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Joshua: Land, Law and Leadership
Video 3 of 6
Because we recall from the very beginning that the Book of Joshua depicts Joshua and his generation as an ideal age. The people almost never sin, only one man, Achan, sins, everybody else is good, nobody complains. The only time that there's any complaint at all is in Chapter 9 of the Book of Joshua, when the people mistakenly strike a treaty with the Gibeonites - the Givonim, the people then complain and grumble to the Elders of the community, not to Joshua himself. Perhaps the most astounding moment where the people should have complained to Joshua but did not, is when they suffered their only major military defeat when they battled against the city of Ai in Joshua Chapter 7. Even though the text says that their heart sank in total dismay, they still did not come running to Joshua saying, get us out of here, it's just like what the bad spies said 40 years ago, we're doomed. How are we ever able to win this battle against the Canaanites if we cannot even vanquish a tiny city like Ai?
Perhaps - and this is what I wanted to suggest - perhaps the reason why the people did not complain to Joshua is because they understood, Joshua actually understands our fears, he's like one of us. That's what we see in terms of Joshua's own reaction to the loss at Ai in source number 21. Instead of the people running to Joshua and saying, how could you lead us into this land, as they might have with Moses, Joshua instead turns to G-d and says; Our L-rd G-d, cried Joshua, why did you lead this people across the Jordan only to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites, to be destroyed by them? If only we had been content to remain on the other side of the Jordan. Oh L-rd what can I say after Israel has turned tail before its enemies? When the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land hear of this they will turn upon us and wipe out our very name from the earth. What will You do about Your great name?
In just three verses Joshua has done something absolutely amazing. The first verse, where he says, why did You lead this people across the Jordan, that sounds very close to what the bad spies said in the spies episode. Joshua is panicking and saying, why should we be in the land of Israel if we're going to lose to the Canaanites? Then verses 8 and 9 sound like Moses during the spies episode. G-d what will happen to your reputation if Israel is losing? In just three verses Joshua has shown and continues to display a composite personality. He encapsulates what seemed to be mutually exclusive elements within the spies' narrative. He is indeed an excellent disciple of his teacher Moses and simultaneously he understands the fears of the people from within, he is terrified as well.
This helps explain - going back to our Talmudic passage that we looked at last time, in Sotah - that Moses feared that Joshua might turn to the bad side, he might turn over and be influenced by the bad spies. Moses understood that Joshua was resolute, had a deep sense of faith, but he also was very fearful of the Canaanites.
When the Talmud says that Moses is like the sun and Joshua is like the moon then, on the one hand that means that Joshua of course is lesser. But of course you can stare at the moon, you cannot stare at the sun, and literally the people could not stare at Moses. Don't forget, shortly after the golden calf episode we find in Shemot or in Exodus Chapter 34 that Moses glowed with such rays of light from his communication with G-d, that they had to put a veil over him. So think about this, Moses was able to talk to G-d face to face, but the people could not even speak to Moses face to face. In contrast, Joshua was like the moon; sure, he was objectively lesser than Moses and by far, but you can look at the moon, the people saw that Joshua was accessible, he's one of us. If Joshua is going to come to bat for us and express our fears to G-d, we don't need to complain to him, because we know that he's taking our perspective into account.
The Talmud offers a penetrating insight into exactly this point. In source number 22, Rabbi Chaninah further said, everything is in the hand of heaven except for the fear of heaven, as it says, And now Israel, what does the L-rd your G-d demand of you, only this, to revere. Moses, shortly before he died tells the people, what's the big deal? G-d doesn't ask that much of you, you just have to fear Him and keep all the commandments and be perfect all the time. The Talmud reads that verse and quakes, is the fear of heaven such a little thing? Moses is making it sound so easy, but in the meantime it's really hard to be religious all of the time and to always get it right. How could Moses just tell them, oh G-d expects very little, we simply have to fear G-d and keep all of His commandments all of the time?
So continuing in our passage, the Talmud gets to the bottom of it; Yes, for Moses it was a small thing. As Rabbi Chaninah said, to illustrate by a parable. If a man is asked for a big article and he has it, it seems like a small article to him. If he is asked for a small article and he does not possess it, it seems like a big article to him. What is Rabbi Chaninah saying? Moses' fear of G-d was so second nature to him, it was so potent, it was so - it permeated his entire being. He couldn't understand that somebody else might struggle with faith. That somebody else might make mistakes. He tells the people - he speaks to them as though they're all like him, what's the big deal, it's so easy to serve G-d all the time, I do it, you can do it too. Of course that's beautiful, I wish that Moses were right, I wish that all of us could serve G-d as naturally as did Moses, and be as close to G-d as was Moses.
But in fact says the Talmud, as we all know, it's a little harder than that for most of us, and so the Talmud creates a disconnect; that Moses is speaking to a people, he expects that they will naturally and instantly do everything right, whereas the people are not there. This helps explain Moses is the sun and Joshua is the moon. Joshua is a diminished personality, but he understands the fear of the people. As a result, when they get scared he also feels their fear internally, and he's able to turn to G-d and come to bat. It seems like this has a great deal to do with why Joshua was so effective of a leader. When a crisis occurred the people knew that they could count on Joshua and simultaneously Joshua continued to properly reflect all of Moses' teachings, he was an excellent disciple of the master.
The Sfat Emet, Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib, the Alter of Ger, gives one further insight. He says that Moses is like the sun. When the sun is in the sky you cannot see the stars, all you see is the sun, it completely dominates. But when you have the moon, like Joshua, you see other stars beginning to shine. The entire Book of Joshua, you see time and again how he passes authority over to Elders, to the priests, to the officials, to all sorts of people. Moshe - Moses - is such a dominant leader that there's not a lot of room for other stars to shine. This is another element of Joshua's success; not only does he bridge the worlds of Moses and the people by having Moses' faith and simultaneously the fears of the people, but he also enables other people to shine, he empowers other leaders to join him and that brings the people in. They are able to serve with him and share a fate together.
In our next segment we will close this part of the Shiur by exploring further dimensions of the sun and moon leadership of Moses and Joshua.
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