There are two times that Yehoshua (Joshua) speaks in the entire Torah and both times that Yehoshua speaks, he is 100 percent wrong. The first time is by the Golden Calf incident. Moshe comes down with the Luchos (the two tablets with the Ten Statements on it) and Yehoshua is the first person he meets. Yehoshua says that Bnei Yisroel (the children of Israel) are having a war on the bottom of the mountain. Moshe listens and says that no one is losing and no one is winning. There’s no war going on. Yehoshua, you are wrong! The second time is in this week’s parsha. Two great men, Eldad and Meidad, start prophesizing in the middle of the camp. Yehoshua hears them and runs to Moshe to stop them. They are not allowed to prophesize. Moshe says that they are really prophets. Yehoshua, you are wrong! Think about this: Yehoshua is the leader of Bnei Yisroel after Moshe passes away and there is a book with 24 chapters in it all about his life. How can such a great leader be wrong both times he spoke in the Torah?
When I lived in Boston, one of the great rabbis of the Boston Kollel told me the answer to this question. He said that the Torah is all about Moshe’s life. Moshe is the star of the show. Yehoshua was certainly a very great person but compared to Moshe, he was a nothing. Moshe was so much better than anyone else in his generation. This is why when Yehoshua speaks in the Torah, he is wrong. When we compare Yehoshua to Moshe, Yehoshua cannot say the correct thing. After Moshe passes away, though, Yehoshua can then rise to the greatest in his generation and no one can touch his greatness.
I think, in my humble opinion, that this is a great mussar lesson for all of us. Sometimes when we look at a person, all we see is that they are doing things wrong. Why can’t you be more like my friend’s mom? Why can’t you pick up your toys like Yitzie? The reason we see them as wrong is because we are comparing them to someone that is better than them in that area. We need to be very careful not to do this. Everyone is different. Comparing one person to another person is a very dangerous thing to do.
At the end of the parsha, the Torah tells us that Moshe is the most modest person that ever lived. How could a person that was greater than anyone that ever lived be so modest? He is the only person ever to speak to Hashem mouth-to-mouth! Every person has a certain level they are supposed to reach during their lifetime. When Moshe looked at other people, he compared them to the level they are supposed to reach (not the level that someone else is supposed to reach). Moshe looked at them as they already reached their level. When he looked at himself, though, he saw that he needed to reach higher still. This is the reason he made himself so modest. He was careful how he compared people. Let’s be like Moshe and be careful how we compare people to others — we can avoid much hatred this way.
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By Rabbi Yaacov Seltzer