“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9
Judaism teaches that the Bible is not a history book. It is a book that tells us how to live. That being the case, the Jewish sages are puzzled as to why the Bible begins with Creation. If this is a book about life, why not start with the First Commandment or a life lesson?
I am always stunned when I read the answer that the renowned rabbi, Shlomo Yitzchaki, provided about a thousand years ago. He said that one day the Jewish people would return to the Holy Land and that the world would accuse them of being robbers. The world would say that the Jewish people had no right to live there. As Rabbi Yitzchaki further explained, God began the Bible with the story of Creation to teach us that He created the world. He has the right to give the Jews the land of Israel. Our deed to the land is the Bible.
It’s amazing that so many years ago the Rabbi understood exactly what we would be facing today. God wasn’t trying to convince the world of the Jewish right to the land of Israel, but He wanted the Jews to know that they belong in the land. Knowing that God is with us gives us the courage to persevere and to fight for our homeland.
In the book of Joshua, as the new leader of Israel, Joshua needed encouragement. He was about to lead the people into the land of Canaan and capture the holy land God had given to the Israelites — a daunting task. So God told him: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
There is a difference between being brave because we are simply willing to try something difficult and being filled with courage because we know that God stands behind us though the task might be difficult. Simply being brave leaves us with doubts that we will succeed. Having courage rooted in God fills us with the confidence that we will succeed. If we are to achieve the most important tasks in our lives, we need God-based courage.
This is the kind of courage that God handed over to Joshua who stood on the precipice of his greatest challenge and what would also be his greatest success. This is the kind of courage we need to make those leaps of faith that will take us further in life than we ever imagined.
When we are challenged, it is critical that we ask ourselves if our pursuit fits the will of God. If He is with us, no one can stand against us.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President