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, October 03, 2008

Parshat VaYelech

The Lantern Shines On

Moshe knows that his days on earth are coming to end. He says: "I can no longer go or come" (Devarim 31:2).

He therefore, reaffirms that Yehoshua will be replacing him telling him in front of all Israel: "Be strong and courageous! For you shall come with this people to the land which the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them." (ibid 7).

This theme and writing style spills over into Sefer Yehoshua, causing many modern commentators to say that Sefer Devarim and Yehoshua were written by the same author, the Deuteronomic author or the Deuteronomist. We will bring an alternative theory, that Yehoshua and Devarim had separate authors,

It is clear from Sefer Yehoshua that Yehoshua himself had difficulty filling Moshe's shoes. He is constantly reminded "not to fear the enemy", to be "brave and strong" and that God will not abandon him (see Yehoshua 1:5-9).

It is for this reason that God performs for Yehoshua similar miracles to that what he id performed for Moshe.

Moshe's greatest miracle was the splitting of the Red Sea. In order for the people to know that Yehoshua really was Moshe's legitimate successor "that they may know that as I was with Moshe, so will I be with you" (Yehoshua 3:7), God splits the Jordan for him so that He will "make you great in the sight of all Israel" (ibid).

Of course, splitting a whole sea is a far greater miracle than the splitting of a river, however, no one is suggesting that Yehoshau was just a s great as Moshe, only that he was the rightful heir. Indeed the Rabbis state that Moshe was the sun while Joshua was the moon. The moon is an impressive celestial object, but the sun is far more impressive. So too, Yehoshua was a great leader, but Moshe was far greater. Indeed, Moshe shone on his own while Yehoshua gained his light from Moshe.

The point is for the people and Yehoshua himself, to appreciate that Yehoshua was indeed Moshe's legitimate successor.

Sefer Yehoshua brings numerous other examples to prove this point: "The Lord spoke to Yehoshua, saying" (ibid 20:1) is a deliberate and precise copy of the standard biblical verse attributed to Moshe. Furthermore, at the beginning of Yehoshua, Moshe is described is the "servant of the Lord", while Yehoshua is described as "Moshe's apprentice" (ibid 1:1). However, upon his death, Yehoshua is described as "the servant of the Lord" (ibid 24:29), the same epitaph given to Moshe.

Therefore, it is possible tha rather than Devarim and Yehoshua having the same author, that the author of Yehoshua deliberately wrote his book in the style of Sefer Devarim, because he wants to give not just his book Biblical authority, but because he wants to subtly show in a more latent way, that Yehoshua was the true successor to the path that Moshe could no longer walk.

Last year's Sedra Short on Parshat Nitsavim-VaYelech, entitled: "Alone in a Crowd" appears at

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