Not Joshing You At All: Vayelekh 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What was the best nugget of advice you’ve ever received? Have you subsequently forwarded that same advice to other people?

As Moses concludes handing off power to his successor, Joshua, his words are worth examining:

The Pitch: “Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel: ‘Be strong and resolute, for it is you who shall go with this people into the land that Adonai swore to their fathers to give them, and it is you who shall apportion it to them.’” – Deuteronomy 31:7

Swing #1: “Rabbi Nathan says: Moses was saddened that one of his sons did not stand (in his place) — whereupon Adonai said to him: Are the sons of your brother Aaron not like your sons? He, too, that I appoint over Israel will go and stand at Elazar’s door (to learn from him). … Likewise, the Holy One said to Joshua: Go and stand at the door of the sons of Elazar. … At that time the strength of Moses increased and he strengthened Joshua before the eyes of all of Israel.” – Sifrei D’varim

Swing #2: “Just as Joshua prepares to take the lead after Moses’ death, his brother Aaron also has a successor, Eleazar. While no one is designated to succeed their sister Miriam, Deborah would be a fitting choice. Deborah, like Miriam, is called a prophet; and she is praised as ‘Mother in Israel’, a title that most likely indicates her role as a leader during the period of the Judges.” – The Torah: A Woman’s Commentary, Tamara Cohn Eskenazi & Andrea L. Weiss, ed.

Swing #3: “These words of encouragement, used in verse 6 in the plural for the Israelites, before the armed confrontation with the Canaanites are, as Abraham ibn Ezra properly notes, the same words Moses addresses now to Joshua.” – Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary

Late-Inning Questions: How might our commentators describe Moses’ feelings for Joshua? Does he see him as the son he never had? Or is the relationship a bit more collegial? What should we ask of those who will succeed us?

On-Deck at TBT: I was touched to see how many people banded together to make several different kinds of High Holiday services successful. Can’t wait to do it again next week.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of advice, I still think that Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler was deceptively profound when describing his hitting philosophy: “Keep your eye on the ball and hit ‘em where they ain’t.” Despite the dubious grammar, it’s a philosophy that applies to multiple areas of life.

Shabbat Shalom, and G’mar Hatimah Tovah!