So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him.” — Numbers 27:18
The Torah portion for this week is Pinchas, which means “Phinehas,” from Numbers 25:10–30:1, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 18:46–19:21.
In this week’s reading, Moses named his successor: Joshua. We take it for granted that Joshua was the leader who took over for Moses and led the children of Israel into the Promised Land. But have you ever wondered, why Joshua?
In fact, the Jewish sages explain that Moses had other ideas. He thought that his own sons would have been the natural choice, but God said no. The sages suggest that Phineas would have been another worthy candidate after his heroic actions that we read about earlier. Yet, God passes him over as well. Caleb wouldn’t have been a bad choice; he also displayed leadership qualities when he spoke up favorably for entering the Promised Land in contrast to the negative report from the ten spies. But God did not choose him either. What had Joshua done? Why him?
The sages explain that the greatness of Joshua was not in any one act. It wasn’t about any grand display of righteousness or any single act of leadership. The greatness of Joshua was in his ability to do what he did consistently, day-in and day-out. And what did he do? He clung to Moses and never left his side. He made it his business to learn from Moses, draw closer to God, and help others do the same, every single day of his life.
Joshua was reliable and consistent, a rock who Moses and God could rely upon. This is what made Joshua worthy of leading the children of Israel.
Remember Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare? The hare is fast and swift, the tortoise, slow and steady. But we all know who wins the race. It isn’t the hare who gets a great start but then falls asleep on the job. It’s the tortoise who can’t run a fast sprint, but who can be relied upon to finish the race. The lesson we have all come to know is that “slow and steady often wins the race.” Consistency wins.
Joshua was that “slow and steady” personality. Nothing grand, nothing extraordinary, yet consistent and persistent. His constant acts of quiet righteousness made him a hero in God’s eyes.
Let us take this lesson to heart. Humble acts of dedication are what God values most, even more than dramatic demonstrations of bravery and heroics. Teachers, public servants, dedicated parents — they are the true heroes, and we can be those heroes, too. We don’t need to do anything extraordinary – just be extraordinarily dedicated to all we do.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President