And Moshe spoke to HASHEM, saying: “Let HASHEM, the G-d of the spirits of
all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them, and
who may come in before them, and who may lead them out, and who may bring
them in; that the congregation of HASHEM not be as sheep which have no
shepherd.” And HASHEM said unto Moshe: “Take for yourself Yehoshua the son
of Nun, a man of spirit, and press your hand upon him; and set him before
Elazar the priest, and before all of the congregation; and give him a charge
in their sight. And you shall place your glory honor upon him so that all
the congregation of the children of Israel should accept…And Moshe did as
HASHEM commanded him; and he took Yehoshua, and set him before Elazar the
priest, and before all of the congregation, and he placed his hands upon
him, and charged him, as the HASHEM spoke by the hand of Moshe. (Bamidbar
Why was Yehoshua chosen to replace Moshe? Was he the biggest scholar in the
generation? What makes someone worthy of leadership? What was his special
Recently I heard the following story about Reb Elchonon Wasserman ztl. He
came to the United States from Europe before the 2nd World War to collect
money to support his Yeshiva in Baronovitch. He was staying in Williamsburg,
Brooklyn. Someone told him about a successful Jewish clothing manufacturer
in Manhattan that had many hundreds of workers but refused to give charity.
Reb Elchonon took up the challenge of going to visit this businessman.
When he arrived at the workplace he was given a less than warm reception.
The boss finally welcomed him into his office and anticipating the request
for money, he curtly questioned him about why he had come. Reb Elchonon
stood in full stature (he was a tall man) and showed him where a button on
his jacket had become loose. The man was stunned and relieved and so
immediately he called over one of his workers from the coat manufacturing
division and following instructions, they secured all the buttons on the
Rabbi's coat. Reb Elchonon graciously thanked them and he left.
A short while later it dawned on this businessman the oddity of that visit.
He called for Reb Elchonon and asked him, “Did you really come all the way
from Williamsburg just get a few buttons sewn on your jacket?” Reb Elchonon
responded frankly, “No! I came from Baronovitch!” “Are you telling me”, the
manufacturer wondered, “that you came all the way from Europe just to have
buttons secured on your coat?” Reb Elchonon answered question firmly, “Are
you telling me that your soul made the long journey through the many
heavenly layers down to this world, a much longer distance, only to sew
buttons on coats?” The words penetrated the man's heart and sent Reb
Elchonon back with a handsome donation.
What happened here? Was it just that Reb Elchonon, in his brilliance, had
managed to push the right buttons or maybe there's another explanation as
well. The Talmud in Brochos makes the following almost paradoxical
statement; “It is greater to service (assist) a Talmud Scholar more than
even learning from him!” Why is that so?
Wouldn’t it be better to learn the writings of a great scholar rather than
to help him with his bags?! The Talmud Scholar is a living symphony of Torah
priorities and human sensitivities. Studying a few notes of music Mozart
would not be one part as transformational as experiencing the music itself.
At the giving of the Torah we are told that “the nation saw the- Kolos”
sounds. The one who assists the scholar sees in action what others only hear
or understanding intellectually. There is a world to be gained from that
proximity that cannot be gotten from scholarship alone.
Reb Aaron Kotler ztl. said that a person needs a “Zechus Torah”, a merit of
Torah, to be able to give to Torah. Perhaps, even that small action earned
the coat manufacturer a “Zechus Torah” and that gave him the merit to
participate in supporting Torah.
Our sages tell us that Yehoshua was the one who would set up the tables for
the Moshe’s lectures. He was the designated helper that put him constant
contact with Moshe. He had the ongoing merit of seeing the symphony.