Over Yom Tov, I was discussing this Medrash (9:9) with family and friends.
In one of the saddest episodes in the Torah (at least the way I read it), Moshe is pleading at the end of Haazinu to enter his beloved Land of Israel. Hashem appears implacable, despite the notion of צדיק גוזר והקב’’ה מקיים, that Hashem “listens” to Tzadikim. In an almost “teasing” twist, Hashem asks Moshe to go up and have a good look at the Land. On the one hand, it’s an expression of “this is as close as you will get”. On the other hand, psychologically, it must have made Moshe pine even more. He was so very desperate to enter the beloved promised Holy land.
The Medrash then relates that Moshe tried a clever “Talmudic” twist. He suggested to Hashem that as the Leader, the Manhig, of B’nei Yisrael, there was a decree that he could not enter the Land. Would it be acceptable to Hashem then, if Moshe decided to become an “ordinary citizen”, a veritable Talmid of the new Manhig, Yehoshua, and in that way, he could enter the land. Hashem responded that this would be okay! However, he’d need to assume the role of a Talmid. Moshe readily agreed. Standing on the left hand side of Yehoshua, like a Talmid behind his Rebbe, Moshe followed Yehoshua until Yehoshua had an interchange with the Shechina/Hashem. Moshe stood at the distance while Yehoshua spoke with Hashem. When Yehoshua had completed his “discussion” Moshe asked him what the discussion was all about. Yehoshua promptly responded that when he (Yehoshua) was the Talmid and Moshe was the Manhig/Leader, he had never been privy nor asked about the private interchanges between Moshe and the Shechina. What business/right did Moshe now have (as an ordinary Talmid) to become privy to the Godly meetings between Yehoshua and Hashem!
Moshe could not cope with this new reality, and abandoned the idea of demoting himself to being a Talmid, and as we know, Moshe passed away and was buried in an unknown location.
Tradition has it that the Tzadikim/Manhigim in each generation carry a kernel of Moshe’s Neshama into each generation, and this somewhat imbues their leadership status. Could you imagine a Rebbe who realised that his life would soon end, assign the role of Rebbe to his living son (or prime Talmid?). I am not sure if this mode of succession planning has ever taken place? Yet, Moshe, the greatest ever Prophet and Leader (who never aspired to leadership in the first place) was happy in theory for a succession plan, while he was still alive, just so that he could enter the Holy Land.
What can we derive from this?
- The desire to experience life in the Holy Land, was more important to Moshe than being the leader of the Jewish people!
- Moshe, once exposed to a high level of Godliness, could never assume a level of ordinary Dveykus with Hashem at the lower level of an ordinary Jew/Talmid (this point was made to me by an anonymous Rebbetzin)
- Perhaps there is some merit in the concept of succession planning after all, even when so-called Leaders are still alive, but at the end of their physical tenure?
- A true leader doesn’t consider his leadership mantle as his most prized possession
- There ought to be no Yerushah (inheritance) when one Leader passes away, and a son automatically becomes the new Leader. After all, Yehoshua was a Talmid. Moshe’s sons weren’t seemingly up for the job.