By Rabbi Naftoly Bier
In במדבר כז:טז we find a unique פסוק, verse; in fact only once in the whole Torah is it mentioned “וידבר משה אל ה’ לאמר” “And Moshe spoke with sharpness, demand to Hashem, asking for a reply.” The word וידבר is used to connote demand, authority, position of power etc. How can Moshe Rabbeinu be so brazen to speak to Hashem in such a manner?
The בעל הטורים quotes a ספרי זוטא, “There is no פסוק, verse like this in the whole Torah.” Moshe said to Hashem: don’t You remember / know how many times You addressed me וידבר?” It seems that Moshe was equating at that critical juncture of Klal Yisroel’s narrative, that he was obligated to demand a true and competent successor for he had been informed that he will die. For forty years he was the נשמה, soul of כלל ישראל, he lived every moment selflessly for them; now I can demand from You, ‘ה, to take care of them, just as You demanded I teach them Your Torah day and night! That is my grave responsibility, anything less would be a wrong manifestation of my lack of total dedication.
A lesson; of how a leader has to recognize that one has to completely, selflessly function as a vigorous dynamic laborer and spokesman for all.
Moshe Rabbeinu initially asked Hashem to appoint his son as his successor. Hashem told him that he does not qualify but rather יהושע, Joshua, would be the next leader.
Didn’t Moshe Rabbeinu know he wasn’t the most qualified? It is true that a son should be a natural replacement as we see by the כהן גדול, High Priest and the מלך, king.
We can derive a most important idea of חנוך. It’s not what a parent says, it’s how a parent acts; a parent has to be a model to his family. Consequently, he thought the most natural successor would be the one who through watching and following him would unconsciously assimilate and be inculcated with the proper manner of superior, selfless and dedicated leadership.
The בעל הטורים points out that the verses טז-יז, 16-17 have 28 words, יהושע led the Jewish people for 28 years; an intimation to the lesson וזכרת כי ה’ אלקיך הוא נותן לך כח לעשות חיל And you should remember that Hashem, your G-d, He is the One that gives you the acumen, ability to earn your wealth.
Yehoshua epitomized selfless dedication to Hashem and His Klal Yisroel due to his absolute unequivocal recognition that he was but an agent of Hashem, created solely for the purpose of sanctifying His Name; all his talent, leadership skills, intellect solely to be utilized for this purpose.
The אורח חיים explains that יהושע was איש אשר רוח בו, a person who could relate and understand in depth every individual. But he was granted an added dimension; “מהודך עליו” And Moshe would give of his “crown on him.” Moshe Rabbeinu was unique in this sense that his נשמה, soul, was the root of all of Klal Yisroel’s souls; he partially contained the essence of all of Klal Yisroel. This gift was imparted to יהושע.
This ideal of unmitigated selflessness was exhibited by פנחס, Pinchas. Though many people derided him when he killed Zimri, he nevertheless only contemplated the need to sanctify Hashem’s Name. It’s no wonder that when Yehoshua selected two spies, it was two people who were completely focused on one’s true mission; to selflessly dedicate themselves to Hashem, כלב & פנחס.
The Chazon Ish (of Bnei Brak) once asked a distinguished תלמיד חכם, a scholar of repute, to take time and expend effort to assist an ailing person. After a duration of four weeks, the person was once again well and active. The חזון איש profusely thanked him. The scholar demurred and said, “But I hardly learned Torah all that time.” The Chazon Ish replied, when one exerts oneself to selflessly help another, one creates for oneself a larger בית קיבול, an ability to absorb and understand Hashem’s Torah. The true deep understanding of Torah is a gift from Hashem; when one emulates Hashem by dedicating oneself to others, one’s similarity to Hashem connects one to Hashem’s Torah in a profound manner.
The Alter from Slabodka, HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel זצל is known for his constant teaching, exhortation and as a model of גדלות האדם, the lofty noble dignified essence of every human being. Rav Aryeh Finkel זצל, a great-grandchild and former משגיח of the Mirrer Yeshiva, taught that this guidance was secondary to his main teaching. That was חסד, chessed! All of one’s focus must be how can one make Hashem’s world to be the most satisfying place for everyone. The idea of גדלות האדם is a progression from being active in constantly selflessly asking how can I assist others to feel valued, to be secure financially, to have שלום בית, to be healthy, to learn Torah…. Only then is a person gifted by Hashem to truly feel the inner nobility that everyone naturally possesses.
The ילקוט שמעוני says that Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu, “You are aware of how diligently Yehoshua served you, how much he engendered adulation, admiration and reverence for you, and he awakened early and stayed late in your place of study and teaching to arrange the chairs and to spread the מחצלאות, “mats” and therefore he should be your successor! A person who selflessly takes care of a מקום תורה, arranging what every person who uses the place of study should be doing – he due to his selfless relentless dedication to Moshe Rabbeinu should succeed him. The ultimate overriding principle that governs one’s ability to lead and teach Torah – both gifts from Hashem – is how unselfish, benevolent, compassionate, sympathetic, attentive and altruistic one is. This was Moshe Rabbeinu, Yehoshua, Pinchas, Calev… and many more. The one who established the paradigm was Avrohom Avinu!