Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Parshat Bereishit - The First Man

Parshat Bereishit 
   The First Man
   Rabbi Ari Kahn

In the beginning, G-d created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And a wind from G-d moved upon the face of the waters. And G-d said, Let there be light; and there was light. And G-d saw the light, that it was good; and G-d divided the light from the darkness. And G-d called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (1:1-5)

With these epic words, the Torah, and indeed the world, begins. The beginning is clouded in mystery, perhaps allegory and allusion. The Mishna dissuades even the sage from attempting to penetrate the unfathomable:

The [subject of] forbidden relations may not be expounded in the presence of three, nor the work of creation in the presence of two, nor [the work of] the chariot in the presence of one, unless he is a sage and understands of his own knowledge. Whosoever speculates upon four things, a pity for him! he is as though he had not come into the world, [to wit], what is above, what is beneath, what before, what after. And whosoever takes no thought for the honor of his maker, it were a mercy if he had not come into the world. (Chagiga 11b)

Nonetheless, there are hints about the dawn and predawn- or perhaps the term should be twilight- of creation in our tradition.[1] When commenting on this Mishna, the Talmud makes an obscure reference:

But R. Aha b. Jacob said: Upon those who pressed forward, for it is said: ‘Who pressed forward before their time, whose foundation was poured out as a stream.’ It is taught: R. Shimon the Pious said: ‘’These are the nine hundred and seventy four generations who pressed themselves forward to be created’ before the world was created, but were not created. The Holy One, blessed be He, arose and planted them in every generation, and it is they who are the insolent of each generation. (Chagiga 13b-14a)[2]

There are those who were created, yet not created, who were "pressed" or contracted, and placed into future generations.[3] Rashi explains this passage by presenting a verse in Psalms: [4]

He has remembered His covenant forever, the word He commanded to a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and his oath to Isaac. And confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant. (Psalms Chapter 105:8-10)

A cursory reading of this verse might lead to the understanding that the Torah is of limited scope and efficacy, for the verse speaks of a "mere" thousand generations. Rashi, however, explains that the Torah was given, not for a thousand generations, but to the thousandth generation. One could have simply attributed the term to vernacular usage and metaphor, citing other poetic uses of the “thousand years” or “thousand generations” coin of speech:

‘A thousand’ is used in a verse in Kohelet describing the futility of man's aspirations:

And though he live one thousand years twice told, yet has he seen no good; do not all go to one place?All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled. (Kohelet 6:6,7)

While we know that G-d transcends time, the Psalmist nonetheless utilizes this same “thousand” expression to describe Divine time:

A Prayer of Moses the man of G-d: Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, before you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, You are G-d. You turn man back to dust; and say, ‘Turn back, O children of men!’  For a thousand years in your sight are but like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night. (Psalms 90:1-4)

Apparently, Rashi did not want to allow the possibility of a misunderstanding, of the suggestion that the Torah has an expiration date - a "shelf life" of one thousand generations. Therefore, Rashi explains that the verse means the word of G-d was commanded to the "thousandth generation".[5] Saying that the Torah was given to the thousandth generation does solve the problem of suggesting that the Torah is limited. On the other hand, a separate problem is presented: When one counts the generations in the Torah from Adam until Moshe, far less than a thousand are enumerated. In fact, according to tradition, the Torah was given to the 26th generation[6].

R. Joshua b. Levi said: ‘To what do these twenty-six [verses of] ‘Give thanks’ correspond? To the twenty-six generations which the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world; though He did not give them the Torah, He sustained them by His love.’ (P’sachim 118a)

If the Torah was given to the thousandth generation, yet only twenty-six generations are discernible, nine hundred seventy four generations are “missing”. This, according to Rashi, is the lesson of the Talmud. According to this approach, both formulations are true: The Torah was given both to the thousandth generation and to the twenty-sixth generation. The solution lies in those who were “created but not created” before the world came into existence.
While this solution works mathematically, the theological implications seem challenging. The passage from the Talmud offered as an “explanation” is difficult to understand.

These are the nine hundred and seventy four generations who pressed themselves forward to be created before the world was created, but were not created. The Holy One, blessed be He, arose and planted them in every generation, and it is they who are the insolent of each generation. (Chagiga 13b-14a)

Were these people created or not? The entire passage seems paradoxical. An analysis of a series of teachings in the Midrash authored by Rav Abahu may shed light on this mystery.

Rav Abahu addresses a verse in the Torah which reflects upon Creation:

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord G-d made the earth and the heavens. (2:4)

Rav Abahu explains this verse with the following cryptic comment:

‘These are the generations of the heaven, etc.’ R. Abahu said: Wherever 'these are’ (eleh) is written, it disqualifies [rejects] the preceding; ‘and these are’  (ve-eleh) adds to the preceding. Here, where ‘these are’ is written, it disqualifies the preceding. What does it disqualify? Formlessness and void. (Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XII:3)

In this context, the linguistic comment seems strange. What could possibly have preceded creation? The answer provided is equally strange: "tohu va-vohu" - "Formlessness and void" were now rendered disqualified. One would have thought that "tohu va-vohu" were non-entities, merely a description of a world prior to creation, or before the completion of creation. One would have understood that tohu va-vohu is the description of the world where the process of creation was incomplete, and not as an entity unto itself.

In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

Apparently, Rav Abahu understands that tohu va-vohu is an entity, whose existence necessitated an act of creation, and which was subsequently destroyed.

Instead of guessing as to the meaning of these words, we can avail ourselves of a second teaching of Rav Abahu, where he explains the meaning of tohu va-vohu.

R. Abahu and R. Hiyya Rabbah were engaged in discussion. R. Abahu said: From the very beginning of the world's creation the Holy One, blessed be He, foresaw the deeds of the righteous and the deeds of the wicked. Thus, ‘Now the earth was formless and void’ alludes to the deeds of the wicked. ‘And G-d said: Let there be light’ [refers] to the actions of the righteous. I still might not know in which of these He delights, the former or the latter. But from what is written, ‘And G-d saw the light, that it was good,’ (I, 4), it follows that He desires the deeds of the righteous, and not the deeds of the wicked. (Midrash Rabbah - Genesis II:5)

Here Rav Abahu identifies the deeds of the wicked with tohu va-vohu. Our impression is of some type of time system, and a gradual process of creation. The completed world is a monument to the rejected "pre-world" nothingness, which is now identified with the behavior of the wicked.

A third teaching by Rav Abahu will link the first two and help us form an organic whole of Rav Avahu's ideas:

‘And there was evening, etc.’ R. Judah b. R. Simon said: ‘Let there be evening’ is not written here, but ‘And there was evening’; hence we know that a time-order existed before this. R. Abahu said: This proves that the Holy One, blessed be He, went on creating worlds and destroying them until He created this one, and declared, ‘This one pleases Me; those did not please Me.’ R. Pinchas said: This is R. Abahu's reason: ‘And G-d saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good’ Gen. I, 31): This pleases Me, but those did not please Me. (Midrash Rabbah - Genesis III:7)[7]

Here, Rav Abahu's ideas are much more daring. The description of "worlds being created and destroyed" certainly dampens our egocentrism. More importantly, these ideas can not be understood in a vacuum; all three teachings should be seen together. Creation as we know it destroyed an entity known as tohu va-vohu, identified as the acts of the wicked, which apparently existed in a world prior to ours.[8]

Now perhaps we may understand our original passage from the Talmud: There were an additional 974 generations that existed, but did not exist. They existed in a different "world", not in ours.

It may be possible to discern the existence of this previous world and the wicked people who lived in it from the text of the Torah itself. When the Torah describes man’s creation, we are told of a merger of physical and spiritual attributes:

And the Lord G-d formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord G-d planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed (2:7,8).

The creation of Adam does not echo the creation of other aspects of the world. G-d does not simply say "Let there be man!".[9] Rather, we witness an amalgamation of two vastly disparate entities: the dust of the ground and the breath of G-d. The breath of G-d is ethereal, beyond human quantification. However, the dust of the earth is wholly of this world. On a conceptual level, we may say that the creation of man describes the merger of existing material with a divine endowment. Perhaps this pre-existing material was an earlier form of man, a wicked version which lacked the ‘breath of G-d’ - a soul. Such a man could be described as pure physicality, much like the dust of the earth.

This conceptual understanding has a basis in the world of Midrash. The Torah describes the birth of Seth by saying that he was in the image of his father Adam who in turn was in the image of G-d:

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when G-d created man, in the likeness of G-d He made him. Male and female He created them; and blessed them, and called their name Man, on the day they were created. And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth. (5:1-3)

According to tradition Adam, was estranged from Eve during these one hundred and thirty years:

R. Simon said: ‘The mother of all living’ means the mother of all life. For R. Simon said: Throughout the entire one hundred and thirty years during which Adam held aloof from Eve the male demons were made ardent by her and she bore, while the female demons were inflamed by Adam and they bore, as it is written, ‘If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the afflictions of the children of man-Adam’(II Sam. VII, 14), which means, the children of the first man." (Bereishit Rabbah 20:11)

This idea is further elaborated in the Midrash on this verse:

‘This is the book of the descendants of Adam.’ These were descendants, while the earlier ones were not descendants. What, then, were they? Divinities! [The answer is as] Abba Cohen Bardela was asked: [Why does Scripture enumerate] Adam, Seth, and Enosh, and then become silent? To which he answered: Hitherto they were created in the likeness and image [of G-d], but from then onwards Centaurs were created. Four things changed in the days of Enosh: The mountains became [barren] rocks, the dead began to feel [the worms], men's faces became ape-like, and they became vulnerable (hullin) to demons. Said R. Isaac: They were themselves responsible for becoming vulnerable to demons, [for they argued]: What is the difference whether one worships an image or worships man? Hence, ‘Then man became degraded to call upon the name of the Lord’ (Gen. IV, 26). Another interpretation: These are descendants, but the earlier ones were not [human] descendants. What, then, were they? Demons. For R. Simon said: Throughout the entire one hundred and thirty years during which Adam held aloof from Eve the male demons were made ardent by her and she bore, while the female demons were inflamed by Adam and they bore, as it is written, ‘If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the afflictions of the children of man-Adam’ (II Sam. VII, 14), which refers to the children of the first [primeval] man. (The reason for the view that house- spirits are benevolent is because they dwell with him [man], while the opinion that they are harmful is based on the fact that they understand man's evil inclinations. He who maintains that the spirits of the field are benevolent does so because they do not grow up with him; while as for the view that they are harmful, the reason is because they do not comprehend his evil inclinations.) These are the descendants of Adam, but the earlier ones were not descendants of Adam. Why? Because they were destroyed by the flood. (Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XXIV:6)

In this amazing passage, we are told of other "offspring" of Adam and Eve, offspring who did not possess the Divine image - children without souls. In this Midrash these offspring are described as demons, who were destroyed in the flood.

In the ‘Guide for the Perplexed’, the Rambam restates this Midrash, with one critical difference: According to the Rambam, demons do not exist; rather, the passage describes children of Adam who did not possess the Divine Image. They were human in form and animal in spirit, lacking the divine endowment their father possessed.

You already know that anyone who does not have this form which we have described is not a "man", rather an animal in human form and build. (Guide for the Perplexed 1:7)[10]

The question is, if Adam had progeny who did not possess a Divine soul, could he have had ancestors who also were similarly spiritually challenged?[11]

When the Torah describes a part of Adam’s core as the dust of the earth, could this refer to people, a people who “existed yet never existed”? Could it describe an existence that may have had a physical effect on this world but no spiritual effect? Could Adam have physically had a mother while spiritually the breath of G-d served as an impetus for a new world?[12]

There is a least one opinion in the Talmud that may reject such a possibility:

Rab Judah further said: The bullock which Adam sacrificed had fully developed horns before it had hoofs, as it is said: ‘And it shall please the Lord better than a bullock that hath horns and hoofs’; the verse first says: ‘that hath horns’ and then ‘hoofs’. This supports R. Joshua b. Levi, who said: All the animals of the creation were created in their full-grown stature, with their consent, and according to the shape of their own choice, for it is written: ‘And the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them (zeva’am)’ Read not zeva'am but zivyonam (their character). (Chullin 60a)

If man is to be included in this statement, then man, too, was created as a fully-grown being. On a deeper level, this source need not contradict our thesis. Adam, too, was "created" by virtue of receiving his soul, after he was physically full-grown.

If there were previous generations, which “existed yet did not exit”--existed physically yet not spiritually--what happened to them? Are there any references to their existence?

The Torah apparently refers to different species of man coexisting, but just barely:[13]

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them. That the sons of Elohim [14](the powerful) saw the daughters of men, that they were pretty; and they took as wives all those whom they chose.  And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for he also is flesh; yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years. There were Nefilim in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of Elohim came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them, the same became mighty men of old, men of renown. (6:1-4)

The introduction to the flood story includes a description the forced relations between the sons of Elohim and the daughters of man-Adam: powerful brutes taking innocent, refined women. The result was the flood, and the eradication of the brutal species. The only survivors are Noach and his descendants. These verses clearly outline the strained co-existence of two types of people. Were these other “men” descendants of Adam, or vestiges of an earlier world?

The Torah is a book of truth, not a history book. Only ideas spiritually relevant to us are recorded. Our world begins with Adam; whether Adam had physical precursors in worlds destroyed is not really the issue[15]. Our story begins with Adam, with the capacity of man to relate to and emulate G-d. This is our legacy. However, the Talmud traces the effects of these earlier generations: The Holy One, blessed be He, arose and planted them in every generation, and it is they who are the insolent of each generation.[16]  The question we are left to ponder is whether they existed in fact or in thought alone.

© copyright Rabbi Ari Kahn 1998

[1]  The Torah describes the creation as twilight:
And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

[2]  The Talmud in Shabbat also makes reference to these 974 generations:
Shabbat 88b --- R. Joshua b. Levi also said: When Moses ascended on high, the ministering angels spoke before the Holy One, blessed be He: ‘Sovereign of the Universe! What business has one born of woman amongst us?’ ‘He has come to receive the Torah,’ answered He to them. Said they to Him, ‘That secret treasure, which has been hidden by Thee for nine hundred and seventy-four generations before the world was created.’

[3]  According to mystical tradition recorded in the Sefer Habahir section 195, the souls of the 974 wicked generations are transmigrated into new bodies, who are then judged for deeds performed in the previous life. This is the Bahir's explanation for theodicy. However, based on the Bahir's context it sounds as if these people are presently righteous, while the Talmudic version makes these people sound presently wicked. See notes of Rav Reuven Margoliot in the Mosad Harav Kook edition, for other references in Kabbalistic literature.
[4] Rashi is based on Kohelet Rabba 1:35
[5] This explanation is aided by the verse which follows:
And confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant. (Psalms Chapter 105:10

  [6]  See Berishit Rabbah  1:4, 1:10, 21:9, Vayikra Rabba 9:3, Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs 2:6,5:13
The mystics saw great significance in the Torah being given to the 26th generation, the number 26 is the numerical equivalent of the Divine name: Yud=10, heh=5, vav=6, heh=5 -- equaling 26.
[7]  This idea may also me found in Berishit Rabbah 9:2
[8]  The Kabbalist Rav Shlomo Elyashiv in the "Leshem" identifies these missing generations with a world which existed in G-d's mind but not in actuality. This approach follows the Ariz”al and may be based on the Midrash in Kohelet Rabbah 1:35, where the missing generations are described as only existing in the "Divine plan".
A thousand generations were included in the Divine Plan ("Alu BiMach’shava”) to be created, and how many of them were eliminated? Nine hundred and seventy-four. What is the proof? It is written, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations (Ps. cv, 8). To what does this allude? To the Torah. See my  Notes to Parshat B’har 5758.
[9]  The description of man’s creation in the previous chapter is equally challenging but beyond the scope of this essay: And G-d said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So G-d created man in His own image, in the image of G-d created He him; male and female He created them. (1:26,27)
[10]  The Rambam proceeds to explain the capacity for evil which such creatures possess. Also see Pirkei D' Rebbi Eliezer, chapter 22.
Mystical literature speaks of the possibility of a person losing their divinity, their image of G-d, their soul. See Zohar Bereishit 94a.
[11]  I once asked this question to Rav Yaakov Weinberg, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael, who responded that such a possibility is "hashkafically" acceptable, so long as there is a qualitative spiritual distinction between Adam and his predecessors. This distinction is imparted by G-d, as described in the verses of Bereishit. This does not necessarily mean that Rav Yaakov accepted this idea, though he agreed that it is a valid opinion. I did not press him as to his understanding. My precise formulation was, "Is it possible that Adam had parents and grandparents who did not possess a soul?"
[12]  When modern people speak about such ideas they are often motivated by polemical or apologetical considerations, but could such a charge be waged against Rav Abahu  or Rambam, who predate Darwin by millenia?
[13]  The Mishna does make an obscure reference to something called Adnei Hasadeh, an ape-like being that walks upright, looks like man, but is a beast:
Wild man-like creatures are deemed as belonging to the category of hayyah. R. Yose said: [when dead] they [or part of their corpses] communicate uncleanness [to men and to objects susceptible thereto which are] under the same roof, as does [the corpse of] a human being. (Mishna – Kil’ayim Chapter 8:5)
See the commentaries to this Mishna.
[14]  It is unlikely that the term "Elohim" implies a divinity in this context, rather it means "powerful". In other cases in the Torah the word is used to refer to judges. (Shmot 22:27)  See Onkelos and Rashi on the verse in Bereishit quoted above (6:2).
[15]  For a discussion of the time issue, namely, how can the world be older than the nearly-6000 years which Judaism so often speaks of, see my book Explorations Parshat Bahar , where I discuss the concept of “Cosmic Jubilees”.
[16]  The Talmud likewise teaches that the righteous of previous generations effect subsequent generations:
R. Hiyya b. Abba said in the name of R. Johanan: No righteous man dies out of this world, before another, like himself, is created, as it is said: ‘The sun also rises, and the sun goes down’, — before the sun of Eli set, the sun of Samuel of Ramataim rose. R. Hiyya b. Abba also said in the name of R. Johanan: The Holy One, blessed be He, saw that the righteous are but few, therefore He planted them throughout all generations, as it is said: ‘For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and He has set the world upon them.’ (Yoma 38b)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Vzot Habracha - “Chazak”

V'zot HaBracha 5771
Rabbi Ari Kahn
Be Strong

With the parsha of v'Zot haBracha the Torah reaches its conclusion. While the vast majority of the parsha records Moshe's final blessings to each of the tribes, the parsha also records Moshe's death itself. The inevitable transpires: Moshe dies and is replaced.

Surely the death of such an unparalleled leader created a vacuum that is hard for us to imagine. Moshe wore so many hats: he was teacher, warrior, and perhaps king[1]. He was a spiritual and religious leader par excellence, but at the same time he was a man of action. It was he who facilitated and oversaw the transfer of an enormous population from Egypt to within a shadow’s distance of the Promised Land. This was not merely a population transfer, it was a transformation from slavery to freedom, from a people who were weak and meek – to a people who became partners with the Almighty at Sinai. This transformation went far beyond the geographical, economic or political; it was an existential metamorphosis which impacted the core of the national psyche, the very soul of a tattered nation. Such change requires a special leader.

Of all the facets of Moshe’s personality, the one recorded for posterity, which became his defining appellation, is “Moshe Rabbeinu” – our teacher, our Rebbi. He is the man who ascended Sinai and brought down the Torah. His successor, no matter how talented, no matter how well-trained for the post - would take up the position with the knowledge that in any comparison they would fall short; others could learn Torah – but who else could wrest it from the hands of angels and bring a piece of divinity to earth?

תלמוד בבלי מסכת שבת דף פח עמוד ב
ואמר רבי יהושע בן לוי: בשעה שעלה משה למרום אמרו מלאכי השרת לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא: רבונו של עולם, מה לילוד אשה בינינו? אמר להן: לקבל תורה בא. אמרו לפניו: חמודה גנוזה שגנוזה לך תשע מאות ושבעים וארבעה דורות קודם שנברא העולם, אתה מבקש ליתנה לבשר ודם? מה אנוש כי תזכרנו ובן אדם כי תפקדנו ]תהלים ח[ ה' אדנינו מה אדיר שמך בכל הארץ אשר תנה הודך על השמים! - אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה: החזיר להן תשובה!...
R. Yehoshua b. Levi also said: When Moshe ascended on high, the ministering angels spoke before the Holy One, blessed be He, ‘Sovereign of the Universe! What business has one born of woman amongst us?’ ‘He has come to receive the Torah,’ answered He to them. Said they to Him, ‘That secret treasure, which You have hidden for nine hundred and seventy-four generations before the world was created, You desire to give to flesh and blood?! What is man, that You are mindful of him, and the son of man, that You visit him? [Tehilim 8] O Lord our God, How excellent is Your Name in all the earth, who has set Your glory [the Torah] upon the Heavens!’ ‘Return them an answer… (Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 88b)

The task of filling Moshe’s shoes fell upon Yehoshua ben Nun. He was a warrior and a scholar, a man who in many ways stood head and shoulders above his peers. Not only was he Moshe's most devoted student, he had already successfully led the Israelites in battle, defending the nation against the onslaught of Amalek, and withstood the evil council of the other spies with whom he had scouted out the Promised Land. Nonetheless, when the leaders of that generation compared him to Moshe, they lamented their loss:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת בבא בתרא דף עה עמוד א
 כיוצא בדבר אתה אומר: )במדבר כ"ז) ונתתה מהודך עליו - ולא כל הודך, זקנים שבאותו הדור אמרו: פני משה כפני חמה, פני יהושע כפני לבנה, אוי לה לאותה בושה, אוי לה לאותה כלימה.
“And you shall put of your honor upon him,’ - but not all your honor. The elders of that generation said: The countenance of Moshe was like that of the sun; the countenance of Yehoshua was like that of the moon. Alas, for such shame! Alas for such reproach! (Talmud Bavli, Baba Batra 75a)

Yehoshua glowed – but his glow was dim in comparison[2] to Moshe. The loss was traumatic: The people mourned Moshe, and learning ceased - as is the custom when any major figure passes away:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת מועד קטן דף כב עמוד ב
תנו רבנן: חכם שמת - בית מדרשו בטל, אב בית דין שמת - כל בתי מדרשות שבעירו בטילין, ונכנסין לבית הכנסת, ומשנין את מקומן; היושבין בצפון - יושבין בדרום, היושבין בדרום - יושבין בצפון. נשיא שמת - בתי מדרשות כולן בטילין
Our Rabbis taught: When a Hacham dies, his Beth Midrash is idle; when the Av Bet Din dies, all the Batei Midrash in his city are idle and [the people of the synagogue] enter the synagogue[s] and change their [usual] places: those that [usually] sit in the north sit in the south and those that [usually] sit in the south sit in the north. When a Nasi dies, all the Batei Midrash are idle … (Talmud Bavli, Moed Kattan 22b)

How much more so when Moshe died: his death was not only mourned on that day, or for the next few days; to this very day, his death leaves us inconsolable, and, according to Tosfot,  the custom to say Tziduk Hadin in the afternoon service every Shabbat commemorates the day and time of Moshe's death.[3] There are those who refrain from the study of Torah after Mincha on Shabbat as a sign of bereavement for Moshe.[4]

Aside from the expressions of grief and loss, rabbinic sources articulate the loss of Moshe in quantitative terms. With Moshe’s death, learning and knowledge were severely affected.

תלמוד בבלי מסכת תמורה דף טז עמוד א
אמר רב יהודה אמר רב: בשעה שנפטר משה רבינו לגן עדן, אמר לו ליהושע: שאל ממני כל ספיקות שיש לך! אמר לו: רבי, כלום הנחתיך שעה אחת והלכתי למקום אחר? לא כך כתבת בי ]שמות ל"ג] ומשרתו יהושע בן נון נער לא ימיש מתוך האהל? מיד תשש כחו של יהושע, ונשתכחו ממנו שלש מאות הלכות, ונולדו לו שבע מאות ספיקות, ועמדו כל ישראל להרגו. אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא: לומר לך אי אפשר, לך וטורדן במלחמה, שנאמר [יהושע א'] ויהי אחרי מות משה עבד ה' ויאמר ה' וגו'. במתניתין תנא: אלף ושבע מאות קלין וחמורין, וגזירות שוות, ודקדוקי סופרים נשתכחו בימי אבלו של משה. אמר רבי אבהו: אעפ"כ החזירן עתניאל בן קנז מתוך פלפולו
Rav Yehudah reported in the name of Rav: When Moshe departed [this world] for the Garden of Eden he said to Yehoshua: ‘Ask me concerning all the doubts you have.’ He replied to him: ‘My Master, have I ever left you for one hour and gone elsewhere? Did you not write concerning me in the Torah: 'But his servant Yehoshua the son of Nun did not leave the tent' [Shmot 33]? Immediately his strength weakened and he forgot three hundred laws and there arose [in his mind] seven hundred doubts [concerning laws]. Then all the Israelites rose up to kill him. The Holy One, blessed be He, then said to him [Yehoshua]: ‘It is not possible to tell you. Go and occupy their attention in war, as it says: Now after the death of Moshe the servant of God, God spoke etc.; It has been taught: A thousand and seven hundred kal vachomer and gezeirah shavah and specifications of the Scribes were forgotten during the period of mourning for Moshe. Said R. Avahu: Nevertheless Otniel the son of Kenaz restored [these forgotten teachings] as a result of his dialectics…(Talmud Bavli T'murah 16a)

With the demise of Moshe, Torah was forgotten; interestingly, it was not Yehoshua who restored the learning, but Otniel. Perhaps Yehoshua, who was arguably the closest person to Moshe still alive, took Moshe's death harder than others;[5] be that as it may, the people lamented Moshe’s demise and Yehoshua’s ascension.

What was it that made Yehoshua uniquely capable of stepping into Moshe’s role? When it came to scholarship, Yehoshua was not necessarily the greates living scholar; as we have seen, arguably Otniel was superior. Elsewhere, Rashi implies that Pinchas was superior to Yehoshua as a scholar.[6]  Rashi applies a verse in the book of Malachi to Pinchas:

מלאכי ב: ו-ז
תּוֹרַת אֱמֶת הָיְתָה בְּפִיהוּ וְעַוְלָה לֹא נִמְצָא בִשְׂפָתָיו בְּשָׁלוֹם וּבְמִישׁוֹר הָלַךְ אִתִּי וְרַבִּים הֵשִׁיב מֵעָוֹן: כִּי שִׂפְתֵי כֹהֵן יִשְׁמְרוּ דַעַת וְתוֹרָה יְבַקְשׁוּ מִפִּיהוּ כִּי מַלְאַךְ ה’ צְבָאוֹת הוּא:
The Torah of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many away from iniquity. For the priest’s lips should guard knowledge, and they should seek the Torah from his mouth; for he is a messenger (malach  angel) of the God of Hosts. (Malachi 2:6-7)

The priest in question who had the true Torah in his mouth was Pinchas. The verse is associated in the following passage where an additional aspect is revealed.

במדבר רבה (וילנא) פרשת שלח פרשה טז סימן א
ואין לך בני אדם שנשתלחו לעשות מצוה ונותנין נפשם להצליח בשליחותן כאותם שנים ששלח יהושע בן נון שנא' (יהושע ב) וישלח יהושע בן נון מן השטים שנים מי היו שנו רבותינו אלו פנחס וכלב ... כיון שהלכו לבקשם מה עשתה רחב נטלה אותם להטמינם אמר לה פנחס אני כהן והכהנים נמשלו למלאכים שנא' (מלאכי ב) כי שפתי כהן ישמרו דעת ותורה יבקשו מפיהו כי מלאך ה' צבאות הוא והמלאך מבקש נראה מבקש אינו נראה
No other people sent to perform a religious duty and risking their lives in order to succeed in their mission can compare with the two men whom Yehoshua the son of Nun sent; as it says, ‘And Yehoshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two spies heresh’ (Yehoshua 2: 1). Who were they? Our Rabbis taught: They were Pinchas and Calev. … When the [king’s men] came to seek them, what did Rahav do? She took them away to hide them. Pinchas said to her: ‘I am a kohen and kohanim are compared to angels; as it says, “For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the angel of the God of Hosts” (Malachi 2: 7), and an angel, if he wishes, can be visible, and if he wishes he can be invisible...’ (Midrash Rabbah - Numbers 16:1)

Not only does Pinchas speak true Torah, he is compared to an angel of God. The parallel with Moshe should not be missed: Moshe, too, was angelic, in the sense that he subsisted without food or drink for forty days and nights on Sinai.

בראשית רבה (וילנא) פרשת וירא פרשה מח
רבי תנחומא משום ר' אלעזר ור' אבון בשם רבי מאיר מתלא אמר, עלת לקרתא הלך בנימוסה למעלה שאין אכילה ושתיה עלה משה למרום ולא אכל שנאמר (דברים ט) ואשב בהר ארבעים יום וארבעים לילה לחם לא אכלתי ומים לא שתית...
R. Tanhuma in R. Eleazar's name and R. Abun in R. Meir's name said: The proverb runs, 'when you enter a town, follow its customs’ (When in Rome, do as Rome does.’) Above [in the celestial sphere] there is no eating and drinking; hence when Moshe ascended on high he appeared like them [the angels], as it says, Then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights; I did not eat bread nor drink water [Devarim 9: 9]. (Midrash Rabbah – Bereishit 48: 14)

Despite being the teacher of his generation, and all subsequent generations, Moshe passed the Torah specifically and exclusively to Yehoshua. Others studied, and some excelled, but the tradition - the mesorah - was passed from Moshe to Yehoshua.

משנה מסכת אבות פרק א משנה א
משה קבל תורה מסיני ומסרה ליהושע ויהושע לזקנים וזקנים לנביאים ונביאים מסרוה לאנשי כנסת הגדולה הם אמרו שלשה דברים הוו מתונים בדין והעמידו תלמידים הרבה ועשו סייג לתורה:
Moshe received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua, and Yehoshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the men of the Great Assembly. (Avot 1:1)

In fact, rbbinic literature may exacerbate the problem: When the Talmud describes the scene of the Torah being taught in the Beit Midrash of Moshe, one person is conspicuously missing:
תלמוד בבלי מסכת עירובין דף נד עמוד ב
תנו רבנן, כיצד סדר משנה? משה למד מפי הגבורה, נכנס אהרן ושנה לו משה פירקו. נסתלק אהרן וישב לשמאל משה. נכנסו בניו ושנה להן משה פירקן, נסתלקו בניו, אלעזר ישב לימין משה ואיתמר לשמאל אהרן. רבי יהודה אומר: לעולם אהרן לימין משה חוזר. נכנסו זקנים ושנה להן משה פירקן, נסתלקו זקנים, נכנסו כל העם ושנה להן משה פירקן. נמצאו ביד אהרן ארבעה, ביד בניו שלשה, וביד הזקנים שנים, וביד כל העם אחד. נסתלק משה, ושנה להן אהרן פירקו. נסתלק אהרן שנו להן בניו פירקן. נסתלקו בניו, שנו להן זקנים פירקן. נמצא ביד הכל ארבעה. מכאן אמר רבי אליעזר: חייב אדם לשנות לתלמידו ארבעה פעמים. וקל וחומר, ומה אהרן שלמד מפי משה, ומשה מפי הגבורה - כך, הדיוט מפי הדיוט - על אחת כמה וכמה.
Our Rabbis learned: What was the procedure of the instruction in the oral law? Moshe learned from the mouth of the Omnipotent. Then Aaron entered and Moshe taught him his lesson. Aaron then moved aside and sat down on Moshe’ left. Thereupon Aaron's sons entered and Moshe taught them their lesson. His sons then moved aside, Eleazar taking his seat on Moshe’ right and Ithamar on Aaron's left. R. Yehuda stated: Aaron was always on Moshe’s right. Thereupon the elders entered and Moshe taught them their lesson, and when the elders moved aside all the people entered and Moshe taught them their lesson. It thus followed that Aaron heard the lesson four times, his sons heard it three times, the elders twice and all the people once. At this stage Moshe departed and Aaron taught them his lesson. Then Aaron departed and his sons taught them their lesson. His sons then departed and the elders taught them their lesson. It thus followed that everybody heard the lesson four times. From here R. Eliezer inferred: It is a man's duty to teach his pupil [his lesson] four times. For this is arrived at a minori ad majus: Aaron who learned from Moshe who had it from the Omnipotent had to learn his lesson four times how much more so an ordinary pupil who learns from an ordinary teacher. (Talmud Bavli Eruvin 54b)

Where was Yehoshua during this process? He seems nowhere to be found! The Rambam addresses this problem indirectly in his description of the transmission of the Oral Law:

הקדמה ליד החזקה לרמב"ם
ואלעזר ופנחס ויהושע שלשתן קבלו ממשה. וליהושע שהוא תלמידו של משה רבינו מסר תורה שבעל פה וצוהו עליה.
Elazar, Pinchas and Yehoshua all three received from Moshe. To Yehoshua, who was Moshe Rabbenu’s student, he [i.e., Moshe] transmitted the Oral Torah, and commanded him regarding it. (Rambam, Introduction to Mishne Torah)

We see from the Rambam’s formulation that while Moshe taught many people, Yehoshua, above all others, was his student. And only Yehoshua was entrusted with the mesorah – the oral tradition. Evidently, this is the Rambam’s understanding of the Mishna in Avot – “Moshe received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua, Yehoshua to the elders”. In a subsequent passage, the Rambam writes that Pinchas received the tradition from Yehoshua, which is remarkable statement, considering that Pinchas, too, had learned directly from Moshe.[7] As we saw above Moshe Rabbenu had one primary student, Yehoshua[8].

Surely there were others who learned from Moshe; why was Yehoshua singled out – especially if others may have been superior?

במדבר רבה (וילנא) פרשת פינחס פרשה כא יד
אלא כיון שירשו בנות צלפחד אביהן אמר משה הרי השעה שאתבע בה צרכי אם הבנות יורשות בדין הוא שירשו בני את כבודי אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא (משלי כז) נוצר תאנה יאכל פריה בניך ישבו להם ולא עסקו בתורה יהושע הרבה שרתך והרבה חלק לך כבוד והוא היה משכים ומעריב בבית הועד שלך הוא היה מסדר את הספסלים והוא פורס את המחצלאות הואיל והוא שרתך בכל כחו כדאי הוא שישמש את ישראל שאינו מאבד שכרו קח לך את יהושע בן נון לקיים מה שנאמר נוצר תאנה יאכל פריה.
When the daughters of Zelophehad inherited from their father, Moshe argued: The time is opportune for me to demand my own needs. If daughters inherit, it is surely right that my sons should inherit my glory. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: ‘ “Whoever tends the fig-tree shall eat of its the fruit; and he that waits on his master shall be honored.” (Mishlei 27:18) Your sons sat idly by and did not study the Torah. Yehoshua served you diligently and he showed you great honor. It was he who rose early in the morning and remained late at night at your House of Study; he would arrange the benches, and spread the mats. Seeing that he has served you with all his might, he is worthy to serve Israel, for he shall not lose his reward. “Take Yehoshua the son of Nun…” (28:18), in confirmation of the text, “Whoever tends the fig-tree shall eat of its fruit.”’ (Midrash Rabbah – Bamidbar 21:14)

The Midrash tells us that Yehoshua was Moshe’s constant companion, as the Torah attests in the book of Sh’mot:

שמות לג: י-יא
וְרָאָה כָל הָעָם אֶת עַמּוּד הֶעָנָן עֹמֵד פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל וְקָם כָּל הָעָם וְהִשְׁתַּחֲווּ אִישׁ פֶּתַח אָהֳלוֹ: וְדִבֶּר ה’ אֶל מֹשֶׁה פָּנִים אֶל פָּנִים כַּאֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר אִישׁ אֶל רֵעֵהוּ וְשָׁב אֶל הַמַּחֲנֶה וּמְשָׁרְתוֹ יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן נַעַר לֹא יָמִישׁ מִתּוֹךְ הָאֹהֶל:
And all the people saw the pillar of cloudy stand at the Tent door; and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. And God spoke to Moshe face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he turned again into the camp; but his servant Yehoshua, the son of Nun, a young man, did not leave the Tent. (Sh’mot 33:10-11)[9]

Yehoshua never left his teacher’s side. Yehoshua was the one who set out the benches and tables in Moshe’s Beit Midrash. Before all the other students arrived and after they left, Yehoshua was there. For this reason, and despite the fact that Moshe may have had more talented followers, Yehoshua was chosen by God as Moshe’s successor.[10] In fact, this sort of constancy, the dedication to Moshe that distinguished Yehoshua from all the exceptional minds that learned from our greatest master, is the prototype that is institutionalized in the Talmud:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף מז עמוד ב
תנו רבנן: איזהו עם הארץ? כל שאינו קורא קריאת שמע ערבית ושחרית, דברי רבי אליעזר, רבי יהושע אומר: כל שאינו מניח תפילין, בן עזאי אומר: כל שאין לו ציצית בבגדו, רבי נתן אומר: כל שאין מזוזה על פתחו, רבי נתן בר יוסף אומר: כל שיש לו בנים ואינו מגדלם לתלמוד תורה, אחרים אומרים: אפילו קרא ושנה ולא שמש תלמידי חכמים הרי זה עם הארץ. אמר רב הונא: הלכה כאחרים.
Our Rabbis taught: Who is an ‘am ha-arez (ignoramus)? Anyone who does not recite the Shema’ evening and morning. This is the view of R. Eliezer. R. Yehoshua says: Anyone who does not put on tefillin. Ben ‘Azzai says: Anyone who does not have tzitzit on his garment. R. Nathan says: Anyone who has no mezuzah on his door. R. Nathan b. Yosef says: Anyone who has sons and does not bring them up to the study of the Torah. Others say: Even if one has learnt Scripture and Mishnah, if he has not ministered to a Talmid Chacham, he is an ‘am ha-arez. R. Huna said: The halachah is as laid down by ‘Others’. (Talmud Bavli Berachot 47b)

The Jewish view of wisdom is not necessarily what we might expect: erudition is only one part of the equation. To be scholarly -“book smart” - in the absence of serving a sage is insufficient at least, dangerous at worst. Knowledge is not simply a process of assimilating information; it requires the far more subtle skills that can only be acquired by sitting at the feet of a sage. There was never a greater sage than Moshe, nor was there a greater, more dedicated student than Yehoshua.  When the time came to replace Moshe, God chose Yehoshua.

במדבר כז: טו-כ
וַיְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל ה’ לֵאמֹר: יִפְקֹד ה’ אֱלֹהֵי הָרוּחֹת לְכָל בָּשָׂר אִישׁ עַל הָעֵדָה: אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא לִפְנֵיהֶם וַאֲשֶׁר יָבֹא לִפְנֵיהֶם וַאֲשֶׁר יוֹצִיאֵם וַאֲשֶׁר יְבִיאֵם וְלֹא תִהְיֶה עֲדַת ה’ כַּצֹּאן אֲשֶׁר אֵין לָהֶם רֹעֶה: וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֶל מֹשֶׁה קַח לְךָ אֶת יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר רוּחַ בּוֹ וְסָמַכְתָּ אֶת יָדְךָ עָלָיו: וְהַעֲמַדְתָּ אֹתוֹ לִפְנֵי אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן וְלִפְנֵי כָּל הָעֵדָה וְצִוִּיתָה אֹתוֹ לְעֵינֵיהֶם: וְנָתַתָּה מֵהוֹדְךָ עָלָיו לְמַעַן יִשְׁמְעוּ כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:
And Moshe spoke to God, saying: ‘Let the Almighty, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation who will go out before them, and who will come in before them, and who will lead them out, and who will bring them in, so that the congregation of God shall not be as sheep that have no shepherd.’ And God said to Moshe, ‘Take Yehoshua the son of Nun, a man of spirit, and lay your hand upon him. And give him from your glory, in order that the entire congregation listen… (Bamidbar 27:15-19)

Yehoshua received the ultimate smicha (ordination):  al pi Hashem byad Moshe, at the commandment of God by the hand of Moshe – precisely as the Torah itself[11] was given to the Jewish People.

Yehoshua’s task would not be easy. The comparison with Moshe would never be flattering, and the decline in Torah study that followed Moshe’s demise compounded the problem. And so, Moshe fortifies Yehoshua with words of encouragement, and calls upon him to be strong:

דברים לא: ז
וַיִּקְרָא מֹשֶׁה לִיהוֹשֻׁעַ וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו לְעֵינֵי כָל יִשְׂרָאֵל חֲזַק וֶאֱמָץ כִּי אַתָּה תָּבוֹא אֶת הָעָם הַזֶּה אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע ה’ לַאֲבֹתָם לָתֵת לָהֶם וְאַתָּה תַּנְחִילֶנָּה אוֹתָם:
And Moshe called to Yehoshua, and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and of a good courage; for you will go with this people to the Land which God has sworn to their fathers to give them; and you shall cause them to inherit it. (Devarim 31:7)

Moshe was not alone in instructing Yehoshua to be strong; God Himself did so:

דברים לא: כב-כג
וַיִּכְתֹּב מֹשֶׁה אֶת הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא וַיְלַמְּדָהּ אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: וַיְצַו אֶת יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן וַיֹּאמֶר חֲזַק וֶאֱמָץ כִּי אַתָּה תָּבִיא אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לָהֶם וְאָנֹכִי אֶהְיֶה עִמָּךְ:
On that day, Moshe wrote down this song and taught it to the People of Israel.  And [God] gave Yehoshua the son of Nun orders, and said, ‘Be strong and brave; for you shall bring the People of Israel into the land that I promised to them, and I will be with you. (Devarim 31:22-23)

יהושע א: א-ט
וַיְהִי אַחֲרֵי מוֹת מֹשֶׁה עֶבֶד ה’ וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֶל יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן מְשָׁרֵת מֹשֶׁה לֵאמֹר: מֹשֶׁה עַבְדִּי מֵת וְעַתָּה קוּם עֲבֹר אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה אַתָּה וְכָל הָעָם הַזֶּה אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לָהֶם לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: חֲזַק וֶאֱמָץ כִּי אַתָּה תַּנְחִיל אֶת הָעָם הַזֶּה אֶת הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לַאֲבוֹתָם לָתֵת לָהֶם: רַק חֲזַק וֶאֱמַץ מְאֹד לִשְׁמֹר לַעֲשׂוֹת כְּכָל הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר צִוְּךָ מֹשֶׁה עַבְדִּי אַל תָּסוּר מִמֶּנּוּ יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאול לְמַעַן תַּשְׂכִּיל בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵךְ: לֹא יָמוּשׁ סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֶּה מִפִּיךָ וְהָגִיתָ בּוֹ יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה לְמַעַן תִּשְׁמֹר לַעֲשׂוֹת כְּכָל הַכָּתוּב בּוֹ כִּי אָז תַּצְלִיחַ אֶת דְּרָכֶךָ וְאָז תַּשְׂכִּיל: הֲלוֹא צִוִּיתִיךָ חֲזַק וֶאֱמָץ אַל תַּעֲרֹץ וְאַל תֵּחָת כִּי עִמְּךָ ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵךְ:
And it was after the death of Moshe the servant of God that God spoke to Yehoshua the son of Nun, Moshe’s accolyte, saying: ‘Moshe my servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross over the Jordan, you, and all this people, to the land which I give to them, the People of Israel… Be strong and courageous; for you shall cause this people to inherit the land, which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the Torah, which Moshe my servant commanded you; turn not from it to the right nor to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth; but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous; be not afraid, nor be dismayed; for the Almighty your God is with you wherever you go. (Yehoshua 1:1-9)

We are told that Yehoshua never left Moshe’s tent, and now, with the very same language, Yehoshua is told that the Torah will never leave him: The same word, ‘Yamush’, is used to describe both Yehoshua’s devoted service of Moshe and the constancy of Torah as Yehoshua’s guiding light. Stteled with Torah, unwavering in his grasp of the mission with which he was entrusted, Yehoshua would be strong and therefore he would succeed.

תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף לב עמוד ב
תנו רבנן, ארבעה צריכין חזוק ואלו הן: תורה, ומעשים טובים, תפילה ודרך ארץ. תורה ומעשים טובים מנין - שנאמר )יהושע א') רק חזק ואמץ מאד לשמר ולעשות ככל התורה. חזק - בתורה, ואמץ - במעשים טובים.
Our Rabbis taught: Four things require strength, and they are: [study of] the Torah, good deeds, prayer, and one's worldly occupation. How do we know this regarding Torah and good deeds? Because it says, ‘Only be strong and very courageous to observe to do according to all the law:’ ‘be strong’ refers to Torah study, and ‘very courageous’ refers to good deeds. (Talmud Bavli Brachot 32b)

We, too, must be strong. Completing any endeavor can induce mixed feelings: the joy of accomplishment, and fear of the future. As we complete the yearly Torah cycle we must pay attention to God’s call for strength, and forge ahead to meet new challenges with joy and awe, not self-satisfied complacency. We start anew, once again taking up the study of Torah, rededicating ourselves to delving into our tradition to find greater, deeper meaning. We are charged with same mission that every link in the chain of the mesorah has accepted upon him- or herself: to devote ourselves, as Yehoshua did, to becoming a vehicle for the mesorah, to seek God in the words of the Torah, to take full advantage of the unparalleled opportunity presented by Torah study to peek into God’s mind, to share God’s thoughts.


[1] The verse “And he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together,” (Devarim 33:5) may apply to Moshe. See Ibn Ezra on the verse. Rashi opines that the verse refers to the King of Kings; however, see Rashi, Sanhedrin 36a , Bimokom Echad:
דברים לג: ה
וַיְהִי בִישֻׁרוּן מֶלֶךְ בְּהִתְאַסֵּף רָאשֵׁי עָם יַחַד שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:
רש"י, דברים לג: ה
בישרון מלך - תמיד עול מלכותו עליהם:
אבן עזרא, דברים לג: ה
מלך - הוא משה ששמעו ראשי עם התורה מפורשת מפיו. והטעם, כי הוא היה כמלך, והתאספו אליו ראשי השבטים.
רש"י, מסכת סנהדרין דף לו עמוד א
במקום אחד - תורתן וגדולתן של ישראל באדם אחד שאין כמותו בכל ישראל בתורה ובגדולה כגון משה שהיה גדול על כל ישראל במלכות ובתורה, וכן רבי בנשיאות ובתורה.
[2]  Many of the issues discussed in this shiur were taught by Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik in a class he gave on Tractate Brachot 32 on March 15th, 1957, entitled Arba Tzrichin Hizuk. The Rov cited a Rabbinic source (which eludes me) that Yehoshua himself insisted that he was inferior to the other students and did not deserve the mantle of leadership.
[3]  See Menachot 30a, beginning Mikan veilach katav Yehoshua.
תוספות מסכת מנחות דף ל עמוד א
מכאן ואילך כתב יהושע - מה שנוהגין לומר צידוק הדין בשבת במנחה פירש רב שר שלום גאון על שנפטר משה רבינו באותה שעה לפיכך נמנעו מלעסוק בתורה משום דאמרי' חכם שמת כל בתי מדרשות שבעיר בטילין וקשה דהא כתיב בן מאה ועשרים שנה אנכי היום ודרשינן היום מלאו ימי ושנותי ואם בשבת מת א"כ כתב היום מערב שבת ויש לתמוה דכתב על העתיד ולר"ש לא בעי למימר דהפסוק נאמר על העתיד מדקשיא ליה מהא דכתיב לקוח את ספר התורה הזה שמא על שם שעתיד יהושע להשלימו ועוד קשה דבסדר עולם משמע דבשבעה באדר שמת משה בו ערב שבת היה דקתני ואחר הפסח בעשרים ושנים סבבו את העיר כל אנשי המלחמה הקף פעם אחת ויהי ביום השביעי וישכימו בבוקר וגו' רבי יוסי אומר יום שבת היה והשתא משהתחילו לסבב לו בכ"ב בניסן א"כ יום שביעי שהיה שבת כ"ח בניסן היה ומדכ"ח בניסן שבת שבעה באדר ערב שבת, מ"ר.
[4] This practice is codified in the Shulchan Uruch, Orach Hayim 292:2 and Mishna Berura 6-8.
[5]  From the Talmud Sanhedrin 68a we see that Rabbi Akiva took the death or his teacher Rabbi Eliezer in a harder manner than his colleagues: On the conclusion of the Sabbath R. Akiba met his bier being carried from Caesarea to Lydda. [In his grief] he beat his flesh until the blood flowed down upon the earth — Then R. Akiva commenced his funeral address, the mourners being lined up about the coffin, and said: ‘My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof; I have many coins, but no money changer to accept them.’(I have many questions on Torah, but no one to answer them.)
[6]  Rashi commentary to Avot 1:1. This commentary has been it attributed to Rashi, an attribution which has been debated.
[7] When the Rambam works backward and lists the members of the transmission process he states that Pinchas received the tradition from Yehoshua.
הקדמה ליד החזקה לרמב"ם
לז) ועלי מפנחס. לח) ופנחס מיהושע. לט) ויהושע ממשה רבינו. מ) ומשה רבינו מפי הגבורה. נמצא שכולם מה' אלהי ישראל:
[8] See the Chida in responsa Yosef Ometz section 34.
שו"ת יוסף אומץ סימן לד ד"ה והרב מרכבת
והרי הרמב"ם כתב למדה משה רבינו בבית דינו לשבעים זקנים ואלעזר ופנחס ויהושע קבלו ממשה וליהושע שהוא תלמידו של משה רבינו ע"ה מסר תורה שבע"פ וציוהו עליה. הרי דאע"ג דמשה רבינו ע"ה לימד לע' זקנים וביחוד אלעזר ופנחס ויהושע קבלו ממנו עכ"ז תני ומסרה ליהושע כי הוא על פי ה' נשאר במקום משה רבינו ע"ה וציוהו על התורה.
[9]  See Bamidbar 11:28 where the term is also used.
[10] Rashi in Avot goes on to explain that Yehoshua displayed more dedication than the others.
[11] We are accustomed to this idea because it has been incorporated in the liturgy: When the Torah is raised for the congregation to see, we recite two verses: D’varim 4:44, “And this is the Torah which Moshe set before the People of Israel;” and Bamidbar 9:23, “at the commandment of God by the hand of Moshe.”