Avraham ben Yaakov
Joshua Chapter 1
It is fitting to begin the BIBLE-IN-A-YEAR study cycle today since we are fresh from Simchas Torah, when we concluded the annual reading of the Five Books of Moses and immediately started over with Bereishis (Genesis 1). Likewise on Simchas Torah we read Joshua 1 as the Haftara - the supplementary reading from the prophets - thereby taking the first step in studying the NaCh (Nevi'im, "The Prophets" and Kesuvim, "The Writings). Today we embark on our regular daily study of 2 chapters of NaCh with Joshua' Chapters 1-2.
The practice of studying 2 chapters of NaCh daily starting immediately after Simchas Torah and finishing the following Simchas Torah is recommended in "Yesod VeShoresh HaAvodah" ("Foundation and Root of Service") by Rabbi Alexander Ziskind of Horodna (d. 1794), a guide to devotion endorsed by all streams of Torah Jewry. (See Gate 6 Chapter 2, The Order of Study.)
Just as we are today commencing the cycle, so may we pursue it daily until we complete it with God's help. "Let no error befall us and let us not stumble in any matter of law. Let us not call that which is impure pure or that which is pure impure, nor that which is permitted forbidden, nor that which is forbidden permitted. Let none of us stumble: may we only rejoice in one another. For HaShem will give wisdom: from His mouth are knowledge and understanding. Open our eyes and let us behold wonders from Your Torah!"
"MOSES MY SERVANT IS DEAD"
The Book of Joshua is the direct continuation from the end of Deuteronomy which narrates the death of Moses. Prior to his death, Moses had already said to Israel: "For I know that after my death you will surely go to ruin and depart from the path that I have commanded you, and evil will befall you at the end of days because you have done evil in the eyes of HaShem to anger Him with the work of your hands" (Deut. 31:29).
The entire NaCh will narrate the story and draw out the moral of this departure from the path with its terrible consequences, tracing the history of Israel in their time of glory (the conquest of the land and the building of Solomon's Temple) and their time of decline (destruction of the Temple and exile).
Our rabbis taught that "the face of Moses was like the face of the sun, while the face of Joshua was like the face of the moon" (Bava Basra 75a). Now that the sun had gone down with the death of Moses, it was time for the moon to shine. As long as the moon is aligned with the sun, the entire face of the moon is lit up and perfectly reflects the light of the sun. As long as Joshua reflected Moses' Torah, the people succeeded. Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim (son of Joseph, son of Rachel, Jacob's beloved). The task of Ephraim is to actualize the keeping of the Torah in this real, material world (and thus Rachel signifies the Shechinah, the Indwelling Presence in this world). Keeping the Torah to perfection in this world had to be accomplished in God's chosen land, the Land of Israel , and thus Joshua's task was to lead the people in and conquer the land. But when the moon is not aligned with the sun, its face becomes successively darkened. Thus it was Ephraim under the leadership of Jeraboam - Yeravam ben Nevat - who led the people away from the path, which brought about the exile, as we will see later. The people of Israel today must study and ponder the story of the NaCh and its moral in order to gain possession of the Land of Israel forever and shine its light to the whole world.
Joshua ch. 1 vv. 3-4 reiterates the boundaries of the Promised Land as already laid down in Numbers 34, 1-15. Here in verse 4 we simply have a brief depiction of the "breadth" of the land (from the Wilderness of Zin up to the Euphrates ), and it's "length" (from those two points until the Great Sea , the Mediterranean ). From verse 3 we learn that AFTER Israel have conquered the entire Promised Land, then "any place where the sole of your foot steps I will give to you", thereby incorporating other territories (see Rashi on vv.3-4).
The condition upon which Israel is able to conquer and retain the Land is made completely clear here at the beginning of the Prophets: "Be strong and very firm to guard and practice according to all the Torah that Moses my servant commanded you." (v. 7). "And the book of this Torah shall not depart from your mouth." (v. 8). Everything depends on KEEPING THE TORAH, and this depends upon CONSTANT STUDY OF THE TORAH BY DAY AND BY NIGHT. For then HaShem your God will be with you.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE ENTRY INTO THE LAND
Rashi proves from the text that it was on 7 Nissan that Joshua gave orders to prepare the people to cross the Jordan "in another three days". 7 Nissan was the conclusion of the 30 day period of mourning for Moses, who died on 7 Adar (just as he had been born on that day, 3 months exactly before 7 Sivan, the day he was cast into the river and the date of the giving of the Torah 80 years later.) 10 Nissan would be an appropriate day for the supernatural miracle of the parting of the Jordan, as it was the anniversary of the day when the Children of Israel took the Paschal Lamb in Egypt just prior to the Exodus. Taking the lamb for sacrifice indicates submitting the power of nature, symbolized in the constellation of Aries, the "Ram", to the higher power of God. God controls nature and can bend it at will. God has the power to give a tiny nation dominion. If the people of Israel would keep to God's covenant they would always be above nature.
Joshua reminds the tribes of Reuven, Gad and the half of Menashe who had taken their territories east of the Jordan of their commitment to help their brothers conquer the land of Canaan . Today this can be taken as a message to the Jews living in the Diaspora of their responsibility to identify with and help their brothers and sisters living in Israel in their struggle to settle the land in the proper way.
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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