Parshas Ki Sisa
Follow the Leader
By Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig
At the time Moshe came down from Mount Sinai with the Tablets of the
Decalogue, the Torah records a conversation with his student, Yehoshua
(Joshua). Yehoshua had been separated from the rest of the Jewish people
while he awaited Moshe's return at the bottom of the mountain, and was,
therefore, unaware of the events of the Golden Calf. As Moshe finished his
descent and they both heard the commotion in the camp, "Yehoshua heard the
sound of the people in its shouting and he said to Moshe, 'The sound of
battle is in the camp!'" (Shemos/Exodus 32:17) Moshe corrected him that the
noise emanated from the sinful activity in which they were engaged. The
Torah does not contain extraneous information. Why was it necessary for the
Torah to record Yehoshua's innocent mistake? What message is the Torah
conveying by bringing it to our attention?
Yehoshua was destined to succeed Moshe as leader of the Jewish people. The
Talmud in Tractate Bava Basra contrasts Moshe and Yehoshua, comparing
Moshe's face to the face of the sun, versus Yehoshua's face, which was like
the face of the moon. Netziv (acronym of Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin,
1817-1893, Rosh Yeshiva/Dean of the famed Yeshiva of Volozhin and author of
the biblical commentary Haamek Davar) explains that the sun's shine is so
magnificent that as long as it is present, the moon's light is effectively
non-existent. Similarly, as long as Moshe served as the Divine messenger to
radiate G-d's light upon the world, Yehoshua could not. Thus, concludes
Rabbi Berlin, the verse indicates that for all of Yehoshua's inborn talents,
he could not succeed as a leader during Moshe's lifetime.
But Yehoshua's equation to the moon goes further still.
The teachings of Moshe - the quintessential leader of the Children of Israel
who delivered G-d's Torah to G-d's people - are the light that forever
bestows light on this world, like the sun. The light of Yehoshua was the
moon - a reflected light. True, Yehoshua was a born leader with all of the
necessary talents and abilities. But the Torah teaches us here that Jewish
leaders do not simply step forward and lead. A future Jewish leader first
cleaves to today's leader, learning from his actions and admonitions. After
years, even decades, of tutelage he will come to understand what is expected
of him, enabling him to brilliantly reflect the radiance of his mentor. Even
then, it is merely a reflection; the student is always the "moon" to his
mentor's "sun". The timeless lesson the Torah teaches in this verse is that
a capable Jewish leader must first be a capable Jewish follower.
Have a Good Shabbos!
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