zekeinim over the head with a stick. This means that Yehoshua’s role is to ensure that the generation has the appropriate worldview of the stick. To Amalek, the stick is the enemy. The dog doesn’t attack the person wielding the stick, only the stick itself. There is no Prime Mover behind the scenes. Yehoshua stands opposed to this worldview. Our paradigm must be one that sees the one who is wielding the stick. Yehoshua hits us over the head with the stick and exclaims, it is not the stick that is attacking you. Look deeper and you will see God behind the scenes. In this fashion Yehoshua prepares us to wage war with Amalek.
This is what the Gemara means (Sotah 49b) when it says that the face of the generation before Mashiach will be like that of a dog. The word Kelev can also be read as kol beis – two voices. The kol of this world, of the various events that occur throughout history, is separated from the Kol of Hashem, the true Kol that is pulling all of the strings behind the scenes. The generation before Mashiach will be challenged with hearing two voices. As we look at the history that is unfolding all around us we ascribe powers to these movements. Sometimes they are economic forces, sometimes psychological forces etc… In this fashion we can make sense of the various movements that make up our time. In truth it is all Hashem. To fight Amalek we must listen to the kol hapnimi, the internal voice, which truly moves all things. From this perspective there are not two kolos but only one true kol.
We find a similar din with regards to a shofar on Rosh Hashana. The Gemara in Rosh Hashana (26b) brings a case regarding one who hears a shofar that was placed inside another shofar. Can someone be yotzei with such a kol? The Gemara answers, eem kol p'nimi shoma, yotza – "if the voice of the inner shofar is heard, he has fulfilled his obligation." He has to make sure he is hearing the sound of the inside shofar, not the outside one. Hearing the kol of the outside shofar is the Kol Beis of Amalek. We are only yotzei when we can hear the internal Kol, that is to say the voie of God that is running the world behind the scenes.
The passuk in Devarim (25:18) says that Amalek “cut down all the stragglers in the rear.” Rashi citing the Medrash explains this to mean that Amalek cut off the Bris Milah of the male Jews and threw them up in the air exclaiming to God, “You see! What good has your commandment done for them?”
What is the inner message of this teaching? Why would Amalek attack our Bris Milah?
We know that Amalek attacked us asher korcha baderech, they “happened” upon us along the way. Korcha is from a lashon of mikreh, happenstance. To Amalek everything is happenstance. There is no prime mover behind all of history. Karcha is also from a lashon keri, a seminal emission. Amalek is called Reishis Goyim, first among nations by Bilaam (Bamidbar 24:20). Fittingly, they attack the first Mitzvah in the Torah which is pru urvu, be fruitful and multiply. (This also explains why we battle Amalek on Purim which is the same letters as Pru.) In Yiddishkeit the bris represents the tikkun of sexuality. We take our most primal nature and sanctify it to Hashem. As the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (3:46) says, the purpose of Bris Milah is to temper our taiva. We are not beasts who engage in pleasure simply for the sake of pleasure. It is part of a divine purpose. Amalek celebrates the Orlah which covers the Bris. Nothing has a purpose. There is no prime mover. All there is hester panim as represented in the Orlah.
The Medrash in Shemos Rabbah (19:5) tells us that it was Yehoshua who circumcised Klal Yisrael in Mitzrayim, as the passuk says (Yehoshua 5:2), "Hashem said to Yehoshua, "Return and circumcise the Children of Israel a second time." Yehoshua who, in his humility, seeks to find God in everything in this world stand diametrically opposed to Amalek who seek to cover Hashem in this world and diminish Gods throne.
Yehoshua - A Rebbe for all of Klal Yisrael
A humble person is connected to their Godly essence. A humble Rebbe is connected to the Godly essence of their talmidim. A humble leader is connected to the Godly essence of the entire Jewish Nation.
דבר אחר לחם אבירים אכל איש זה יהושע שירד לו מן כנגד כל ישראל כתיב הכא איש וכתיב התם (במדבר כז, יח) קח לך את יהושע בן נון איש אשר רוח בו ואימא משה דכתיב (במדבר יב, ג) והאיש משה ענו מאד דנין איש מאיש ואין דנין איש מוהאיש
Alternatively, “Man [ish] did eat the bread of the mighty” (Psalms 78:25); the verse is referring to Joshua, for whom manna fell corresponding to all the rest of the Jewish people, when he waited for Moses at Mount Sinai during the forty days Moses was on the mountain. The verses allude to this: “Man” is written here, and “man” is written there: “Take to you Joshua, the son of Nun, a man in whom there is spirit, and lay your hand upon him” (Numbers 27:18). From here, the Gemara learns that the “man” is Joshua. The Gemara asks: Say that the verse is referring to Moses, about whom it is written: “Now the man Moses was very humble” (Numbers 12:3). The Gemara answers: We can learn a verbal analogy to the word “man” from the word “man,” but we cannot learn a verbal analogy to the word “man” from the phrase “the man,” which is used to refer to Moses.
In summation: someone was given the same amount of man as the entire Jewish people. The Gemara suggests that it was Yehoshua who received this man while he was waiting for Moshe Rabbeinu at Har Sinai. The Gemara suggests and ultimately rejects the possibility that it was Moshe Rabbeinu as Moshe Rabbeinu is called ish when referring to his humility.
Two questions come to mind.
Firstly, what is the significance of the fact that the same amount of man fell for Yehoshua as it did for the entire Klal Yisrael?
Secondly, The Gemara rejects the possibility that Moshe Rabbeinu was the one who was given an equivalent amount of man to the entire Jewish Nation because the passuk calls him “haish” the man and not “ish.” In truth, Moshe is is also called an ish when the passuk says lo ish dvarim anochi, I am not a man of words. Why didn't the Gemara suggest this is as possibility? Why did the Gemara only reference the passuk that refers to Moshe’s humility?
The soul is always pure. No matter how many aveiros we may do, no matter how far we have fallen we always remain essentially connected to God. Like a child who has strayed from their parents, they forever remain a child.
And of course it is Yehoshua who teaches us this lesson.
The Gemara in Sanhedrin (44a) teaches:
(יהושע ז, יא) חטא ישראל אמר רבי אבא בר זבדא אע"פ שחטא ישראל הוא
When God explained to Joshua the reason for the Jewish people’s defeat at the city of Ai, He said: “Israel has sinned” (Joshua 7:11). Rabbi Abba bar Zavda says: From here it may be inferred that even when the Jewish people have sinned, they are still called “Israel.”
As we have shown time and again it is Yehoshua who is connected to the essence. Such is the nature of his humility. Amalek might define someone by their actions. There is, after all, nothing more to them. Yehoshua stands on the side of the Bris Milah. The orlah, the covering, has been removed. Yehoshua sees all the way to the essence. This is the Ruach Elokim that flows through the blood of Yehoshua. His humility connects him to the essence of all Jews. Yehoshua is the one who teaches; though we have sinned we remain Jews. Forever essentially connected to Hashem.
This is the inner significance of the fact that Yehoshua was given an equivalent amount of Man to the entire Jewish Nation while waiting for Moshe Rabbeinu at the foot of Har Sinai. As we explained above, it is the humility of Yehoshua that allows him to be totally daveik to his Rebbe. It is also that same humility that connects him to all of Klal Yisrael. Yehoshua the paradigmatic talmid now becomes Yehoshua the paradigmatic Rebbe.
We can now understand the significance of the passuk that is quoted in reference to Moshe Rabbeinu. The Gemara was well aware that other pesukim refer to Moshe as an ish but a very specific type of passuk was needed in this situation. It had to be a passuk about humility. Only through humility is one connected to all of Klal Yisrael. And there was no one greater than Moshe Rabbeinu in this regard. He was the most humble of all the men. Indeed if it were not for a technicality that the passuk refers to him as “vihaish” the man, we could have argued that Moshe Rabbeinu was the one who received that man. Ultimately, it is Yehoshua who in his humility, is deeply connected to the entire Jewish Nation.
Yehoshua and Mashiach
As we have seen throughout this article, the defining characteristic of Yehoshua is his humility. He was the moon to Moshe's sun. While there were other great talmidei chachamim at the time, Yehoshua was chosen to lead because of his humility. Generations later the halacha would be in accordance with Beis Hillel over Beis Shammai because they were defined by their humility (see Eiruvin 13b). The precedent had already been set from the times of Yehoshua.
In the desert Hashem was revealed to all of Klal Yisrael. They journeyed in the ananei hakavod. Entering into Eretz Yisrael represented a step away from the Midbar. Klal Yisrael would be required to settle the land. Wars would be fought. For the Midbar, Moshe was the perfect leader. As the sun of the generation, he was perfectly placed to lead Klal Yisrael in a period of revelation. But now Klal Yisrael would be entering the night. Had Moshe led them into Eretz Yisrael his radiance would have eliminated the darkness. Had Moshe built the Beis HaMikdash it would have been indestructible. The purpose of this world is to build a dirah bitachtonim for God Almighty. The beauty of Yiddishkeit is that we can find God even in the dark of night. That is what He desires most. To illuminate the night we needed a moon, not a sun. The humility of Yehoshua made him the ultimate moon. As we saw, Yehoshua himself underwent a transformation. To lead, he would need to go against the grain of his natural humility. No longer could Yehoshua remain in the background, setting up the benches for Moshe Rabbeinu to give shiur. His humility would now dictate that he be strong and courageous. In this fashion he was to lead Klal Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael.
As we said above, the name Nun represented the transformation of Yehoshua. From the humility of someone who is bent over to someone who stands straight. Interestingly, the Gemara in Sanhedrin (98b) tells us that one of the potential names of Mashiach is Yinon. The word Yinon is made up of a Yud and a Nun. The word Nun means Kingship while the Yud represents continuity. This is what Dovid HaMelech wrote in Tehillim (72:17), "“May his name (Yinon) endure forever, as long as the sun.” Therefore, the name Yinon implies that the kingship of Mashiach will endure forever.
What is the secret of the everlasting kingship of Mashiach? Why is his enduring malchus compared to the sun?
As we said, Moshe Rabbeinu was the sun. He was enduring. It is precisely for this reason that he could not enter into Eretz Yisrael. Yehoshua bin Nun is the moon which waxes and wanes. As opposed to the sun, it is temporary. Such is the nature of its humility. Ultimately, in the times of Mashiach, the moon will radiate as powerfully as the sun, as it did in the outset of creation. When the humility of Yehoshua illuminates the darkness, he reveals God even in the lowest places in the world. At that point God's name will be one in this world, transparent for all to see. In this way Mashiach whose name is Yinon will become as everlasting as the sun. May we merit to greet him speedily in our days.