Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Following The Leader

By Rabbi Joshua (mimetically known as The Hoffer) Hoffman [z"l]

As we mentioned in last week’s message, the Targum Yonason ben Uziel says that when Moshe saw the exceeding humility of Yehoshua, he prayed for him, that he be able to resist the evil intent of the spies to discourage the people from conquering Eretz Yisroel. What accounted for this excessive humility, and how did Moshe discern it? Rav Shimon Schwab, in his Ma’ayan Beis HaShoeivah, explains that Yehoshua, as a dedicated student of Moshe, wanted to emulate his teacher as much as possible. Since Moshe’s defining character trait was that of humility, being described in the Torah as the most humble man on the face of the earth, Yehoshua adapted that trait in an excessive way, and Moshe feared that he would be so humble that he would not be able to stand up against the nefarious plan of the spies, and would be caught up in their sin. Therefore, he prayed for him, and added the letter yud to his original name of Hashem, asking God to save him from the plan of the spies. My teacher, Rav Aharon Soloveitchik, zt”l, explained that the letter yud adds the personal element to a word, and by adding it to the name of Hoshea, Moshe was trying to help his student to assert his own personality and avoid being influenced by the spies, in accordance with his prayer.

Rav Schwab’s observation can be expanded upon by noting that a central feature of Yehoshua’s personality was his penchant to act exactly as his teacher, Moshe, acted. This is what lies behind the comment made by the elders that the face of Moshe resembled the sun and the face of Yehoshua resembled the moon. The moon, as represented by Yehoshua, did not have its own light, but merely reflected the light of the sun, as represented by Moshe. This is, actually, in accord with the Torah’s frequent description of Yehoshua as a na’ar, a youth, despite the fact that he was already a grown man when described in that way. My teacher, Rav Aharon Soloveitchik, zt”l, explained, in a different context, that the primary characteristic of youth is imitation. Children imitate others, not having yet developed their own personalities. The state of youth has its positive aspects, indicating vigor, but the aspect of imitation can have negative consequences, even though it has a positive side. Yehoshua was the devoted disciple of Moshe, the youth who never left his tent, imitating him as much as possible. With all the positive effects that his emulation of Moshe produced, the trait of imitation has within it a potential downside as well. That is why Moshe prayed for Yehoshua to develop his own personality, so that he would be able to carry out his mission properly.