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Published by Congregation Israel of Springfield NJ, 2018-09-14 07:01:43

Rei'ach HaSadeh - Volume 2: Reaching Out


Rei’ach HaSadeh

Volume Two: Reaching Out


Editorial Board
Diane Covkin
Adam Reich
Adam L. Sheps
Aron Srolovitz
Rabbi, Congregation Israel of Springfield
Chaim Marcus

Copyright © 2018 – Congregation Israel of Springfield
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or
transmitted, in any form or by any means whatsoever without the prior
permission, in writing, from the editors.
Cover Design, production and printing:
Ganz/Gross – NY
Printed in the United States of America

A publication of

Congregation Israel of Springfield

Congregation Israel of Springfield (“CIS”) is a dynamic Modern Orthodox Congregation
which takes pride in providing a warm, friendly environment in which to appreciate
the meaning of Judaism. Our Shul is committed to embracing Judaism through
observance, prayer, study, and chesed.

Rei’ach HaSadeh

Volume Two: Reaching Out

Supporters of Rei’ach HaSadeh 1
Editors Introduction
Message from the Rabbi 6
Different Generations, Different Leaders 47
Aron Srolovitz 57
Reaching Beyond
Uzi Beer 65
The Light in Vessels: The Importance of Balance
Adam Reich 82
Halachic Perspectives on Loving Thy Neighbor 87
Dr. Rachel Kohn 89
The Chesed of Aharon HaKohen 92
Avi Borenstein
Is the Guest Really the Host?
Strangers at the Threshold of Hospitality
Reuven Pepper
When You See Something, Say Something: Communal
Responsibility in the Story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza
Henny Bochner
The Impact of Performing Mitzvos Bein Adam LeChaveiro
Elana Erez
A Kabbalistic View on Community
Adam Greiss
Gemilut Chasadim: More than Random Acts of Kindness
Robert Goldberg, Ph.D.

Reaching In to Reach Out 97
Ben Hoffer 102
Our Standard of Tzeddakah 106
Daniel Krausz 110
Ahavat HaGer: Loving Our Fellow Convert
Danielle Pepper 116
'‫ושמחת לפני ה‬: Pure Joy 121
Willie Roth 124
John Glenn: A Man of His Word
Howard N. Apsan, Ph.D.
Mrs. Bloomberg
Diane Osen Covkin

Rabbinic Bibliography


‫ ולנר תמיד אקח לי‬,‫ ובמשכן מזבח אשים לקרני הודו‬,‫” בלבבי משכן אבנה להדר כבודו‬
“ ‫ את נפשי היחידה‬,‫ ולקרבן אקריב לו את נפשי‬,‫את אש העקידה‬

With hearts full of love, it is a privilege and honor to dedicate this year’s
Torah journal in memory of our grandparents,

Miriam and Norman Brody a”h
‫נחמיה לייב בן יהושע זעליג‬
‫מרים בת דוד‬

Bella and Isaac Orzegowski a”h
‫יצחק בן אפרים פישל הכהן‬
‫ביילא בת עזריאל זעליג‬

Sima and Morris Kessel a”h
‫משה אהרן בן שמעון‬
‫סימא בת שלמה אברהם‬

Gladys and Bennett Koppelman a”h
‫בנימין בן ישראל‬

‫גיטל דבורה בת דב בער‬

May their memories be a blessing and continue to serve as examples for
their offspring and the generations who come from them.

Each of them should serve as a meilitz yosher not only for our families, but
for our kehillah, and the entire Klal Yisra’el.

Elana & Jeremy Erez


In gratitude to all the teachers who taught us to read, discuss and listen,
and then to think for ourselves. With special gratitude to our parents and

grandparents who instilled these values through their own thirst for
knowledge and by providing us with the education.

In memory of:

Rabbi Michael Hecht z”l
Lottie & Morris Diamant z”l

Ida & Ludwig Hecht z”l
Esther & Boris Baum z”l

Frieda Greenberg z”l
Max Kigner z”l

Alisa & Jeffrey Kigner


We are dedicating an article in this year’s Congregation Israel
Rei’ach HaSadeh Torah Journal in memory of

Rachel Schulman, Rachel Golda bas Ya’akov Binyamin,
our brother-in-law Josh Schulman’s mother.

She dedicated her life in the pursuit of educating others, and this is a
fitting honor for her memory. May her neshamah have an aliyah.

Debbie & Avi Shteingart


Dedicated in memory of our grandparents:

Florence and Morris Babich
Jean Capeloto-Rosenbaum, Jack Capeloto and Sam Rosenbaum

Susan and Samuel Klein
Eugenia and Paul Sharon

Leora & Shmuel Babich


We are dedicating an article in honor of Adam Sheps & Adam Reich,
whose visionary leadership paved the way for the publication of
Rei’ach HaSadeh.

Their commitment to Torah is exemplary. They have created a space
where members of our community can share Torah thoughts with each
other and where our community can share our perspectives on Torah
with those outside the normal reach of the community. Rei’ach HaSadeh

is a tremendous source of pride to all those affiliated with
Congregation Israel of Springfield.

May HaShem bless Adam Sheps, Adam Reich, their families and
our entire community to continue to passionately seek out opportunities

to engage with HaShem and his Torah for the sake of continued and
meaningful growth in our individual, and collective, Avodas HaShem.

Daniella & Ben Hoffer



Heneini – Here I am. Three times in the Binding of Isaac narrative,
Abraham is called and each time he answers, “Here I am.”1 The first
instance is the opening of the episode when G-d calls him by name.2
Abraham does not respond with an inquiry or question, but with a
statement – Here I am; whatever You need or want, I am ready without
conditions or caveats. Abraham is wholly present to respond to this call for
action. The second instance occurs when Abraham is taking Isaac up
Mount Moriah and Isaac becomes aware that something is amiss. Here,
Isaac calls him “my father” and Abraham responds, “Here I am, my son.”3
Abraham does not leave any room to doubt his availability. He once again
indicates he is wholly present. The final instance, when Abraham has
bound Isaac to the altar, and an angel of G-d calls out “Abraham,
Abraham;” Abraham answers, “Here I am.”4 Once more, Abraham is
present, mindful and wholly there.

When G-d calls Abraham’s name, it is to engage him in a spiritual
pursuit: to follow the command of G-d. When the angel calls Abraham’s
name, it is to engage him in a physical pursuit: to perform (or more
accurately, do not perform) the task. I believe that when Isaac calls
Abraham’s name and calls him “My father,” Isaac is engaging Abraham in
an emotional and psychological pursuit. I further suggest that this three-
part prism – the spiritual, the physical and the emotional – encompasses the
essence of chesed: an ability to recognize different needs and respond to

G-d established this world to perform acts of chesed.5 Therefore,
King David poetically teaches: “forever Your chesed (kindness) will be
established”6 and it is an inherent trait of Benei Yisra’el to follow through on
this ever-present opportunity.7 Chesed asks “[us] to surge forward, expand
[our] capacity, reach out for a vast existential awareness, try to
accommodate the you and the I, embrace the entire world, feel united with

1 Genesis 22:1, 7, 11.
2 Id. at 22:1.
3 Id. at 22:7.
4 Id. at 22:11.
5 See Pirkei Avot 1:2.
6 See Tehillim 89:3. See R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Festival of Freedom: Essays on Pesah and the
Haggadah (Brooklyn:KTAV Publishing House, 2006), p. 18.
7 See BT Yevamot 79a.

xii Rei’ach HaSadeh

[our] fellow man, live with and help others.” 8 Chesed represents “the
vastness of kindness, contributing more than one’s capacity;”9 inherently
chesed in any form requires reaching out beyond oneself.10

In addition to the general emphasis this publication places on
reconnecting to both our spiritual roots and each other through the
dissemination of Torah scholarship, this year’s Rei’ach HaSadeh aims to
provide an avenue for exploring the depths of chesed. The thoughts in the
following pages range from exploring the way that people reach out to one
another, to the way they reach out for the Divine; from the way that people
fulfill acts of chesed, to the way chesed is defined. Our authors have once again
boldly and bravely responded “Hineini” when called upon. The Articles,
Essays, and Reflections in this journal deftly address this challenge, and we
hope they will inspire you to say “Hineini” as well.


The journal begins with articles whose writers adopted a lengthier,
scholarly approach to the material. This section is followed by essays in
which the writers were encouraged to share their own interpretatinos and
adopt their own tone. The journal concludes with reflections by writers
who recounted personal experiences germane to this year’s theme.

The writers are from a variety of backgrounds and were
encouraged to use either the Ashkenazi “saf” or the modern
Israeli/Sephardic “taf” as they saw fit. We also encourged each their
preferred usage of the various English names for G-d. The transliteration
of Hebrew and Aramaic words into English derives mainly from the rules
of the Torah U-Madda Journal,11 with a few exceptions to promote the ease
of reading for the reader. Passukim (verses) directly quoting Tanach include
nekudot (vowels), while quotations from the Gemara and other sources do
not include nekudot.

To benefit readers without a Hebrew background, prefixes (other
than HaShem and HaSadeh) are written in the lower case, with the main

8 Festival of Freedom, p. 19.
9 Ibid.
10 As R. Soloveitchik so eloquently puts it: “Chesed is a movement away from oneself. Chesed
surges forward, rusting towards parts unknown, vistas invisible, horizons enveloped in the
haze of the morning. Chesed is identical with hitpashtut, expansion, enlargement, revelation
and openness. It is the mighty river during the spring whose rising waters inundate the
surrounding area.” Ibid.
11 Available at:

Editor’s Introduction xiii

word itself having a capital. This is meant to aid the understanding of
important Jewish terminology and Hebrew language.

We want to give special thanks to all those who worked hard and
helped to make this edition of Rei’ach HaSadeh a reality – specifically our
Journal Patrons Elana and Jeremy Erez – for their enthusiasm and support
for this endeaver; Rabbi Chaim Marcus for his wisdom, insights and
guidance; Tuvia Ganz for his striking cover design and production; and all
of our Article Sponsors.
The articles in this journal come from a diverse group of writers
and, therefore, do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors, the
synagogue or clergy. It is our vision that, in response to the words of our
dynamic writers, this journal will engender contemplation, reflection and



As you hold the second volume of Rei’ach HaSadeh in your hands, please take a moment
to be makir tov to the people whose dedication and efforts made it a reality. Once again,
tremendous yasher koach to our amazing editors, Avraham Chaim Reich, Adam
Sheps, Diane Covkin and Rav Aron Srolovitz for their herculean hard work to
encourage even greater Talmud Torah in our Kehillah. They have given hours upon
hours of intensive labor to bring this beautiful journal to completion. Additional thanks
to their supportive families, and all the sponsors of the sefer. May all the Torah and
chesed they have inspired, and will inspire, stand as a zechus for them, and may
HaShem bestow His bountiful blessings upon them and their entire mishpachos.

As the theme of this year’s sefer is ‘Reaching Out’ and Chesed, I would like to share the
following idea:

R. Chaim Vital quotes his teacher, R. Isaac Luria (the “Arizal”),
that before davening each day, a person should make the following

I hereby accept upon myself the mitzvah to love my fellow as myself.12

Many have wondered why it is so important to stress this mitzvah,
especially first thing every morning, over all others. However, as we study
and analyze the deeper meaning and significance of this mitzvah, the
question will fade away, as the primacy of this specific commandment will
become obvious.

There is a plethora of sources throughout Rabbinic literature that
support the centrality of Ahavas Yisra’el. Perhaps most famous is the Sifra,
which quotes Rabbi Akiva’s dictum that loving your fellow as yourself, is
the “kelal gadol baTorah”-“an all-embracing principle in the Torah.”13 Additionally,
the Gemara relates the well-known story of the potential convert who
approached both Shammai and Hillel, telling them that his conversion was
dependent on them being able to teach him the entirety of Torah while
standing on one foot.14 Shammai chases the gentile away, whereas Hillel
declares, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to another; that is the entire Torah,

12 Found in the Arizal’s siddur. See also the Arila 1, Beginning of Sha’ar Hakavonnos, Peri Eitz
Chayim Sha’ar Olam Ha’asiyah Ch 1; the Magen Avraham, Orech Chayim 46; and the Alter
Rebbe’s (Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi) siddur.
13 Kedoshim, Ch.4:12.
14 BT Shabbat 31a.

2 Rei’ach HaSadeh

and the rest is interpretation.”15 These two celebrated teachings highlight the
general approach we find in support of this vital value. However, to truly
appreciate this mitzvah, I believe we must understand one of the most
famous statements in all of Mishna.

In Pirkei Avot we read: Shimon haTzaddik was from the remnants of the
Great Assembly. He would say, “On three things the world stands: on the Torah, on the
service, and on acts of lovingkindness.”16 Shimon haTzaddik lived at one of the
major crossroads of Jewish history. He was kohen gadol during tumultuous
times, 17 and he was instrumental in segueing between the Biblical and
Rabbinic periods. Hence, Shimon’s teachings have a certain authority that
demands close attention. In this tannaitic statement, his most recognized,
he explains that there are three prominent pillars that support the world: (1)
the study of Torah; (2) service of the heart, i.e. prayer; and (3) acts of
kindness. As Kohen Gadol, Shimon essentially served as the conduit for the
Jewish People to approach HaShem, and to a degree, the conduit for
HaShem to instruct and connect to the Jewish People. In this Mishnah, he
lays out the blueprint for our continued existence in this world; the
implication being that if we were to forsake one of the three pillars, the
world would fall. To understand what these three ideals represent, we have
to take a step back and ask what the purpose of all existence is, and why
specifically these things are the ones holding everything up.

From various texts, but particularly in R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s
(the “Ramchal”) Mesilat Yesharim, it is apparent that the goal of Olam haZeh
and Olam haBah is for a person to develop an intimate relationship with, and
to be davuk (attached) to, HaShem.18 As such, we can easily surmise why
limmud haTorah and tefillah are pillars of our survival. When creating and
maintaining any bond with another, one of the core ingredients is
communication. Whether it is the connection between parent and child,
siblings, husband and wife, or close friends, healthy and consistent
communication is crucial to an excellent relationship. Therefore, we daven
and learn Torah, because when we daven we are speaking to G-d. HaShem
anxiously waits to hear our words and whispers, meant only for Him; and
when we learn Torah, we yearn to hear the Voice of G-d speak to us,
sharing His Eternal Message. Hence, as Kohen Gadol, Shimon haTzaddik
stresses the value of listening and talking to HaShem. These are Torah and
Avodah, the first two pillars.

15 Ibid.
16 1:2.
17 See BT Yoma 69a.
18 See generally, Chapter 1.

Rabbi’s Message 3

But what is it about the act of doing a chesed for another that brings
us so close to HaShem? How do gemilas chasadim (acts of lovingkindness)
create the intimacy with, and connection to, our Creator that we so desire?
Many suggest that the answer is based on a mitzvah known as “V’halachta
b’dirachav”-“And you shall go in His Ways.”19 However, it is not clear from the
verse what this actually means. How does a human being, a creature made
of flesh and blood, walk in the Path of the Eternal, the Divine? From the
Gemara20 and the Rambam,21 it is clear that one follows the path of G-d by
acting the way He acts. Just as we read narratives in the Torah describing
the various acts of kindness performed by HaShem, when we, flesh and
blood human beings, perform acts of kindness in our own lives, we are
being G-d-like.

Furthermore, based on the Ramchal’s Derech HaShem and other
sefarim, R. Aryeh Kaplan, zt’l teaches that the mitzvah of Dveikus (attaching
oneself to G-d) is also fulfilled by being like HaShem, in imitating His
actions.22 After all, isn’t it absurd to think that a human being can literally
cleave to the Almighty?! How would someone become ‘attached’ to
something that has no physical form? R. Kaplan explains that in the realm
of the spirit, being ‘connected to’ means ‘being like,’ or acting in the same
way.23 Now we can comprehend why the third pillar our world rests upon is
the pillar of acts of chesed: by undertaking acts of kindness for one another
we are not communicating with HaShem, but rather we are attaching
ourselves to Him! Doing chesed, is the greatest way to be like G-d in this
world. As Dovid haMelech says: “Olam chesed yibanah,”-”Creation itself was an
act of absolute chesed and love.”24 Therefore, when we perform our acts of
kindness, we are following in the Divine Path, attaching ourselves to Him,
and doing nothing less than creating and upholding the world!!

We now have arrived at a more comprehensive conception of why
Shimon haTzaddik listed Torah, Tefillah, and Chesed as the three pillars that
the world rests upon. These three spiritual endeavors represent the essence
of our deepest connections to the Ribbono Shel Olam. We can also now
understand why the Arizal recommends that we say the aforementioned
affirmation before we begin davening each day: everything we do the entire
day, prayer included, is meant as an act of love, kindness, and creation,

19 Deuteronomy 28:9.
20 See BT Sotah 14a; BT Shabbat 133b.
21 See Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Dei’os 1:5-6.
22 See R. Aryeh Kaplan, “A World of Love,” If You Were God, (New York:NCSY, 1983), pp.
40-77 (utilizing Deuteronomy 4:4, 10:20, 11:22 as prooftexts).
23 Id. at p. 59.
24 Psalms 89:3.

4 Rei’ach HaSadeh

thereby binding us ever tighter to our Father in Heaven. I hope we will all
declare our intention each and every morning to fulfill this holy mitzvah of
“‫” ְו ָא ַה ְב ָת ְל ֵר ֲעָך ָכמֹוָך‬-“to love every Jew as you love yourself”25 and thus sustain the
world, and become as great and godly as we possibly can.
In ending, I quote the words of the Midrash,26 as a final message for us all:

This is what the Holy One Blessed Be He said to Israel: My
children, what do I seek from you? I seek no more than that you have
love for one another and honor one another; and that you have awe
and reverence for one another.

25 Vayikra 19:18.
26 Tanna deBei Eliyahu, 26:6.




I. Introduction

Pop quiz #1: Name as many Jews as you can who traveled in the desert
after the exodus from Egypt.

You may struggle with this for a moment, conjuring only a few big
names like Moshe, Aharon and Miriam. But consider this question for
another minute and the names begin pouring in; names like Korach, Datan,
and Aviram, names like Nadav, Avihu, Nachshon and Betzalel. When you
complete this exercise, you might easily come up with nearly thirty
important names who occupy a major part of the storyline in the desert

Pop quiz #2: Name as many Jews as you can who entered the land of
Israel after wandering in the dessert for forty years.

This question is probably harder. Outside of three personalities
that we also know from the desert narrative (Yehoshua, Calev and Pinchas),
you may be hard-pressed to think of any who played a role in advancing the
storyline in the conquest of Israel narrative.

These two generations molded our people for all generations: they
left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, and they accepted the mitzvot for all of us
for eternity. They forged our bond with HaShem and with His Torah and
they created a permanent connection with the Land of Israel. Yet, the
stories of the first two generations of the Jewish people seem so different.
The first is the famous one, filled with colorful personalities, constant
miracles, trials, challenges and tragedies. The second one is relatively
uneventful. With few exceptions, things seem to go according to plan.
This generation carried out the will of HaShem, conquered the land and
settled it.

The stories of the second generation only came to be because of
the failures of the first. Had the first generation not sinned upon hearing
the report of the spies, they would have passed immediately into the land of
Israel.1 This game of “What If” begs the question: Why was the first

* I would like to give special thanks to my sister, Miriam Epstein, for her insights and help in
the editing process.
1 Numbers 13:2.

Aron Srolovitz 7

generation ultimately unable to enter the land? Was there something
restricted to the sin of the spies or was this part of a greater plan?
Additionally, what was it about the second generation that made them the
right choice for entry? A close examination of the two generations reveals,
on the one hand, striking parallels in their stories, and on the other, a
unique character of each generation and the relationships that the people
held with HaShem and with their generation’s respective leaders: Moshe
and Yehoshua.

II. The Generation of Moshe

In order to understand the generation of the desert, one must first
trace their origins to the slave experience in Egypt. Every Jew who left
Egypt had been born there, knowing only servitude as a way of life. They
had become accustomed to hard labor and harsh words; they also knew
nothing of earning a living, becoming self-reliant or taking initiative. The
Jews of Egypt lived their lives knowing only that their masters commanded
their fear and, in turn, provided for their basic needs. When they were
finally taken out of Egypt, it is safe to say they maintained a slave mentality,
looking for a new master both to dictate their every action and to provide
for them as well. While they may have been free in body, they certainly
were not free in mind or heart.

A. The Test at the Sea

It is against this backdrop that the Jewish people faced their first
test as a nation. Standing at the banks of the Yam Suf (Red Sea), they
watched in terror as Pharaoh’s army approached. The Chizkuni, R.
Chizkiyahu ben Mano’ach, a 13th Century French Torah Commentator,
points out that this fear was illogical:

‫”וייראו מאד“ מה ראו ישראל לירא כל כך משש מאות רכב? והלא‬
,‫הם היו ששים רבוא וכולם בני עשרים שנה ומעלה וחלוצי צבא‬
‫ יראים היו להלחם עם‬,‫כדכתיב ”וחמושים עלו בני ישראל!“ אלא‬

.‫ משל לעבד המפחד מאדוניו תמיד‬,‫אדוניהם‬

“They were very scared.” Why would 600,000 male, able bodied
Israelites, be so scared of 5000 Egyptians? We had been told that
[the Jewish People] were all armed! Their fear was based on their

8 Rei’ach HaSadeh

slave mentality. Every slave is afraid of his master. These Israelites
had not yet proven to themselves that they could fend for themselves.2

Even though the Jewish army vastly outnumbered the approaching
Egyptians, they could not imagine themselves as capable of standing up to
their masters. Dr. Ana Nogeles, a clinical psychologist who specializes in
trauma, refers to this plight as “psychological slavery.”3 She explains that:

for psychological slavery “to occur, research studies have
found four typical situations:

● Perception of a threat, physical or psychological, and
the conviction that misfortune can really occur;

● Appreciation of small acts of kindness by the abuser
towards the victim;

● Isolation from others;
● Conviction that one is unable to escape the situation.4

In the case of the Jews standing at the shores of the Yam Suf, they
endured each of the above- mentioned situations:

● Perception of threat:

‫ ֵעי ֵני ֶהם ְו ִה ֵנה ִמ ְצ ַר ִים ֹנ ֵס ַע‬-‫ ִי ְש ָר ֵאל ֶאת‬-‫ ִה ְק ִריב; ַו ִי ְשאּו ְב ֵני‬,‫ּו ַפ ְר ֹעה‬
...‫ ַו ִיי ְראּו ְמ ֹאד‬,‫ַא ֲח ֵרי ֶהם‬

And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted
up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians were marching
after them; and they were so afraid…5

● Appreciation of small acts of kindness by the abuser:

‫ ְו ַנ ַע ְב ָדה‬,‫ ֲח ַדל ִמ ֶמנּו‬,‫ ֲא ֶשר ִד ַב ְרנּו ֵא ֶליָך ְב ִמ ְצ ַר ִים ֵלא ֹמר‬,‫ ֶזה ַה ָד ָבר‬-‫ֲהלֹא‬
.‫ ִמ ְצ ָר ִים‬-‫ֶאת‬

2 See Chizkuni on Exodus 14:10. Translation paraphrased from Sefaria, available at All translations, unless otherwise
noted, from the Sefaria Library, available at
3 Psychological Slavery – Understanding the Complexity of Psychological Slavery,
Psychology Today, May 27, 2014,
4 Ibid.
5 Exodus 14:10.

Aron Srolovitz 9

Is not this the word that we spoke unto thee in Egypt,
saying: Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians?6

● Isolation from others:

.‫ ַה ָים‬-‫ ַו ַי ִשיגּו אֹו ָתם ֹח ִנים ַעל‬,‫ַו ִי ְר ְדפּו ִמ ְצ ַר ִים ַא ֲח ֵרי ֶהם‬

And the Egyptians pursued after them, all the
horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen,
and his army, and overtook them encamping by
the sea...7

● Conviction that one is unable to escape the situation:

.‫ ְל ַק ְח ָתנּו ָלמּות ַב ִמ ְד ָבר‬,‫ ְק ָב ִרים ְב ִמ ְצ ַר ִים‬-‫ ֲה ִמ ְב ִלי ֵאין‬,‫ ֹמ ֶשה‬-‫ ֶאל‬,‫ַויֹא ְמרּו‬

And they said unto Moses: 'Because there were no
graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in
the wilderness?8

Even after all of the miracles the Jews had witnessed during the
lengthy exodus process, they continue to view Pharoah as their master,
unable to imagine any other kind of life. Yet, the exodus process
introduces the Jewish people to two potential saviors, Moshe and HaShem
Himself. And so the Jews turn to each and address them. First, they call
out to HaShem: “'‫ה‬-‫ ֶאל‬,‫ ִי ְש ָר ֵאל‬-‫” ַו ִי ְצ ֲעקּו ְב ֵני‬-“the children of Israel cried out unto the
Lord.”9 Rashi explains that the Jews “‫” ָת ְפשּו ֻא ָמנּות ֲאבֹו ָתם‬-“they took to hand the
handicraft of their fathers,”10 meaning they took to prayer in their time of need.
This spiritual moment demonstrates a true desire for HaShem to act as their

Subsequently, they turn to Moshe to complain: “ ,‫ ֹמ ֶשה‬-‫ ֶאל‬,‫ַויֹא ְמרּו‬
‫ ְלהֹו ִצי ָאנּו‬,‫זֹאת ָע ִשי ָת ָלנּו‬-‫ ַמה‬:‫ ְל ַק ְח ָתנּו ָלמּות ַב ִמ ְד ָבר‬,‫ ְק ָב ִרים ְב ִמ ְצ ַר ִים‬-‫ֲה ִמ ְב ִלי ֵאין‬
‫” ִמ ִמ ְצ ָר ִים‬-“And they said unto Moses: 'Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou
taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to bring
us forth out of Egypt?”11 In what will later become a common theme, the Jews

6 Id. at 14:12.
7 Id. at 14:9.
8 Id. at 14:11.
9 Id. at 14:10.
10 See Rashi’s commentary on Exodus 14:10.
11 Exodus at 4:11.

10 Rei’ach HaSadeh

vent their frustration to Moshe, complaining to him that he never should
have bothered to rip them from their Egyptian comfort.

Seeing Benei Yisra’el turn to both HaShem and Moshe is
noteworthy. It seems that they do not know whom to choose, so they
approach both. And so, they receive two responses. Moshe speaks first:

-‫ ֲא ֶשר‬,'‫ ְישּו ַעת ה‬-‫ ִה ְת ַי ְצבּו ּו ְראּו ֶאת‬--‫ ִתי ָראּו‬-‫ ַאל‬,‫ ָה ָעם‬-‫ַויֹא ֶמר ֹמ ֶשה ֶאל‬
‫לֹא ֹת ִספּו ִל ְר ֹא ָתם‬--‫ ִמ ְצ ַר ִים ַהיֹום‬-‫ ֲא ֶשר ְר ִאי ֶתם ֶאת‬,‫ ִכי‬:‫ַי ֲע ֶשה ָל ֶכם ַהיֹום‬

.‫ ַת ֲח ִרשּון‬,‫ ִי ָל ֵחם ָל ֶכם; ְו ַא ֶתם‬,'‫ ה‬.‫עֹו ָלם‬-‫ ַעד‬,‫עֹוד‬

And Moses said unto the people: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see
the salvation of the LORD, which He will work for you to-day; for
whereas ye have seen the Egyptians to-day, ye shall see them again no
more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and ye shall hold your

Many commentaries attempt to interpret Moshe’s words in these

a) Rashi explains that Moshe attempted to calm the people by
reminding them that HaShem would care for them.

b) The Or haChayim explains that Moshe was encouraging them
to continue to pray until HaShem made something happen.

c) Chizkuni views Moshe’s words as reproach for the Jews,
saying, “This is not for you! I will handle this.”

In all cases, one message is clear: The Jews do not need to take any
physical initiative on their own. Someone, either HaShem or Moshe, would
handle the situation for them while they simple stayed put. Moshe’s words
certainly offer comfort, given what the Jews are looking for. They are
looking for a new master to take over for Pharoah. Moshe is guaranteeing
that this would happen.

After this brief speech, HaShem responds directly to Moshe:

ּ.‫ ְו ִי ָסעו‬,‫ ִי ְש ָר ֵאל‬-‫ ְב ֵני‬-‫ ִת ְצ ַעק ֵא ָלי; ַד ֵבר ֶאל‬-‫ ַמה‬,‫ ֹמ ֶשה‬-‫ַויֹא ֶמר ה' ֶאל‬

And the LORD said unto Moses: “Wherefore criest thou unto Me?
speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.”13

12 Id. at 4:13-14.
13 Id. at 4:15.

Aron Srolovitz 11

There are three main approaches to understanding HaShem’s
words in this passuk:

a) Onkelos understands that Moshe himself took to prayer like
the Jews. HaShem responded by saying, “I have accepted your
prayer. Now it is time to go.”

b) Rashi agrees with Onkelos regarding Moshe’s behavior, but
differs on the response. He suggests that HaShem responded
that this not the time for prayer; it was time for action.

c) Rashi also offers an alternate explanation, saying that Moshe
was not the one who would offer salvation. Rather, it was

For the fledgling nation, this exchange between HaShem and
Moshe is critical. What is the role of Moshe in the relationship between
HaShem and the Jews in their eyes? In some ways, Moshe seems to play
the role of intermediary between HaShem and Benei Yisra’el. He speaks to
them and then turns to relay their message to HaShem. He often seems to
play the role of HaShem’s proxy, acting on HaShem’s behalf and initiating
miracles. What seems clear is that Benei Yisra’el are not entirely sure who to
turn to, so they turn to both separately.

The story resumes with Moshe lifting his hand, the sea splitting,
and Benei Yisra’el making it through safely and the Egyptians drown in the
sea. As they witness their former masters drowning in the see, an
interesting pattern can be noticed:

.‫ ְש ַפת ַה ָים‬-‫ ֵמת ַעל‬,‫ ִמ ְצ ַר ִים‬-‫● ַו ַי ְרא ִי ְש ָר ֵאל ֶאת‬
…and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore…14

.‫ ֲא ֶשר ָע ָשה ה' ְב ִמ ְצ ַר ִים‬,‫ ַה ָיד ַה ְג ֹד ָלה‬-‫● ַו ַי ְרא ִי ְש ָר ֵאל ֶאת‬
…And Israel saw the great work which the LORD did upon the

.'‫ה‬-‫ ֶאת‬,‫● ַו ִיי ְראּו ָה ָעם‬
…and the people feared the LORD…16,17

14 Exodus 14:30.
15 Id. at 14:31.
16 Ibid.

12 Rei’ach HaSadeh

One can witness the lightbulb slowly turn on for the Jewish people.
They watch their former enslavers drowning, they turn their eyes to
HaShem’s might, and then they finally realize who is really in charge. Fear
overcomes them and this fear turns to faith: “‫ ַע ְבדֹו‬,‫ ּו ְב ֹמ ֶשה‬,’‫ ַבה‬,‫” ַו ַי ֲא ִמינּו‬-“and
they believed in the LORD, and in His servant Moses.”18 They now believe in
both HaShem and Moshe. Moshe is seemingly added here as he clearly has
served a role in this salvation process.

What emerges is a newly-freed people who immediately enter into a
new form of servitude: worship of HaShem. This shift is certainly not a
bad thing. In fact, there may have been no greater comfort for the Jewish
people than to have a new “Master,” one who would direct them and care
for them. Moving the Jews through the sea, one is reminded of how to
create a kinyan (legal transfer of ownership) on an animal through the
method of meshichah (pulling), in which ownership is transferred when the
item is literally pulled from the previous owner’s possession into the
possession of the buyer.19 Indeed, Benei Yisra’el themselves describe this
transfer of ownership in their song of thanks, ‫ ָאז ָי ִשיר‬, describing themselves
as “‫זּו ָק ִני ָת‬-‫ ַעם‬,”-“the people...that Thou hast gotten.”20 HaShem pulled them
from Pharaoh’s shores and onto the other side, thereby establishing
Himself as their master.

At the same time, Moshe’s role in this relationship remains murky.
Is he their master as well? The Jews certainly come to him regularly when
they need their most basic needs met, as opposed to crying out directly to
HaShem. They bring him their new ideas21 and they ask him to solve even
their most basic squabbles.22 Some commentaries are so uncomfortable
with the idea that Moshe may have played some level of “master” role that
they work to distance him from it. For example, when the Jews “believed in
the LORD, and in His servant Moses,”23 Onkelos comments on that passuk:
“‫” ְו ֵה ִמינּו ְב ֵמי ְמ ָרא ַדה' ּו ִב ְנ ִביאּות מ ֶשה ַע ְב ֵדּה‬-“and they believed in the LORD and in the
prophecy of Moshe”.

17 Note the wordplay of the words “‫( ” ַו ַי ְרא‬and he saw) and “‫( ” ַו ִיי ְראּו‬and they feared). What
the eyes see leads to an internalization and a new understanding of reality.
18 Exodus 14:31.
19 See Mishnayot Masechet Kiddushin, 1: 4-5.
20 Exodus 15:16.
21 See, for example, the stories the daughters of Tzelofchad asking for special inheritance
arrangements (Numbers, 27:1-4) and of Re’uven, Gad and Menashe asking for the Trans-
Jordanian lands (Id. at 32:1-5).
22 See, for example, Exodus, 18:13-17.
23 Id. at 14:31.

Aron Srolovitz 13

As the Jews set out into the desert, the new dynamic begins to
emerge. There is a constant cycle of complaints24 and miracles.25 Moshe
plays the role of miracle man, using his limbs, his staff and other objects to
care for the people.26 HaShem provides them with Divine protection and
bread from the heavens.27 The Jews still pine for some of the luxuries of
Egypt and have not fully removed themselves from their slave mentality.28
In their eyes, they have merely been acquired by new owners and their
expectations remain the same.

B. Amalek and Sinai

As the Jews traverse deeper into the desert, Moshe’s role as leader,
savior and “master” becomes more apparent. In the immediate aftermath
of the splitting of the sea, the Jews are cruelly attacked by the nation of
Amalek. Forced to throw together a quick battle plan, Moshe calls on

,‫ ְו ֵצא ִה ָל ֵחם ַב ֲע ָמ ֵלק; ָמ ָחר‬,‫ ָלנּו ֲא ָנ ִשים‬-‫ ְיהֹו ֻש ַע ְב ַחר‬-‫ַויֹא ֶמר ֹמ ֶשה ֶאל‬
.‫ ְב ָי ִדי‬,‫ ּו ַמ ֵטה ָה ֱאֹל ִקים‬,‫רֹאש ַה ִג ְב ָעה‬-‫ָא ֹנ ִכי ִנ ָצב ַעל‬

And Moses said unto Joshua: “Choose us out men, and go out, fight
with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the
rod of G-d in my hand.”29

As Yehoshua gathers the men and ascends to battle, the narrative
shifts its focus away from the warriors and puts it all on Moshe’s
miraculous actions:

‫ ְו ָג ַבר‬,‫ ְו ָג ַבר ִי ְש ָר ֵאל; ְו ַכ ֲא ֶשר ָי ִני ַח ָידֹו‬--‫ ַכ ֲא ֶשר ָי ִרים ֹמ ֶשה ָידֹו‬,‫ְו ָה ָיה‬
.‫ֲע ָמ ֵלק‬

And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel
prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.30

24 See, e.g, Numbers 14:22. “‫ ְבקֹו ִלי‬,‫ ְולֹא ָש ְמעּו‬,‫ ֶזה ֶע ֶשר ְפ ָע ִמים‬,‫” ַו ְי ַנסּו ֹא ִתי‬-“yet have put Me to proof
these ten times, and have not hearkened to My voice.”
25 See, e.g, Exodus 16:14. “‫ ָה ָא ֶרץ‬-‫ ַעל‬,‫ ַדק ַכ ְכ ֹפר‬--‫ ַדק ְמ ֻח ְס ָפס‬,‫ ְפ ֵני ַה ִמ ְד ָבר‬-‫ ִש ְכ ַבת ַה ָטל; ְו ִה ֵנה ַעל‬,‫– ” ַו ַת ַעל‬
“And when the layer of dew was gone up, behold upon the face of the wilderness a fine, scale-like thing, fine
as the hoar-frost on the ground.”
26 See further discussion in Sec. II.B. below.
27 Exodus 16:4. “‫ ַה ָש ָמ ִים‬-‫ ִה ְנ ִני ַמ ְמ ִטיר ָל ֶכם ֶל ֶחם ִמן‬,‫ ֹמ ֶשה‬-‫“ – ” ַויֹא ֶמר ה' ֶאל‬Then said the LORD unto
Moses: ‘Behold, I will cause to rain bread from heaven for you.’”
28 Time and time again, throughout their time in the desert, the Jews return to their common
refrain of pining for a return to Egypt. See, e.g, Exodus 14:11 and Numbers 20:5.
29 Exodus 17:9.

14 Rei’ach HaSadeh

The actions of the army are never recorded. Instead, we are treated
to what the rest of the Jews are seemingly watching: Moshe’s hands.
Visually, it becomes clear that his hands are a tool impacting the outcome,
possibly more than the fighters themselves. This position is an ongoing
theme in the desert narrative. Moshe’s actions always play a greater role
than the actions of any other individual or collective. His reactions to the
behavior of Benei Yisra’el and his conversations with HaShem occupy far
more text than what precipitates them.

Indeed, Moshe’s role as a miracle man takes on great significance
during this time. He throws wood into water to sweeten it,31 uses his staff
to split seas32 and makes water emerge from rocks.33 As the Jewish people
are searching for someone to take care of them and to protect them, it is
certainly clear that Moshe plays a strong role here, as a physical
manifestation of HaShem’s love for His people.

When the Jews arrive at Har Sinai, Moshe’s role takes on an
additional quality as well. Standing at the bottom of the mountain, the Jews
hear the initial words of the Aseret haDibrot (loosely translated as the Ten
Commandments) spoken directly from HaShem and they shrink away in
fear.34 They beg of Moshe to serve as a mouthpiece for HaShem for them
“lest they die.”35 This request has a major impact on the dynamic of Benei
Yisra’el’s relationship, both with HaShem and with Moshe. HaShem was a
Master who could never be accessed, one who must be kept distant.
Moshe, on the other hand, has become the intermediary, since the Jews did
not have direct access to their Creator.

With his dual role as miracle man and savior, Moshe’s place among
the Jewish people was unlike any other. In addition to receiving the Torah,
he descended from Har Sinai with a face that “sent forth beams.”36 He is
the only prophet to teach Mitzvot on the level of a deOraita, the highest level
we have. He is the only one ever to speak with HaShem directly, as
opposed to through a lens37 and, most simply put, he is known as the

30 Id. at 17:11.
31 Id. at 15:25.
32 Id. at 14:21.
33 Id. at 17:6.
34 Id. at 20:15.
35 Id. at 20:16.
36 Id. at 34:29.
37 Numbers 12:8.

Aron Srolovitz 15

greatest prophet ever to live. 38 He truly is Moshe Rabbeinu, our great

The Jews of the desert generation really needed a Moshe. Yearning
for a strong hand like they knew in Egypt, they were not prepared for the
intensity of a direct relationship with HaShem. Moshe played the crucial
part of proxy, as the people as a whole are not yet ready to take center stage
in the narrative of the Jewish story.

The complexity of this three-way relationship can be seen
throughout the desert story. When the people believe that Moshe delayed
in coming down from Har Sinai, they build an idol and declare “this is your
god, Israel!” 39 It is unclear with whom they are rebelling as Moshe’s
seeming delay led to an idol being labeled a god. Why build a god if they
are frustrated with their human leader? The ambiguity continues. When
HaShem tells Moshe of this sin, He refers to Benei Yisra’el as “your
nation.”40 Moshe responds by saying they truly belong to HaShem.41 This
seeming tug-of-war over who is really in charge seems to be an ongoing
confusion for the people during this part of the narrative.42

C. The Downfall of the Desert Generation and their Leader

It is well known that this generation did not merit going into the
land of Israel nor did their leader, Moshe. While classic answers exist for
the reasons for each (the Jews listened to the spies,43 Moshe hit the rock44),
we must search to identify the underlying problems of this generation and
to understand why they were not fit to settle the land. While the behaviors
and attitudes of this generation who were freed from slavery are
understandable, they are not in line with the ideal settler of the land. While
in the desert, all Jews were gathered in close proximity, able to approach
their leader for spiritual counsel and to receive immediate feedback when
making mistakes; this would not be the case in Israel. Following the
conquest of the land, each Jew would settle down on his or her own, tasked
to live a righteous life without the same level of close guidance. A settler
had to be independent, a go-getter who knew that HaShem would provide,
contingent upon his righteousness.

38 Deuteronomy 34:10. Onkelos, as
39 Exodus 32:8.
40 Id. at 32:7.
41 Id. at 32:11.
42 Many commentaries have attempted to draw the lines much clearer.
previously mentioned, lessons Moshe’s role at the Yam Suf for just this reason.
43 Numbers 11:10.
44 Rashi’s commentary on Numbers 20:11.

16 Rei’ach HaSadeh

None of these traits existed in the desert generation. They relied
heavily on one dynamic leader and rarely displayed any level of
independence. In fact, when they tried to act proactively, they usually
erred.45 Additionally, because of their relationship with Moshe, they often
did not see their direct relationship with HaShem. Rather, they brought all
of their issues to their leader, rather than crying out directly to HaShem.

This underlying issue became overt when the spies returned with
their bitter report on the possibility of conquering Israel. After all of the
miracles performed in the desert, after the gifts of food and water in a
barren land, the Jews returned to the common refrain they once used at the
shores of the Yam Suf:

!‫ ַמ ְתנּו ְב ֶא ֶרץ ִמ ְצ ַר ִים‬-‫לּו‬
Would that we had died in the land of Egypt!46
With the Jews standing on the precipice of the land promised to
their forefathers, their slave mentality has still not left them. They cannot
imagine conquering great enemies, even though they had already done so
with HaShem’s (and Moshe’s) support in the desert. They cannot picture
themselves as the protagonists of the story and as true partners with
HaShem after subjugating themselves to Moshe’s dynamic leadership all
this time. And so, HaShem declares that it is time for a new generation with
new perspectives to enter the land of Israel.
While the people may not have been worthy, why was it that
Moshe was not allowed to lead the next generation? They surely could not
have had a better leader. Moshe is informed that he cannot enter the land
after the Jews complained about wanting water a second time.47 After they
complained, HaShem instructed Moshe to speak to the rock so that water
could emerge. A vast number of commentaries offer varied opinions to
explain Moshe’s sin, but, for our purposes, we will focus on two.
R. Moshe ben Maimon (the “Rambam”) explains that Moshe’s
great sin was that he referred to the Jewish people as “rebels” before

45 See, for example, the Jews who attempted to run to Israel against HaShem’s wishes
(Numbers 14:44-45), the Jews who joined Korach to declare their importance (Id. at 16:2),
the Jews who stood up for Korach (Id. at 17:6).
46 Numbers 14:2.
47 Id. at 20:1-13.

Aron Srolovitz 17

drawing water out from the rock, indicating a level of anger.48 This display
had a major impact on the people:

‫דקדק עליו השם שיהיה אדם כמוהו כועס לפני עדת ישראל במקום‬
‫וכאשר ראוהו שכעס אמרו שהוא ע”ה אין לו‬...‫שאין ראוי בו הכעס‬
‫פחיתות מדה ולולי שהיה ידוע שהשם כעס עלינו בבקשת המים‬
'‫ ואנחנו לא מצאנו לשם ית‬,‫ושאנחנו הכעסנוהו יתברך לא היה כועס‬
‫ אבל אמר קח את המטה והשקית את‬,‫שכעס בדברו אליו בזה הענין‬

.‫ ואת בעירם‬,‫העדה‬

God found fault with him (Moshe) that such a man as he
should show anger in the presence of the entire
community of Israel, where wrath is
unbecoming…Therefore, when they saw that he waxed
wrathful, they said, “He has no moral imperfection, and
did he not know that God is angry with us for demanding
water, and that we have stirred up the wrath of God, he
would not have been angry with us.” However, we do not
find that when God spoke to Moses about this matter
[that] He was angry, but on the contrary, said, “Take the
staff . . . and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.”49

The issue was not the anger itself, but the impact of Moshe’s anger.
The people confused Moshe’s emotions with G-d’s. They had reached a
point where the line between the two was blurred in the eyes of the people.
Because of Moshe’s behavior, the people incorrectly concluded that G-d
was displeased with them.

In contrast, R. Moshe ben Nachman (the “Ramban”) prefers the
interpretation of Rabbeinu Chananel to understand Moshe’s sin:

‫ וראוי שיאמרו‬,“‫כי החטא הוא אמרם ”המן הסלע הזה נוציא לכם מים‬
?‫יוציא ה' לכם מים‬

For the sin was in their saying, “Shall we bring forth water for
you from this rock?” They should have said, “Shall God bring
forth water?”50

48 See Rambam, Shemonah Perakim, Ch. 4.
49 Ibid. Translation from Sefaria, available at
50 See Ramban’s commentary on Numbers 20:10. Translation from Rav Dr. Aaron Ross,
available at punishment-moshe-korach-vs-mei-meriva.

18 Rei’ach HaSadeh

While the Rambam blames Moshe for misrepresenting HaShem,
the Ramban explains that Moshe blurred the lines of who was actually
performing the miracles. By implying that he played a role in bringing forth
the water, Moshe reaffirmed the confusion on the part of the people that
had existed since the sea split.

Whether one prefers the opinion of the Rambam or the Ramban,
one element is clear: Moshe was not fit to lead the next generation into
Israel because he did not adapt to the kind of leadership the next generation
would need. In order for the next, more independent generation to be
ready to step out on their own, they needed a leader who could empower
them, someone who could challenge them to feel the connection to G-d on
their own without the need for an intermediary. The next generation of
Jews should not need the dynamic spokesperson as much as they needed
the team-oriented coach. Through this story, Moshe proved unable to
adapt. For that reason, a new leader was needed.51

III. The generation of Yehoshua

To understand Yehoshua and his relationship with this new
generation, we must first turn back to his origin story in the Chumash.
Yehoshua is the leading general and right-hand man for Moshe. He speaks
very little in the entire Chumash, but his words offer insight into the kind of
leader he would become.

When the Jews begin to complain about the man in the desert,
Moshe turns to HaShem and asks for help, claiming he could no longer
bear the leadership of the people alone. HaShem responds by inspiring
seventy men with a Ru’ach haKodesh (holy spirit) to serve as spiritual
leaders.52 While the rest of the new leaders are gathered at the Ohel Mo’ed
(Tent of Gathering), two men, Eldad and Meidad, begin to receive
prophecy among the people. 53 Upon seeing this, Yehoshua becomes
agitated and turns to Moshe, requesting their incarceration for being so
brazen in front of Moshe.54 Moshe responded by saying “If only more
people were prophets!”55 This moment was critical for Yehoshua. As the
shammash (right-hand man) of Moshe, he knows more than anyone what it

51 Moshe’s father-in-law, Yitro, actually tried to convince Moshe to adopt this leadership
style early in his career. In Exodus 18:17-23, Yitro guides Moshe to appoint new leaders to
work directly with the people and for him to manage them, only addressing the most
pressing of issues.
52 Numbers 11:16-30.
53 Id. at 11:26.
54 Id. at 11:28.
55 Id. at 11:29.

Aron Srolovitz 19

means to serve a leader. But now, his leader is teaching him that spreading
spirituality is the key. Yehoshua certainly internalizes that message.

When he joins the spies on their journey into Israel, he and another
spy, Calev, dispute the erroneous claims of the ten spies’ belief that:

.‫ ִמ ֶמנּו‬,‫ ָח ָזק הּוא‬-‫ ִכי‬:‫ ָה ָעם‬-‫ ַל ֲעלֹות ֶאל‬,‫לֹא נּו ַכל‬

We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than

Instead, they argued that:

.‫ ָלּה‬,‫ ָיכֹול נּו ַכל‬-‫ ִכי‬--‫ָעֹלה ַנ ֲע ֶלה ְו ָי ַר ְשנּו ֹא ָתּה‬

We should go up at once and possess it; for we are well able to
overcome it.57

This marks the first time we see military discussions taking
place among the people. Their argument goes further:

‫ ָח ֵפץ‬-‫ ִאם‬.‫ ְמ ֹאד ְמ ֹאד‬,‫טֹו ָבה ָה ָא ֶרץ‬--‫ ֲא ֶשר ָע ַב ְרנּו ָבּה ָלתּור ֹא ָתּה‬,‫ָה ָא ֶרץ‬
‫ ִהוא‬-‫ ֲא ֶשר‬,‫ ֶא ֶרץ‬:‫ ּו ְנ ָת ָנּה ָלנּו‬,‫ ָה ָא ֶרץ ַהזֹאת‬-‫ ְו ֵה ִביא ֹא ָתנּו ֶאל‬--'‫ ה‬,‫ָבנּו‬
,‫ ַעם ָה ָא ֶרץ‬-‫ ִתי ְראּו ֶאת‬-‫ ְו ַא ֶתם ַאל‬,‫ ִת ְמ ֹרדּו‬-‫ ַאל‬,'‫ ַאְך ַבה‬.‫ָז ַבת ָח ָלב ּו ְד ָבש‬

.‫ ִתי ָר ֻאם‬-‫ ַאל‬,‫ִכי ַל ְח ֵמנּו ֵהם; ָסר ִצ ָלם ֵמ ֲע ֵלי ֶהם ַוה' ִא ָתנּו‬

The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceeding good
land. If the LORD delight in us, then He will bring us into this
land, and give it unto us--a land which floweth with milk and honey.
Only rebel not against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the
land; for they are bread for us; their defense is removed from over
them, and the LORD is with us; fear them not.58

Notice this new perspective. This conversation is not about what
HaShem (or Moshe) could do for the people. It is about what the people
can do for themselves. The only condition that will impact their victory is
if HaShem is on the side of the people. Notice that Moshe is not a part of
this conversation. There is no expectation of Divine intervention or
miraculous staffs. Yehoshua employs a new formula: If the Jews have a

56 Numbers 13:31.
57 Id. at 13:30.
58 Id. at 14:7-9.

20 Rei’ach HaSadeh

strong relationship with HaShem and if they are willing to try on their own,
they can be successful. This new way of thinking would heavily inform
Yehoshua as a leader as the people transition away from Moshe.

A. Yehoshua Speaks to the People
Yehoshua’s style of speaking differs greatly from his predecessor.
A frequent reader of the Torah is quite familiar with the phrase “ ‫ ְב ֵני‬-‫ַד ֵבר ֶאל‬
‫” ִי ְש ָר ֵאל‬-“speak to the children of Israel.” Moshe was a public speaker. Rarely
do we see him engaged in small-group discussions, especially at his own
initiative. Note, however, the first recorded conversations Yehoshua has as
a leader with his constituency:
● Yehoshua speaks with the ‫שוטרים‬, officials, of the people,

instructing them to prepare the people to cross the Jordan
● Yehoshua initiates a conversation with the tribes of Re’uven,
Gad, and Menashe, reminding them that they committed to
fight for the Jewish cause even after settling into their homes
in the Trans-Jordanian territory.60
● Unprompted, Yehoshua sends two unnamed spies to Jericho
to learn its military strengths and weaknesses.61
Unlike Moshe, Yehoshua prioritizes speaking with smaller groups
of people, empowering each with their own jobs, none with tremendous
pomp and circumstance. Yehoshua does not have to be the mouthpiece to
every Jew. He only cares to make sure the nation is set up for success in as
efficient a way as possible.
B. The HaShem/Yehoshua Dynamic
While Moshe often served as a proxy for HaShem to the Jewish
people, there is a constant refrain about partnership between HaShem and

● ‫ ֹמ ֶשה ֶא ְה ֶיה ִע ָמְך‬-‫ ַכ ֲא ֶשר ָה ִיי ִתי ִעם‬, as I was with Moses, so I will be with

59 Joshua 1:10.
60 Id. at 1:12.
61 Id. at 2:1.
62 Id. at 1:5.

Aron Srolovitz 21

● ‫ ֹמ ֶשה‬-‫ ִעם‬,‫ ַכ ֲא ֶשר ָה ָיה‬,‫ ִע ָמְך‬,‫ ַרק ִי ְה ֶיה ה' ֱאֹל ֶקיָך‬, only the LORD thy God
be with thee, as He was with Moses.63

Yehoshua himself also stresses this alliance. Immediately before
crossing the Jordan River, HaShem promises Yehoshua, “ ,‫ַהיֹום ַה ֶזה ָא ֵחל ַג ֶד ְלָך‬
‫ ִי ְש ָר ֵאל‬-‫” ְב ֵעי ֵני ָכל‬-“This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel.”64
Afterwards, in his first announcement to the entire Jewish people,
Yehoshua claims: “‫ ִכי ֵקל ַחי ְב ִק ְר ְב ֶכם‬,‫” ְבזֹאת ֵת ְדעּון‬-”Hereby ye shall know that the
living God is among you.” 65 Yehoshua is not concerned with his own
proclaimed greatness. Instead, his focus is on glorifying HaShem’s name
and reminding the people that He is among them. Yehoshua is not a go-
between like his predecessor.66

C. Foils to the Desert Stories

As the second generation prepares to enter the land and to conquer
it, a surprising number of stories take place that immediately conjure images
of earlier events, this time with new twists that speak to the new era of

1. Yehoshua sends spies to Yericho: Immediately prior to crossing the
Jordan River, Yehoshua sends two spies to the walled city of Yericho
(Jericho) to “view the land.”67 There are a great many contrasts
between this story and the story of the spies in Sefer beMidbar:

a. While Moshe publicly sent well-known Jews as spies, 68
there is no indication that any of Yehoshua’s
contemporaries knew about the latter voyage, nor the
identity of the spies themselves. By sending leaders from
the desert, Moshe created an entire event around the
event. Yehoshua pursues it for entirely strategic purposes.

63 Id. at 1:17.
64 Id. at 3:7.
65 Id. at 3:10.
66 After crossing the Jordan River, an interesting linguistic parallel to the crossing of the Yam
Suf can be noticed. Just like the use of the word “‫( ” ַו ַי ְרא‬he saw) was followed by the word
“‫( ” ַו ִיי ְראּו‬and they feared), the same process occurs here:

‫ ִי ְש ָר ֵאל; ַו ִי ְראּו ֹאתֹו‬-‫ ָכל‬,‫ ְב ֵעי ֵני‬,‫ ְיהֹו ֻש ַע‬-‫ ִג ַדל ה' ֶאת‬,‫ַביֹום ַההּוא‬
On that day the LORD magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him (Id., 4:14). Seeing
with one’s eyes leads to fear and respect. Even though Yehoshua attempted to place all
glory on HaShem, the effect was a new level of reverence for Yehoshua as well.
67 Joshua 2:1.
68 These leaders are described as “‫ ִי ְש ָר ֵאל ֵה ָמה‬-‫ ָרא ֵשי ְב ֵני‬,‫” ֻכ ָלם ֲא ָנ ִשים‬-“all of them men who were
heads of the children of Israel.” Numbers 13:3.

22 Rei’ach HaSadeh

b. When the twelve spies ventured through the land, we read
of everything they saw 69 and the emotions they
experienced.70 Everything was passive and internal. In the
case of the two spies, their function is to interact with the
locals and to hatch a battle plan.71 Their plan is tactical
and proactive.

c. Upon their return to the desert, the twelve spies brought
their report to the entire nation rather than to Moshe
first. 72 They offered a number of details from their
observations and then offer their own interpretation that
the Jews are unable to succeed in battle in Israel.73 The
two spies return with their report only to Yehoshua “and
they told him all that had befallen them.”74 No further
details are necessary. They do, however, offer an
interpretation as well: “‫ ָה ָא ֶרץ‬-‫ ָכל‬-‫ ֶאת‬,‫ ָנ ַתן ה’ ְב ָי ֵדנּו‬-‫” ִכי‬-”Truly
the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land.”75 The first
group focused on what they could not do. The second
focuses on what they could accomplish with HaShem’s
support, which is a clear message that they have adopted
Yehoshua’s way of thinking.76

2. The crossing of the Jordan River: As Yehoshua begins preparation
for the crossing of the river; he is quick to assign specific tasks to
different groups of people. The officers are instructed to station
themselves among the people to serve as guides ,77 the Kohanim and
Levi’im surround and carry the Aron Kodesh,78 and the rest of the
nation are placed into their appropriate positions for sojourning
through the riverbed.79 Yehoshua address each group separately

69 For example, “‫ ָר ִאינּו ָשם‬,‫ ְי ִל ֵדי ָה ֲע ָנק‬-‫” ְו ַגם‬-“and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.” Id. at
70 “‫ ִמ ֶמנּו‬,‫ ָח ָזק הּוא‬-‫” ִכי‬-“for they are stronger than we.” Id. at 13:31.
71 See Yehoshua, 2:2-14.
72 “‫ ִי ְש ָר ֵאל‬-‫ ֲע ַדת ְב ֵני‬-‫ ָכל‬-‫ ַא ֲה ֹרן ְו ֶאל‬-‫ ֹמ ֶשה ְו ֶאל‬-‫” ַו ֵי ְלכּו ַו ָי ֹבאּו ֶאל‬-“And they went and came to Moses, and to
Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel.” Numbers 13:26.
73 Numbers 13:32.
74 Joshua 2:23.
75 Id. at 2:24.
76 Note the parallels between this report and what Calev and Yehoshua attempted to say to
the people: “‫ ּו ְנ ָת ָנּה ָלנּו‬,‫ ָה ָא ֶרץ ַהזֹאת‬-‫ ְו ֵה ִביא ֹא ָתנּו ֶאל‬--’‫ ה‬,‫ ָח ֵפץ ָבנּו‬-‫” ִאם‬-“If the LORD delight in us, then
He will bring us into this land, and give it unto us.” Numbers 14:8.
77 Joshua 3:2.
78 Id. at 3:3.
79 Id. at 3:4.

Aron Srolovitz 23

as opposed to one communal announcement, giving each the
personal attention they need.

While Yehoshua does lead the people in this story and the water
does miraculously split, he plays the role of side character. It is HaShem
and the people themselves who share the limelight. The text goes into
painstaking detail explaining the role of the people in the story:

‫ ֹנ ְש ֵאי ָה ָארֹון‬,‫ ַה ַי ְר ֵדן; ְו ַה ֹכ ֲה ִנים‬-‫ ֶאת‬,‫ ַל ֲע ֹבר‬,‫ ִב ְנ ֹס ַע ָה ָעם ֵמ ָא ֳה ֵלי ֶהם‬,‫ַו ְי ִהי‬
‫ ְו ַר ְג ֵלי ַה ֹכ ֲה ִנים‬,‫ ַה ַי ְר ֵדן‬-‫ ַעד‬,‫ ּו ְכבֹוא ֹנ ְש ֵאי ָה ָארֹון‬.‫ ִל ְפ ֵני ָה ָעם‬--‫ַה ְב ִרית‬
‫ ְי ֵמי‬,‫ ֹכל‬,‫ ְגדֹו ָתיו‬-‫ ָכל‬-‫ ָמ ֵלא ַעל‬,‫ ִנ ְט ְבלּו ִב ְק ֵצה ַה ָמ ִים; ְו ַה ַי ְר ֵדן‬,‫ֹנ ְש ֵאי ָה ָארֹון‬
‫ ֶנ ֶגד‬,‫ ְו ָה ָעם ָע ְברּו‬...‫ ֶא ָחד‬-‫ ַו ַי ַע ְמדּו ַה ַמ ִים ַה ֹי ְר ִדים ִמ ְל ַמ ְע ָלה ָקמּו ֵנד‬.‫ָק ִציר‬

.‫ְי ִריחֹו‬

And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to
pass over the Jordan, the priests that bore the ark of the covenant
being before the people; and when they that bore the ark were come
unto the Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bore the ark were
dipped in the brink of the water--for the Jordan overfloweth all its
banks all the time of harvest--that the waters which came down from
above stood, and rose up in one heap...and the people passed over
right against Jericho.80

The text diverges from the standard “and they did as they were
commanded.” There is no description of Yehoshua’s behaviors during this
time nor is there a mention of HaShem’s name. This moment is about the
initiative of Benei Yisra’el. This is their triumph.

Immediately before crossing, Yehoshua reminds the people,
“Hereby ye shall know that the living G-d is among you,”81 pointing out
that the relationship between man and G-d no longer requires an
intermediary; each person can individually achieve that connection.

3. The conquering of Yericho: Much like the Jews of the desert, the
second-generation Jews engage in a miraculous battle immediately
after crossing a body of water. As Moshe prepared the Jews for
battle against Amalek, we only see him interact with Yehoshua. In
contrast, Yehoshua continues his pattern of delegating: Seven
Kohanim are chosen to carry shofarot, the people are given clear

80 Id. at 3:14-16.
81 3:10.

24 Rei’ach HaSadeh

guidelines for how to circle the city. 82 This preparation even
demands that the entire nation stay silent for a period of time.83
While the Chumash often offers brevity when relating battles and
merely states that the Jews did as they were commanded, Sefer
Yehoshua details the actions of the Jews in this battle over eleven
pessukim! The focus is clearly meant to give credit to the people for
their role in their own victory. The victory of the desert Jews came
at the hands of Moshe (literally), but the victory of these Jews came
at their own hands. While both stories involve clear miracles,
Yehoshua plays a very different leadership role here. He stands to
the side and offers instructions to the people. If Moshe were a
one-man band, Yehoshua was a conductor of a symphony

D. Success for Yehoshua’s Generation

In the final chapter of Sefer Yehoshua, after all the wars and the
settling of the land, the dying leader gathers the people to deliver his last
lecture to the nation. In it, he gathers them in groups (elders, judges,
leaders, and officers) and appeals to them to “be present (‫ ) ַו ִי ְת ַי ְצבּו‬before
G-d.”84 For the first time in Yehoshua’s leadership career, he asks everyone
to stand still. Returning to the beginning of this essay, the first time Moshe
spoke to Benei Yisra’el at the Yam Suf, he instructed them similarly: “ ‫ִה ְת ַי ְצבּו‬
'‫ ְישּו ַעת ה‬-‫“ּו ְראּו ֶאת‬-”stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.” 85 As an
appropriate bookend, now that the move from Egypt to Israel is finally
complete, Yehoshua says it truly is time to rest. While Moshe’s call spoke
to a people who could only be passive, a generation of conquest in the time
of Yehoshua is finally coming to an end.

In this gathering, Yehoshua offers the people a chance to abandon
HaShem. Their response summarizes the entire lengthy journey of the
Jewish people:

‫ ִכי‬.‫ ֱאֹל ִהים ֲא ֵח ִרים‬,‫ ַל ֲע ֹבד‬--'‫ה‬-‫ ֵמ ֲע ֹזב ֶאת‬,‫ ָח ִלי ָלה ָלנּו‬,‫ ַויֹא ֶמר‬,‫ַו ַי ַען ָה ָעם‬
;‫ ֲאבֹו ֵתינּו ֵמ ֶא ֶרץ ִמ ְצ ַר ִים ִמ ֵבית ֲע ָב ִדים‬-‫ הּוא ַה ַמ ֲע ֶלה ֹא ָתנּו ְו ֶאת‬,‫ה' ֱאֹל ֵקינּו‬
‫ ַה ֶד ֶרְך‬-‫ ַו ִי ְש ְמ ֵרנּו ְב ָכל‬,‫ ָה ֹאתֹות ַה ְג ֹדלֹות ָה ֵא ֶלה‬-‫ ֶאת‬,‫ַו ֲא ֶשר ָע ָשה ְל ֵעי ֵנינּו‬

...‫ ּו ְב ֹכל ָה ַע ִמים ֲא ֶשר ָע ַב ְרנּו ְב ִק ְר ָבם‬,‫ֲא ֶשר ָה ַל ְכנּו ָבּה‬

82 Id. at 6:7-11.
83 Id. at 6:4-10
84 Id. at 24:1.
85 Exodus 14:13.

Aron Srolovitz 25

And the people answered and said: ‘Far be it from us that we should
forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; for the LORD our God, He
it is that brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
from the house of bondage, and that did those great signs in our sight,
and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the
peoples through the midst of whom we passed…’ 86

Note the progression of the words here:

● He it is that brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt -
HaShem is the active protagonist in leaving Egypt while the
Jews themselves are being herded.

● (He) that did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way
wherein we went - HaShem and Benei Yisra’el are locked in a
partnership. He protects, we act.

Yehoshua commemorates this moment by establishing a covenant
and erecting a monument. Upon setting it up, he tells the people that the
monument is meant to be a visual reminder of the Jewish People’s
commitment to HaShem. This continues a theme Yehoshua had created
throughout the book by creating a number of permanent reminders: twelve
stones (symbolizing the united twelve tribes) were taken out of the Jordan
River to remind them of the miracle of entering the land.87 The city of
Yericho was never to be rebuilt as a reminder of their first great conquest.88
By placing these reminders throughout the land, Yehoshua is attempting to
have his message outlive his days; the Jewish people can continue without
him as a leader as long as they remind themselves of their relationship with

In the final passuk (verse) of Yehoshua’s life, he does something
seemingly minor but tremendously significant:

.‫ ִאיש ְל ַנ ֲח ָלתֹו‬,‫ ָה ָעם‬-‫ַו ְי ַש ַלח ְיהֹו ֻש ַע ֶאת‬

So Joshua sent the people away, every man unto his inheritance.89

Yehoshua sends them on to the next important stage in life, a life
in which one chooses his or her own path, not merely kowtowing to the
next leader. And a lifetime of work proved successful in the aftermath of

86 Joshua 24:16-17.
87 Id. at 4:21-23.
88 6:26.
89 Id. at 24:28.

26 Rei’ach HaSadeh

Yehoshua’s life. The people’s connection to HaShem did not die with

‫ ֲא ֶשר ֶה ֱא ִריכּו‬,‫ ֹכל ְי ֵמי ְיהֹו ֻש ַע; ְו ֹכל ְי ֵמי ַה ְז ֵק ִנים‬,'‫ה‬-‫ַו ַי ֲע ֹבד ִי ְש ָר ֵאל ֶאת‬
...‫ָי ִמים ַא ֲח ֵרי ְיהֹו ֻש ַע‬

And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the
days of the elders that outlived Joshua...90

Even with him gone, people continued in their inspired ways,
benefitting from the spiritual guidance of all those Yehoshua empowered
along the way. Moshe was the leader who gave the people what they
needed in the moment; Yehoshua was the leader who ensured they had
what they needed for the future.

IV. Conclusion: Why does all of this matter?

When the Jewish people left Egypt, they needed a very specific type
of leadership, one that mirrored the life of “comfort” they were accustomed
to. They needed a master-like personality to instruct and care for them.
Both HaShem and Moshe played this role, sometimes with the lines that
separated their roles being blurred.

As time went on, HaShem tried to transition the relationship
between Him and Benei Yisra’el to one of partnership and empowerment.
Likewise, He attempted to position Moshe as a vocal leader instead of a
miracle-maker. In both cases, the changeover was unsuccessful. The
people could not abandon their Egyptian pinings and Moshe could not be
the leader the next generation needed.

Nobody was better positioned to lead the people into Israel than
Moshe’s right-hand man, Yehoshua. Yehoshua watched as the next
generation grew up differently in the desert from their parents, he
advocated a different philosophy, and he brought this new spirit of
partnership with HaShem to the people as they crossed into Israel. This
new dynamic came at a critical time as the Jews were about to spread out
through the entire country. The role of the leader would be inevitably
diminished and Yehoshua prepared them for this eventuality. While new
regionalized leaders would arise in the era of the Shofetim (Judges), it would
be roughly 400 years until a new centralized leader united the people.91

90 Id. at 24:31.
91 R. Michael Hattin, Sefer Shoftim – The Book of Judges Continued, VBM Har Etzion,

Aron Srolovitz 27

Yehoshua’s impact lasted beyond his death because he empowered
the people to be more than they were. While the Jews of the desert reached
for HaShem’s and Moshe’s guidance, Yehoshua reached out to the people,
teaching them what to do along the way. In many ways, Yehoshua
epitomizes the modern leader. To borrow from ancient Chinese
philosopher Lao Tzu,92 Yehoshua embodies a message that still resonates
with our modern Jewish culture lacking in centralized leadership:

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work
is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

92 See The Lao Tzu Approach to Leadership, Advanced Leadership Consulting,

By: Uzi Beer

We all have the potential to overcome the greatest of obstacles.
The secret lies in our willingness to take chances and step outside our
comfort zones. This approach applies to every facet of life, including
physical, spiritual and social situations.

While social scientists have only recently been studying growth
mindset and vulnerability, the capacity to reach out beyond one’s comfort
zone is a theme which appears repeatedly throughout Tanach. Our
ancestors are people of the highest moral stature, with profound inner
belief in and devotion to HaShem, and skills in leadership. To reach such a
level is not innate and not easily accomplished. High levels of growth
require overcoming life’s greatest personal challenges as a means of defining
one’s self. Avraham and Sarah, Ya’akov, and Moshe are a few examples
among our ancestors who experienced such hardship and emotional
challenge as part of their journey to becoming great leaders.

Avraham and Sarah
Avram (Avraham) and Sarai (Sarah) were happily living in Charan

when they were commanded to leave their home and “go” to an unknown

Genesis 12:1 ‫א‬:‫בראשית יב‬

The HaShem said to Avram, “Go ‫ ְלָך ֵמ ַא ְר ְצָך‬-‫ ֶלְך‬,‫ ַא ְב ָרם‬-‫ַויֹא ֶמר ה' ֶאל‬
forth from your native land and ‫ ֲא ֶשר‬,‫ ָה ָא ֶרץ‬-‫ ֶאל‬,‫ּו ִממֹו ַל ְד ְתָך ּו ִמ ֵבית ָא ִביָך‬
from your father’s house to the
land that I will show you.1 .‫ַא ְר ֶא ָך‬

According to many, moving can be one of the most stressful
experiences in a person’s life.2 To make the journey even more challenging,

1 Translation from the Sefaria Library, available at
2 See, e.g., Sarah Kershaw, “The Psychology of Moving,” New York Times, February 26,
2010, available at; “The Top
5 Most Stressful Life Events,” University Hospitals, July 2, 2015, available at
2015 /july/the-top-5-most-stressful-life-events; Will Stone, “Divorce, That’s Not as Stressful
as Moving Home,” Express, April 20, 2015, available at

Uzi Beer 29

Avraham and Sarah were additionally asked to move to “the land that I will
show you,” without knowing ultimately where they would reside.

Rashi explains the words at the beginning of the command “‫ ְלָך‬-‫” ֶלְך‬
as providing Avraham with the purpose for undertaking this task. The
passuk is meant to be understood literally as “go for yourself.” In other
words, Avraham must change his current home so that HaShem can benefit
him by expanding his family and fame.

Rashi on Genesis 12:1 ‫רש”י‬

GET THEE OUT (literally, go for ‫ שם אעשך לגוי‬,‫ להנאתך ולטובתך‬.‫ ְלָך‬-‫ֶלְך‬
thyself) - for your own benefit, for ‫ ועוד‬,‫ כאן אי אתה זוכה לבנים‬,‫גדול‬
your own good: there I will make
of you a great nation while here :‫שאודיע טבעך בעולם‬
you will not merit the privilege of
having children (BT Rosh haShanah
16b). Furthermore, I shall make
known your character throughout
the world (Midrash Tanchuma, Lech
Lecha 3).3

The Ramban explains the passuk differently, however. He focuses
instead on the seemingly excessive use of descriptors of the place Avraham
is leaving. Ramban explains that the passuk is written in a way that
emphasizes the progressive difficulty and pain of leaving one’s home.

Ramban on Genesis 12:1 ‫רמב”ן‬

The reason [that the passuk] ‫וטעם להזכיר ”ארצך ומולדתך ובית‬
mentions “from your native land ‫אביך“ כי יקשה על האדם לעזוב ארצו‬
and from your father’s house.” ‫אשר הוא יושב בה ושם אוהביו ורעיו וכל‬
Because it is difficult for a person ‫שכן כשהוא ארץ מולדתו ששם נולד וכל‬
to leave the country in which one ‫שכן כשיש שם כל בית אביו ולכך הוצרך‬
has lived, one's social group, the .‫לומר לו שיעזוב הכל לאהבתו של הקב”ה‬
familiar environment. But it is
even harder to leave the place
where one was born. The hardest

3 Translation from the Sefaria Library, available at

30 Rei’ach HaSadeh

thing is to leave one’s parents and
family. Therefore, [HaShem]
needed to tell [Avraham] to leave
everything for his love for

R. Meir Simchah HaKohen of Devinsk, in his commentary Meshech
Chochma, notes that this journey is not simply meant to provide external
benefit for Avraham and Sarah; it is part of their personal transformation.
R. Alex Israel adds, “Avraham will find himself. He will realize his true
potential. This will not be to Abraham's benefit alone. God will also
‘show’ him to the world, indicating to others the dedication to God that is a
possibility for all individuals.”5

Meshech Chochma, Lech Lecha 2 ‫משך חכמה‬

To the land which I will show you: ‫אל הארץ אשר אראך יתכן לפרש כי‬
We might suggest that Abraham ‫צווהו לילך לארץ מקום המיועד לעבודה‬
was commanded to go to the place ‫ולקרבנות ששם הקריבו אדה”ר ונח‬
earmarked for divine service... ‫קרבנותיהם ושם יפרסם אלקות ויקדיש‬
there he was to publicize the idea ‫שמו בשחוט בנו ויראה את הכחות‬
of God and sanctify His name...
and demonstrate the potential ‫הטמונים בסתר לבבו אשר מצא נאמן‬
which lay latent in his heart and his ‫לפניו וזה שאמר אראך פועל יוצא שיראה‬
commitment to God. This is the ‫את הטמון בלב אברהם לאחרים וכמו‬
meaning of the phrase ‘which I will ‫שאמר המלאך כי עתה ידעתי כו' והנה‬
show you.’ It means that God will ‫לפ”ז אברהם יתראה ויהיה הנראה‬
exhibit publicly that which hitherto
lay hidden in Abraham’s heart ... .‫לאחרים ודו”ק‬
thus Abraham will be ‘shown’ to
himself and will become visible to

In the Torah commentary the Sefat Emet, R. Yehudah Aryeh Leib
Alter expands on Avraham and Sarah’s transformation process as it applies
to each of us today:

4 Translation adapted from Rav Alex Israel, “Abraham’s Journey,” VBM Har Etzion,
available at
5 Rav Alex Israel, “Abraham’s Journey,” VBM Har Etzion, available at
6 Translation from Ibid.

Uzi Beer 31

Man is defined by his walking, and indeed man must
always move up, level by level. One must always aim to
extract oneself from habit, from the state of the normal.
Even if one has reached a certain standard of Avodat
HaShem (religious intensity and practice), that too becomes
second nature after a time and becomes the norm.
Therefore, at all times one must renew one's soul and one's
religious direction.7


After a challenging childhood which included deceiving both his brother
and his father, Ya’akov is forced to run away for his own protection. He
tricked his brother Eisav - both for the “birthright”8 and then later for
Yitzchak’s blessing9 - and, at Rivkah’s direction, deceives his father into
thinking he was Esav to receive the blessing reserved for the firstborn
son.10 Then, after fleeing to Charan, where Ya’akov met his wives and grew
his family, he continues to employ crafty behaviors to protect himself and
his wealth from Lavan, his father-in-law, and Lavan’s dishonest ways.11
When HaShem returns to Ya’akov and commands him that it is time to
return home to Canaan, Ya’akov prepares his family and all his possessions;
and while Lavan is out shearing sheep, they sneak away.12 After journeying a
while, Lavan catches up to Ya’akov and confronts him.13 With some help
from HaShem visiting Lavan in a dream, Ya’akov and family continue on
unscathed. 14 Now Ya’akov must confront his past in the form of his
brother Eisav, who had previously threatened his life.15 Prior to the meeting
- according to Rashi - Ya’akov prepares himself in three ways: “ ,‫לדורון‬
‫ ולמלחמה‬,‫”לתפלה‬-“By furnishing gifts of pacification, a prayer to God, and by
preparing for battle…”16

The night before the encounter with Eisav, Ya’akov crosses the
Yabok River with his family. 17 That night, Ya’akov encounters an ‫איש‬
(man), who engages Ya’akov in a wrestling match that lasts throughout the

7 Ibid.
8 Genesis 25:30-34.
9 Genesis 27:1-29.
10 Ibid.
11 Id. at 30:25-43.
12 Id. at 31:3-21.
13 Id. at 32:23.
14 Id. at 31:24.
15 Id. at 27:41-42.
16 See Rashi’s commentary on Genesis 32:9.
17 Genesis 32:23.

32 Rei’ach HaSadeh

night.18 There are many different commentaries regarding the identity of
this ‫ איש‬with whom Ya’akov wrestles, but inthis article, I will focus only on
the Rashbam, who describes this person as a malach sent from HaShem.19
Keeping in mind Ya’akov’s past behavior, one could surmise that the
reason Ya’akov was alone20 at the time of the encounter is that he is once
again running with his family away from confronting Eisav.

Rashbam on Genesis 32:25 ‫רשבם‬

He transferred all his possessions ‫ שהעביר כל‬:‫ כלומר‬- ‫ ְל ַבדֹו‬,‫ַו ִיָּו ֵתר ַי ֲע ֹקב‬
that nothing remained except ‫אשר לו שלא היה עוד לעבור אלא הוא לבדו‬
himself. He wanted to cross over ‫ כדי לברוח דרך‬,‫ורצה לעבור אחריהם‬
after everyone else so that he could
escape in a different direction so .‫אחרת שלא יפגשנו עשו נתכווין‬
that he wouldn’t encounter Eisav.

The malach was with him so that he ‫ מלאך עמו שלא יוכל לברוח ויראה‬- ‫ַו ֵי ָא ֵבק‬
couldn’t escape and he would see .‫קיום דברו של הקב”ה שלא יזיקהו עשו‬
the fulfillment of HaShem’s
promise that Eisav won’t hurt him.

If we follow Rashbam’s approach, the malach wrestles with Ya’akov
all night long so that Ya’akov will be unable to run away from Eisav. This
also accounts for Ya’akov's demanding a blessing21 from the malach after
successfully battling, which R. Menachem Leibtag, author of the Tanach
Study Center, explains as Ya’akov’s looking for meaning in this encounter.22
The malach then blesses Ya’akov by changing his name from Ya’akov to
Yisra’el. As R. Leibtag notes, “[c]onsidering that the name Ya’akov implies
some sort of ‘trickery,’ while the name Yisra’el implies the ‘ability to stand
up and fight,’ then this 'blessing' is simply God's answer to Ya’akov - don't
run away, rather encounter your brother!”23

18 Id. at 32:24.
19 See Rashbam’s commentary on Genesis 32:25.
20 Genesis 32.27.
21 Id. at 32:27.
22 R. Menachem Leibtag, “Parshat vaYishlach - From Ya’akov to Israel,” The Tanach Study
Center, available at
23 Ibid. (quoting Yirmiyahu 9:3 in reference to “trickery” [“Beware, every man of his friend! Trust
not even a brother! For every brother takes advantage, every friend is base in his dealings.”]. Also quoting
Genesis 32:29 in reference to “ability to stand up and fight” [“...that you have fought with the
divine and human and have prevailed…”].

Uzi Beer 33

As with Avraham and Sarah, we can understand this episode as
signifying another important transformation of the self. Ya’akov, through
this challenging experience of confronting his past, comes to the realization
that deception of any kind cannot exist within a nation who will champion
morality, integrity and justice.


Moshe grows up as a “Prince of Egypt,” living as a son to Paro’s
daughter.24 He has access to anything he could imagine. While he knows
that he is a Mitzri (Egyptian), he also has some connection to being an Ivri

Once older, Moshe ventures outside his home, the palace, and
observes the affliction of his brethren. He sees an Egyptian striking a
Hebrew man “of his brothers.”26 Moshe enters into a state of emotional
strife as he witnesses an injustice. On the one hand, he looks all around to
see if there is anyone who will reprimand the Egyptian for his actions.27 On
the other hand, I can only imagine Moshe is feeling his identity conflicted as
he associates both as a Hebrew and as an Egyptian. While retreating back to
the palace and resuming his comfortable life as Egyptian royalty might be
the easier option, Moshe intervenes and strikes down the Egyptian
aggressor. 28 On the second day, Moshe encounters two Hebrew men
arguing.29 He sees what is going on, asks the offender, “Why do you strike
your neighbor?” and the response that he receives is shocking: “Who made
you a prince and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me, as you killed the
Egyptian?”30 Paro learns of what Moshe has done protecting the Hebrew
against the Egyptian and casts Moshe out of his home, forcing him to flee.31
Moshe now realizes he is an outcast and an enemy to the Egyptian people.
At the same time, however, he knows he is not accepted as one of the
Hebrews because they fear he will kill them as he killed the Egyptian. It
would seem that Moshe’s whole life has now entered a state of chaos as he
is homeless, on the run and rejected by everyone he once called family.

24 Exodus 2:10.
25 Ibid. at 2:11.
26 Ibid.
27 Netziv, HaEmek Davar 2:12.
28 Exodus 2:12.
29 Id. at 2:13.
30 Id. at 2:13-14.
31 Id. at 2:15. See also, Rashi’s commentary on Shemot 2:13-15.

34 Rei’ach HaSadeh

After escaping to Midyan,32 Moshe then finds himself in another
challenging situation. Yitro’s daughters have come to water their father's
flocks.33 The local shepherds then arrive and chase the women away in
Moshe's presence.34 Logic would dictate that he refrains from becoming
involved. Moshe is already on the run from Egypt, he has no connection to
the event or the people involved, and moreover, has no idea what may
result from his intervening. Nevertheless, “Moshe arose and helped them
with their flock.”35

Through these experiences, Moshe is becoming a new person,
leaving his past identities behind as he enters into a foreign world. It is
through these experiences where it would be easier and more convenient to
simply not engage, that we see Moshe’s true commitment to justice and his
feeling of responsibility for all. As R. Jonathan Sacks describes Moshe: “He
is the supreme case of one who says: when I see wrong, if no one else is
prepared to act, I will.”36

While each stage internally challenges Moshe’s identity and values,
the fusion of these events cultivates the Moshe Rabbeinu, whose world is
not limited to one mindset. He has been exposed to a wide world, with
broad culture, norms of royalty and different approaches and principles of
of leadership. Throughout, he overcomes struggles to show his
commitment to justice and truth. Ultimately, it is these experiences that
prepare Moshe to stand before kings and the King of Kings. This synthesis
enables Moshe to grow into the leader who would bring a nation out of
Egypt, regularly speak “face to face” with HaShem,37 receive and transmit
the Torah and lead the Jewish people through the midbar (desert).

Over the last number of years, “growth mindset” – an idea
brought to the forefront of conversations on development by Dr. Carol
Dweck – has taken the educational world by storm.38 Growth mindset is
now a core value included in many school and business mission statements.
The principle is that the most basic abilities can be developed through
dedication and hard work, and that brains and talent are just the starting

32 Shemot 2:15.
33 Id. at 2:16.
34 Id. at 2:17.
35 Ibid.
36 “Seven Principles of Jewish Leadership,” The Office of Rabbi Sacks, June 14, 2002,
available at
37 Id. at 33:11.
38 See Dr. Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Ballantine Books:New
York, 2006).

Uzi Beer 35

point.39 It describes the process of transforming one’s thinking from “this is
too difficult” to “this may take some time” and from “I’m not good at this”
to “I’m not good at this yet, but I will learn.”40

Having a growth mindset allows one to be vulnerable to
challenging experiences. “Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest
measure of courage,” affirms research professor and author Brené Brown.41
Taking chances and being uncertain of the outcomes allows uncharted
territories to be explored and discovered. During those moments when
times are most challenging, one’s character is truly defined. As author Dr.
Wayne W. Dyer so eloquently observed: “Circumstances do not make a
man, they reveal him.”42

A visual image which helps me understand this concept more
clearly features a comfort zone, a stretch zone and a panic zone.

The comfort zone is where your day-to-day, routine,
subconscious work happens – where you’re on auto-pilot.
It’s easy, there are no surprises, and you are competent and
confident in what you do. However, very little learning or
innovation takes place, and you can become unmotivated,
bored and disengaged…

The stretch zone lies just outside of your secure
environment…Stretch is where you work to expand your
knowledge and understanding, looking for creative ways of
working. Learning or re-learning takes place, and you
develop the motivation to make a change, challenge
yourself or take a risk…

The panic zone is also known as the stress or red zone…
Here, your energy is used up by managing and trying to
control your anxiety, so you have little or no energy left
over for learning.43

39 Id. at pp. 6-9, 12-14.
40 Id. at pp. 8-9.
41 Rising Strong (New York:Random House, 2017).
42 The Quote of the Day Show - Daily Motivational Talks #074, available at
43 Emma Heaps, “Comfort, Stretch and Don’t Panic!,” Training Industry, November 13,
2017, available at

36 Rei’ach HaSadeh

As we reflect on the lives of our ancestors and how they became
our leaders and guides, it is important to realize that our greatest growth
will only happen when we allow ourselves to leave our comfort zones and
enter into our stretch zones. Avraham and Sarah physically left the home to
allow themselves to expand spiritually. Ya’akov had to emotionally prepare
himself to confront his greatest enemy. Moshe had to constantly be
available to learn from his surroundings. As we think about our challenges,
whether they are academic or social, whether they are emotional or spiritual
pursuits, we should ask ourselves what we must do to reach out beyond our
comfort zones? Let us support each other as we grow together through
overcoming our greatest obstacles. We can do it!

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