This is an abridged version of the last D’var Torah that Ari Fuld posted online. The full transcript and video can be found at AriFuld.org.
Hey everyone, Ari Fuld here. We’re broadcasting out of the beautiful rolling hills of Judea, Israel, and we have a short, but very exciting lesson we’re going to be talking about today from this week’s Torah portion.
We’re going to talk about something that is probably one of the most practical pieces of advice for today. We’re talking about handing over leadership.
Moshe is about to die, and God commands him to hand over the leadership to Yehoshua bin Nun (Joshua).
You would expect that Moshe would give his successor advice on how to be a successful leader, maybe something positive to boost his confidence. But that’s not what happens. Moshe doesn’t hold a private talk with Yehoshua. Instead, Moshe speaks in front of the entire nation of Israel.
Moshe says to the nation, I am a hundred and twenty years old today, I can’t do it anymore. Also, God told me I’m not crossing this Jordan river. You’re about to die, you’re handing over responsibility to the next leader, and instead of boosting everyone’s confidence, you say, I’m too old, I can’t do this anymore, and God told me I’m not entering the Land of Israel. Remember, Bnei Yisrael created a Golden Calf when they thought Moshe was just a few hours late coming down from Har Sinai and believed they no longer had a leader.
Well, if Moshe says he can’t do it, then certainly Yehoshua can’t do it either. If Moshe is being punished for hitting the rock, how can any of us hope to do better? How can the nation have confidence in Yehoshua? Moshe then tells the nation that God will go before them and fight their wars. And only then does Moshe finally mention Yehoshua, who will go in front of the nation, as God commanded.
But if God is going before the nation of Israel, what do we need Yehoshua for?
Moshe finishes off by telling the nation to be strong and brave and God won’t abandon them, and He will take care of them.
Finally, Moshe talks to Yehoshua, but not privately. In front of everyone Moshe says to him, “Chazak v’Ematz… Be strong and be brave, you will make this nation come into Israel the way that God promised your forefathers and you will settle them in the land. There is some very strange wording here, such as using “Tavoh” instead of “Tavih” — “You will make the nation come into the land,” instead of “You will bring the nation into the land.” Moshes adds, “v’Adonai hu haholech lifanecha…” and that’s it. The conversation’s over. There’s no advice for Yehoshua.
What’s going on here?
Moshe’s can’t be saying he can’t do this anymore because he is old, weak or unable, after all, it was God, not Moshe, who inflicted the ten plagues and split the sea. It was all God. So what does Moshe mean? Moshe is saying he no longer has God’s permission to do this anymore. Moshe’s message to Yehoshua and the nation is that there’s only one source of success and failure, and that is God. Yehoshua is important and his efforts are important, but a leader is only as good as his followers.
Only because God promised the land to our forefathers is Yehoshua guaranteed success. At the end of the day, the only way the Jews can succeed is not dependent on a Moshe, and it is not dependent on a Yehoshua, it’s dependent on the nation of Israel.
If you, the nation of Israel follow the Torah, if you keep its moral code, you will succeed – and if you don’t, you won’t.
That’s the bottom line.
from the beautiful rolling hills of Judea, Israel.