Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Parshat Pinchas

Moshe and Yehoshua

In this week’s parsha, God informs Moshe that he is about to die. Moshe understands the serious ramifications of Israel being leaderless and asks God to appoint a new leader before he dies “so that the congregation of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (Bemidar 27:17).

God tells him to appoint Yehoshua Bin Nun. His selection was to be done in the presence of the whole nation using the Urim. Moshe was also to “bestow some of your majesty upon him so that all the congregation of the children of Israel will take heed” (ibid 20).

Concerning the idea that Moshe bestowed some of his majesty on Yehoshua, the rabbis say: “The face of Moshe was like the sun, the face of Yehoshua like the moon” (Bava Batra 75a).

This expression can be understood in a number of ways. The sun and moon are both beacons that give light, meaning that Yehoshua was in Moshe’s mould. He had a similar style of leadership to Moshe, but was nevertheless inferior to him, just like the moon’s light is to the suns. Or perhaps, just as the moon gains its light from the sun, Yehoshua gained his right to lead as a result of Moshe.

Whatever, the case it is clear that the author of Sefer Yehoshua goes out o his way to show that Yehoshua indeed was the authentic replacement of Moshe. We will show four examples:

Firstly, after Moshe had died, God said to Yehoshua that He: “will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Yehoshua 3:7).

As a result, God does a miracle that was similar to Moshe’s greatest miracle. Yehoshua splits the Jorden River. Moshe had split the Red Sea, a far greater miracle; nevertheless, the people could not fail to recognize that Yehoshua had done a similar miracle and that He was the inheritor of Moshe’s legacy.

Secondly, the expression: “The Lord spoke to _______ saying” is reserved only for Moshe. We do not find it with the any of the Patriarchs, King David or even Eliyahu the prophet, for only Moshe had such a clear prophecy that was like direct speech with the Almighty. (The expression does appear with Aharon, Moshe’s brother, but should really be seen as an extension of Moshe).

Nevertheless, Yehoshua Chapter 20:1, states: “The Lord spoke with Yehoshua saying”. By using the expression reserved exclusively for Moshe, Sefer Yehoshua is once again, presenting him as Moshe’s legitimate successor.

Thirdly, Orthodox Jews believe Moshe to be the prophet who wrote the Torah. Nevertheless, after renewing Israel’s covenant with God, Sefer Yehoshua states: “Yehoshua wrote these words in the book of the Law of God” (ibid 24:26). We need not concern ourselves with the meaning of: “the book of the Law of God”, nevertheless, we have once again Yehoshua performing an act that was clearly unique to Moshe.

Finally, at the outset of the book Yehoshua is described as: “Moshe’s assistant” (ibid 1:1); perhaps that is how Yehoshua saw himself. However, at his death, he is given the same epitaph given to Moshe at his death “servant of the Lord” (compare ibid 24:29 and Devarim 34:5).
In this manner, the author of Sefer Yehoshua shows how exactly Moshe succeeded in bestowing his majesty to his successor, Yehoshua.


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