Today is November 22, 2017 -

Simchat Torah 5768

Simchat Torah
(Joshua 1:1-18)
October 4 (in Israel)
October 5 (In the Diaspora)

On Simchat Torah, we continue the never ending cycle of the reading of the Torah. We complete the reading of Sefer Devarim, ending with the story of Moses\’ death and begin again the reading of the first book of the Torah, Sefer Bereishit. The haftarah reading for Simchat Torah provides us with another form of continuity. Moses\’ leadership has come to an end and Joshua takes on the mantle of his leadership. This transfer of power from Moses to Joshua is captured laconically at the beginning of the book of Joshua: \”After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses\’ attendant (m\’sharet Moshe)…\” (Joshua 1:1)

Rabbi Levi ben Gershom (14th century France), noted that the use of the term \”m\’sharet – servant\” to describe Joshua\’s relationship to Moses rather than the term \”talmid – student\”, implies an important lesson regarding the education of a future leader. (See also the Gaon of Vilna and the Malbim.) He associated the use of the term \”m\’sharet\” with the following teaching from the Talmud: \”Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai: \’The service of the Torah is greater than the study of the Torah. For it is said: \’Here is Elisha, the son of Shaphat, who poured water on the hand of Elijah.\’ (2 Kings 3:11) It is not said, \”who learned\”, but \”who poured water.\” This proves that the service of the Torah is greater than its study.\” (Berachot 7b)

Rabbi Shmuel Edels (16-17th century Poland) asserts that this passage from the Talmud points out that there are certain kinds of educational experiences which can only be learned through apprenticeship. In other words, for some things book knowledge is insufficient. It is necessary to learn by watching and learning and practicing directly under the auspices of a master. Joshua was capable of becoming the leader of the nation at this critical moment in the people\’s history not only because he learned Torah directly from his master but, more importantly, because he saw his master, Moses, in action, learned from his experiences and practiced the art of leadership before him.

Rav Kook, in his early days while still in Lithuania, added a spiritual element to this equation. He asserted that one\’s link with God cannot be achieved by study alone. The religiously sensitive heart cannot be taught to be holy except through action learned from a religious master who can turn the Torah into a \”living Torah\”. (Ein Ayah Berachot p.36) Only in this way can the mantle of our tradition be transferred from generation to generation. May our generation be blessed with Moseses who can inspire the Joshuas of the next generation with the blessings of he \”living Torah\”.

About This Commentary

This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in  Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva.  He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

The United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem offers students of all backgrounds the skills for studying Jewish texts. We are a vibrant, open-minded egalitarian community of committed Jews who learn, practise and grow together. Our goal is to provide students the ability and desire to continue Jewish learning and practice throughout their lives.
Rashei Yeshiva: Rabbi Joel Levy & Dr. Joshua Kulp.
Rabbi Joel Roth, Rosh Yeshiva Emeritus . 

Sponsors – The Conservative Yeshiva would like to thank the following for their generous support of the Haftarah Commentary:

  • Underwriters:  Rabbi Michael and Erica Schwab.
  • Special Friends: Rabbi Ron Androphy, Rabbi Jeffrey and Tami Arnowitz, Rabbi Martin Flax, Rabbi Barry Dov Katz, Rabbi Ben Kramer, Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, Rabbi Robert Pilavin, Rabbi Micah Peltz, Rabbi David Rosen.
  • Friends: Aaron Dworin, Rabbi Robert Eisen, Rabbi Jay Goldstein, Rabbi Rafi Kanter, Rabbi Dennis Linson, Rabbi Mark Mallach, Rabbi Marvin Richardson z”l,  Rabbi Joel Roth, Rabbi Ronald Roth, Rabbi Neil Sandler, Rabbi David C. Seed, Mel F. Seidenberg in honor of his grandchildren and two great grandsons,  Rabbi Ari Sunshine.