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Joshua: Land, Law and Leadership
Video 2 of 6
The Torah is completely silent on this issue. You might speculate that he figured, ah, I'm Moses' disciple, nobody is going to listen to me anyway. But perhaps there's a deeper reason. We see right before the spies are sent off by Moses in source number 11, that Moses renamed this man Joshua from Hoshea, or Hoseah, to Joshua; Those were the names of the men whom Moses sent to scout the land, but Moses changed the name of Hoshea the son of Nun to Joshua. The question is, when exactly did this renaming take place? Did it happen right before Moses sent him as a spy? After all, since we've met him from the Book of Exodus, he's always been called Joshua, and there's only one place all the way towards the end of the Torah in Deuteronomy Chapter 32 that he actually is called Hoshea, his original name.
Ramban in the story of Amalek in Exodus Chapter 17, assumes that Moshe, Moses, must have changed Yehoshua's name earlier, in fact even prior to the story of Amalek, since he is already called Yehoshua or Joshua then. If that is the case, if Ramban is correct, then the placement of the renaming [literarily/literary-ly 1:34] in the story of the spies is critical. Why would the Torah wait until now to let us know about this renaming, if Moses had done the renaming prior to the story?
Here's where the Talmud jumps in, source number 12, it's one of the most remarkable passages you'll find out about Joshua; Moses changed the name of Hoshea the son of Nun to Joshua saying, may G-d save you from the wicked counsel of the bad spies. Or in Hebrew; Y-ah yoshiacha mei'atzat meraglim. Are you kidding? Do you really think or does the Talmud really think that Moses did not trust Joshua, his spiritual disciple who never left the tent? Was he worried that Joshua would actually side with the bad spies? This is an incredible prayer.
Perhaps this Talmudic passage is penetrating into Joshua's original silence. Why did only Kalev speak up the first time around? It could be that Moses understood something about his disciple. Yes, Joshua was faithful, he was a wonderful student, he was deeply spiritual and was well on his way to being groomed as Moses' successor. But he had a very deep sense of fear also. It could be that Joshua's initial silence emanated from his fear of the giants; he too was concerned, how are we going to conquer the land? Eventually he came around and realized, look if Moses said that G-d promised that we will enter, we will enter, and therefore he risked his life, he came out to be a hero.
Therefore we can describe Joshua as somebody who contains the two perspectives in the spies narrative that are mutually exclusive. On the one side, we see the resolute faith of Moses and Kalev; if G-d promises, let's enter. On the other hand we see the panic-stricken spies who say, if there are giants we're going to get creamed. Joshua amazingly encapsulates and incorporates both of those. He is like Moses with resolute faith, willing to put his life on the line, but he's also like the other spies, concerned about the giants.
This ambivalence or this complex personality of Joshua seems to be picked up on when G-d tells Moses that Moses will not be entering the Land, but rather must appoint a successor. Look at source number 13; Moses spoke to the L-rd saying, let the L-rd, source of all the breath of all flesh, appoint someone over the community, who shall go out before them and come in before them, and who shall take them out and bring them in, so that the L-rd's community may not be like sheep that have no shepherd. The L-rd answered Moses, single out Joshua son of Nun, an inspired man, and lay your hand upon him. Have him stand before Elazar the Priest, and before the whole community, and commission him in their sight. Invest him with some of your authority, so that the whole Israelite community may obey.
It seems obvious that G-d would choose Joshua, he was being groomed as the disciple and successor from the very beginning.
But if you look at verse 20 carefully, where it says invest him with some of your authority, the Talmud doesn't miss anything and it doesn't miss this. What do you mean some of his authority? Why not just invest him with your authority? Source number 14 has a fascinating Talmudic insight into Joshua's personality, which is the very fear that you and I have been exploring in terms of his being wrong with the golden calf, wrong with Eldad and Maydad, and then surprisingly silent at the beginning of the spies episode.
Invest him with some of your authority, says source number 14, but not all of your authority. The Elders of that generation said, Moses' face is like the sun and Joshua's is like the moon, alas for such shame, alas for such reproach. The Talmud is concerned and projecting that into the Sages of that generation of Moses and Joshua. How are we ever going to go into the promised land, how are we going to battle against the Canaanites, how are we going to remain a solid nation, if Joshua is so much weaker of a leader than Moses? Moses is the sun, and Joshua is but the moon.
Then, just to add to our insecurities, look at all this encouragement that G-d and Moses give to Joshua in source number 15; Joshua the son of Nun who attends you, he shall enter it, imbue him with strength for he shall allot it to Israel. Or source number 16; Give Joshua his instructions and imbue him with strength and courage, for he shall go across at the head of this people. Source number 17; Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, be strong and resolute. And so on and so forth. Source number 18; And he charged Joshua the son of Nun, be strong and resolute.
When you keep having to tell somebody don't worry, don't worry, oh really don't worry, be courageous, be strong. You begin to worry that maybe there is a fear that he's not going to be so strong or resolute. That he's not going to be so courageous. The Book of Joshua right after Moses dies, opens with the very same theme in source number 19; G-d speaks to Joshua at the very beginning saying, be strong and resolute, for you shall apportion to this people the land that I swore to their fathers to assign to them. But you must be very strong and resolute to observe faithfully all the teaching that my servant Moses enjoined upon you. Skip down to verse 9; I charge you be strong and resolute, do not be terrified or dismayed, for the L-rd your G-d is with you wherever you go.
Incredible that in four verses G-d has to tell Joshua three more times to be strong and resolute. But as amazing as it is for G-d to once again have to reiterate all of this encouragement, we then find that Joshua turns to the two and a half tribes: Reuven, Gad, and half of Menashe, who will remain on the east bank of the Jordan after fighting alongside everybody else on the west bank. They come to Joshua and say, sure we'll do whatever we promised we would do. But source number 20; Any man who flouts your commands and does not obey every order you give him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and resolute. The people tell their leader be strong and resolute. If Moses tells Joshua that, that makes sense. If G-d tells Joshua that, that also makes sense. If the people tell their leader be strong and resolute, do they really have confidence that he's going to be able to lead a stiff-necked people who have been complaining an entire generation? Do they believe that he's going to be able to lead them?
That's what we're going to have to explore in the next segment.
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