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וילך משה ויהושע ויתיצבו באהל מועד

Moshe and Yehoshua went and stood at the Ohel Moed. (31:14)

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Chazal teach that Moshe Rabbeinu asked Hashem to transfer the reins of leadership to Yehoshua, his worthy disciple. Rather than insist that Yehoshua come to Moshe’s tent to study and hear the word of G-d, Moshe went to Yehoshua. Their roles were now reversed, as the student became the leader, and the Rebbe took the place of his student. The Pillar of Cloud descended over Yehoshua, separating him from Moshe. When the Cloud ascended, Moshe asked Yehoshua, “What did the Word (Hashem’s communication) say to you?” Yehoshua responded, “When Hashem appeared to you, did I know what you were told?” In other words, on face value, it appears that Yehoshua was intimating to Moshe, “When you were the Rebbe, you did not share with me everything that Hashem told you; now I am the Rebbe, and I cannot share with you what Hashem said to me.” Moshe cried, “One hundred deaths (I would rather die 100 times), but not one envy!” Apparently, Moshe could not live with being the student when once he had been the Rebbe.

Understandably, this is a very difficult Midrash and should not be read or understood at face value. Simply, it means that Hashem communicates with each Navi, Prophet, on his specific level, and it is accordingly understood by that individual prophet. It is a message conveyed to him and, thus, understood only by him. This is what Yehoshua meant when he said, “I cannot give over to you what was taught specifically to me.”

The question that is pressing concerns Moshe’s envy. A father and Rebbe are not jealous of the success of their son/student. Moshe should have been proud of Yehoshua – not envious of him. The Imrei Emes explains that this rule applies to innovation in which the son/student achieves in an area in which the father/rebbe had never been involved. When the son/student excels in areas which he received from his father/rebbe, however, it is different. A son who assumes his father’s position and is successful beyond that which his father accomplished will incur some envy. This is human nature. While the father/rebbe certainly takes pride in his son/student’s success, he still experiences a slight twinge of envy/regret that his son’s achievement has overshadowed that of his own.