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BRAVEHEART

by Rabbi Herbert J. Cohen, Ph.D.    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

In the Torah portion of Va'etchanan, Hashem tells Moses that he will not enter the promised land, but that his disciple Joshua will lead the people there instead. Hashem encourages Moses to "strengthen and fortify" Joshua for this important mission (Deuteronomy 3:28).

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In the Torah portion of Va'etchanan, Hashem tells Moses that he will not enter the promised land, but that his disciple Joshua will lead the people there instead. Hashem encourages Moses to "strengthen and fortify" Joshua for this important mission (Deuteronomy 3:28).

The question arises: Why does Moses need to "strengthen and fortify" Joshua for this? The simple transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua implies that Joshua will complete the job of his predecessor. Why the need for this special encouragement?

Rashi, an 11th century French commentator, here is instructive. The medieval commentator observes that Joshua may not have seen himself as being up to the task of leadership. He may have felt that, in spite of the mantle of leadership that he was assuming, he still would suffer the same fate as Moses and not enter the Land. Rashi tries to put us in the mind of Joshua, who reasons, "Just as my teacher was punished because he was responsible in part for the spiritual failure of the people, so too will I suffer the same fate." Therefore, to quell such doubts, Hashem encourages Moses to strengthen Joshua, to give him confidence that he can triumph no matter what the adversity.

Herein is an important life lesson. We all, from time to time, are faced with self-doubt. In the academic world, we may wonder if we have the wherewithal to complete a particular course of study successfully. On the home front, we may worry that a family rift will go unresolved. We simply feel too tired and too overwhelmed to exert the necessary effort to work out a solution to a pressing problem. However, the Torah implicitly tells us, through Moses' encouragement of Joshua, that we need to muster the will to succeed. We need to remember that if our task is a holy one, G-d will be with us to strengthen us. He will give us the brave heart to accomplish His will.

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Rabbi Herbert J. Cohen, Ph.D., Ph.D. has been the dean of Yeshiva High School of Atlanta for the past two decades.

You are invited to read more Parshat Va'etchanan articles.

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