Yehoshua: One of our Many Leaders by Zev Jarashow


In Parashat Shelach, we read the story of the Meraglim, in which Moshe Rabbeinu sends twelve spies to search out the land of Cena’an (BeMidbar 13:2). Upon returning to Bnei Yisrael, ten of the spies report that the people of Cena’an are too powerful to overcome. However, Caleiv and Hoshei’a rebuff the other ten spies and say that if God wants Bnei Yisrael to inherit the land, then Hashem will help them defeat the people of Cena’an.

Before the spies are sent on their mission, Moshe Rabbeinu adds the letter “Yud” to Hoshei’a’s name, changing his name from Hoshei’a to Yehoshua. This new name meant that Hashem should help him resist the impact of the ten negative Meraglim. Why did Moshe Rabbeinu make this change?

The most basic answer is that Yehoshua was an extremely humble man, and Moshe knew that if he disagreed with the rest of the Meraglim, he would not have the courage to resist. Therefore, Moshe gave Yehoshua a “Yud”, which signifies Hashem’s name. With Hashem in his name, Moshe believed that Yehoshua would have the power and the leadership to withstand the bad spies (see Rashi 13:16 s.v VaYikra Moshe LeHoshei’a). While the “Yud” was significant to help Yehoshua stand up against the other Meraglim, it was proven to be even more significant when he became the nation’s leader.

Interestingly, there seem to be many parallels between Yehoshua and Avraham Avinu, the first Jew. When Avraham initially tried to spread the ideas of Judaism, his ideas were not well-received. People could not fathom the idea of a monotheistic God. However, Avraham is now known as the father of the Jewish nation. Yehoshua’s success was apparent immediately, just like Avraham’s success. Initially, when Yehoshua and Caleiv brought back their report of Eretz Cena’an, Bnei Yisrael considered pelting them with rocks. At first, Yehoshua was not accepted; however, due to his dedication and belief, he eventually brought his people into Eretz Yisrael. Both Avraham and Yehoshua were not accepted initially, but were able to succeed in their missions due to their belief in God.

Another important character trait of a successful leader is knowing how to seize the moment. The best example of this is found in BeReishit (43:8:10) when Yosef’s brothers go down to Egypt for food and they are sent back home until they return with their youngest brother, Binyamin. Ya’akov is adamant about not sending Binyamin to Egypt, because he thinks he has lost his son Yosef and refuses to send his only other child from his favorite wife, Rachel. Yehudah knows that the only way the brothers will get food is if they convince their father to send Binyamin with them. Yehudah brilliantly waits until the famine is at its peak to ask Ya’akov to send Binyamin down to Egypt, showing Ya’akov that this is the only way to obtain food.

As the summer approaches, many of us have the unique opportunity of being able to attend camp where we are away from our families for an extended period of time. During this time, there will be many opportunities for us to become “leaders.” Hopefully, we can follow in the ways of Avraham Avinu, Yehoshua, and Caleiv, and rise to the occasion. In the words of Rav Binny Freedman, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Orayta, “within each of us lies the spark of leadership and the opportunity to stoke that fire and change the world.”

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