Humble As Ever

October 13, 2016 at 1:05 AM , , ,

“…And Moshe came and spoke all the words of this song in the ears of the people, he, and hoshea son of nun…” – Devarim 32:44

    ויבא משה וידבר את כל דברי השירה הזאת באזני העם הוא והושע בן נון – דברים לב, מד

The Torah recounts the first time that Moshe and Yehoshua jointly addressed Bnei Yisrael: “And Moshe came and spoke all the words of this song… he, and Hoshea son of Nun.”

Drawing from the three distinct sources, Rashi comments on this episode: “It was a Shabbos of joint leadership; authority was taken from one and given to the other (Sotah 13b). Moshe appointed a spokesperson for Yehoshua (to broadcast his lectures to the public,) so that he could teach in Moshe’s lifetime, so that the Jewish people would not say, “During your teacher’s lifetime you would not raise your head!” (Sifrei 31:1) And why does Scripture here call him Hoshea (for his name had long since been changed to Yehoshua [see Bamidbar 13:16])? To teach us, that he did not become haughty. Though he was given high status, he humbled himself as he had formerly (Sifrei 32:44).”

Rashi’s three points each answer a question that the previous one gives rise to.

Unlike any other transfer of leadership in the Torah and Prophets, where the successor began to lead only after his predecessor’s passing, Moshe and Yehoshua’s joint address was, in effect, a compromise on Moshe’s exclusive leadership—“Authority was taken from one, and given to the other.” Why was this exception necessary?

humble-as-ever

During his predecessor’s lifetime, Yehoshua was the quintessential follower. He was known as Moshe’s “attendant” (Shemos 33:11), and not as a leader. As such, the people might believe he was too meek to lead and say, “During your teacher’s lifetime you would not raise your head!” in Rashi’s words. It was therefore necessary to establish Yehoshua’s leadership—to raise his head, as it were—while Moshe was still alive.

But if the objective was to dispel the notion that Yehoshua was timid, why did the Torah revert to calling him Hoshea here, a name that recalled his early years as Moshe’s attendant, before it was changed to Yehoshua?

This illustrates Yehoshua’s extraordinary humility, says Rashi. The Torah calls him Hoshea here to underscore that despite Moshe specifically elevating him and imbuing him with the preeminence necessary to lead, Yehoshua actively maintained his trademark humility—“He humbled himself, as he had formerly.”

 

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 29, pp. 198-201

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