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Intellectual and Emotional Transmission of Torah

In this week’s parsha, there is a formulation that appears only once in the Torah. The Torah states: “Moshe spoke to the Lord saying,” (Bamidbar 27:15). Typically, a verse would state that God spoke with Moshe. In this instance, Moshe initiated the contact. The verse stresses that Moshe spoke to Hashem. After being informed that he will only see but not enter the Land of Israel, Moshe asks Hashem to appoint a successor. Once again, we witness Moshe’s greatness. Rather than considering his own needs and desires as he nears his departure from this world, he first and foremost expresses his concern about the future of Am Yisrael.

Moshe specifically requests that Hashem select a leader for the nation, so that they do not wander like “sheep without a shepherd.” The language used is: “katzon asher ayn lahem ro’eh,” which translates in English the same as “katzon le’lo ro’eh.” Why the addition of the term: “asher ayn lahem —that they lack?” The Lekach Tov explains that this choice of words is to underscore that a leader’s main concern needs to be with the interests of the people (lahem), not their own personal interests.

Hashem responds by informing Moshe that, indeed, Yehoshua will be his successor. In verse 18, Hashem instructs Moshe: “you shall lay your hand upon him.” Yet, when Moshe appoints Yehoshua, it states: “He laid his hands upon him” (verse 23). The instruction was to do semicha —– to lay with one hand; yet, Moshe used two hands. It may seem trivial, yet, Rav Yosef Soloveitchik (Masoret HaRav) derives an important message from this distinction. The Rav explains in verse 20 that Hashem instructed Moshe to not only appoint Yehoshua, but also “you shall bestow some of your majesty (hod) upon him.” This “majesty” was figuratively imparted via Moshe’s second hand.

There are two mesorot — traditions, that Moshe transferred to Yehoshua. One is the tradition of learning Torah. The second (hod) was experiential. For example, one can learn the laws of Shabbat, yet not truly comprehend the unique and special aspect of Shabbat. To truly understand Shabbat, one has to experience it.

Yehoshua was selected not only because of his intellectual pursuit of Torah but, rather, because he never left Moshe’s side, as is stated: “His attendant, Yehoshua Bin-Nun, a lad, would not depart from the tent,” (Shemot 33:11). Yehoshua learned from the way Moshe spoke to others, prayed and conducted himself on a daily basis. It is interesting to note that Yehoshua is often referred to as lad (na’ar) even though he was clearly in his 50s! He had the attitude of a na’ar —someone willing to learn and absorb from every act of his rebbe. Therefore, Yehoshua merited two mesorot, the mesorah of the mind and the mesorah of the heart —transmitted via Moshe’s two hands.

Our task is to be able to transmit these two mesorot to our students and children. Torah is not just an intellectual pursuit, but one that has to pierce the heart and emotions of an individual. Like Moshe, we need to serve as a personal example and do all we can — in order to convey the emotional, as well as the intellectual beauty of the Torah.


Rabbi Shalom Rosner is a rebbe at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and rabbi of the Nofei HaShemesh community. He is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau ( www.mizrachi.org/speakers ).

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