This week’s parsha, Parshas Vayeilech, is the last parsha where we see Moshe in his role as leader. In fact, we see in the beginning of the parsha that Hashem removed Moshe’s authority at this time. While Parshiyos Haazinu and Vezos Habracha are blessings and advice to the nation as a whole, Vayeilech is the last time we see Moshe operating on an individual level.
The clearest instance of this is Moshe’s advice to his prime student and the new leader of Bnei Yisrael, Yehoshua. The pasuk says, “וַיִּקְרָ֨א משֶׁ֜ה לִֽיהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֵלָ֜יו לְעֵינֵ֣י כָל־יִשְׂרָאֵל֘ חֲזַ֣ק וֶֽאֱמָץ֒ כִּ֣י אַתָּ֗ה תָּבוֹא֙ אֶת־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה אֶל־הָאָ֕רֶץ” “And Moshe called to Yehoshua and said to him before the eyes of all Yisrael, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall come with this people to the Land” (Devarim 31:7). The Kli Yakar asks three questions on the language of this pasuk. First, what does it mean that Moshe spoke in front of the eyes of Yisrael, why didn’t it say simply “in front of Yisrael?” Secondly, why does he need to tell Yehoshua to be strong and courageous, won’t Hashem provide him with the strength needed to bring Yisrael into the Land? Lastly, later on when Hashem speaks to Yehoshua directly (See 31:23), He tells him that he will bring the nation into Eretz Yisrael, while Moshe tells Yehoshua he will come with them into the Land. Why the difference in language?
He explains that this interaction is really a way for the teacher to tell the student how to avoid his same mistakes. Moshe’s error is well-known; Hashem had commanded him to speak to the rock to make water come out, which was intended to show Bnei Yisrael the power of Tefillah and cause them to have greater faith in Hashem. Instead, Moshe hit the rock and deprived the nation of this faith-building exercise, and as a result, he was deemed unworthy to lead the people into the Land. However, this exercise was really intended for the lesser part of Bnei Yisrael, the people who had weaker levels of faith; the episode of the rock was not-applicable to most people. Nevertheless, since all types of people would be going into Eretz Yisrael, Moshe was unable to bring in even those with strong faith.
Moshe was teaching Yehoshua to take notice of these different types of people. There would be all kinds of people coming into Eretz Yisrael, and it was Yehoshua’s obligation to lead all of them. Therefore, he had to be ‘strong and courageous,’ meaning, he had to consistently provide them with faith-building exercises, either miraculous or natural. When he did these exercises, he had to remember that he was ‘in front of the eyes of Yisrael,’ they would all be watching him closely and learn from exactly what he did. If he was successful in this, then he would succeed where Moshe had failed, and be able to come with the nation into Eretz Yisrael.
This parsha takes place on the last day of Moshe’s life. Even at the very end, he was still proactive and totally focused on what was best for the Bnei Yisrael. This week is the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah, our last chance before Yom Kippur to correct any wrongs we can. Like Moshe, we cannot waste these last days; we must do our best to improve before this uniquely opportunistic time ends.
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