Parshas Nitzavim-VaYelech – Can Two Kings Wear the Same Crown?

By Avner Friedmann

On the last day of his life, our teacher Moshe said farewell to the Jewish people, as it states[1] “He said to them, “Today I am one hundred and twenty years old. I can no longer go out and come in, for HaShem said to me, “You shall not cross this Jordan…Yehoshua shall cross before you, as HaShem has spoken.” Moshe prepared the people for his departure from this world and turned the leadership over to Yehoshua. The Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman) states[2] that Moshe was still strong and vibrant, as written[3]: “And his vigor had not diminished”. Nevertheless, he informed the people that they would enter the Holy Land of Israel without him. He comforted them, encouraged them, and told them not to fear. He urged them to trust in HaShem, Who would go before them and annihilate their enemies, together with Yehoshua, their new leader.

Because of Moshe’s love for the land of Israel, he pleaded with many supplications that HaShem should annul His decree that he would not enter the Land[4]. The Holy Zohar[5] states that Moshe was content to let Yehoshua succeed him and begged to enter the Land, not as a leader, but as a common person, as the verse states[6]: “Let me now cross and see the good Land that is on the other side of the Jordan.” HaShem replied[7], “Do not continue to speak to Me further on this matter. “

As it were, HaShem was telling Moshe, ‘Do you want to change the way of the world? Have you ever seen the sun serving the moon? Meaning, “How could you Moshe, be subservient to Yehoshua? Of what benefit is the flame of a candle in broad daylight when the sun is brightly shining? As long as the sun is present, the light of the moon cannot be noticeable[8]. Let the sun set and be hidden and then the moon can take over”, as written[9], “And the sun rises and the sun sets”. In other words, even if Moshe only entered the Land as a regular person, it would be impossible for Yehoshua to lead.

The Talmud[10] tells us what the elders of that generation said in regard to the difference between Moshe and Yehoshua: “The face of Moshe was like the sun, but the face of Yehoshua was like the moon”. In other words, the moon has no light of its own. Its only light is what it receives from the sun. The sun, on the other hand, is the source and the giver of light, whereas the moon only reflects its light. Moreover, it only does so when the sun is hidden. So too, Yehoshua continued to receive the light of Moshe, even after Moshe passed away and was “hidden”[11].

Our Rabbis compared the light of the stars to that of the Tzaddikim (The Righteous). The stars are visible when the moon shines because it is not as bright as the sun. During Moshe’s lifetime not only Yehoshua, but all the Tzaddikim were eclipsed by his righteousness. However, since Yehoshua is compared to the moon, when he became the leader, the other Tzaddikim could shine as well, like the stars[12].

Every leader has his time and mission. HaShem chose Moshe to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt and bring them to Sinai to receive the Torah. In doing so, he became the Rabbi and teacher of all Israel for all history. Therefore, even today we call him Moshe Rabbeinu (our teacher, Moshe). On the other hand, Yehoshua was chosen to lead the Jewish people into the land and to conquer it.

Moshe and Yehoshua could not enter together because, as the Talmud states, “Two kings cannot use the same crown”[13]. That is why HaShem said to Moshe: “Behold, you shall lie down with your fathers”[14], and “You shall command Yehoshua, strengthen him and give him resolve, for he shall cross before the people and he shall cause them to inherit the land that you will see (but not enter).” [15]

Nonetheless, even after his passing Moshe still plays an important role. HaShem buried him in a hidden place somewhere in the territory of Gad, but from there he has continued to protect and defend the Jewish people throughout the generations from the forces of evil that try to harm and destroy them[16].

In his “Thirteen Principles of Faith”[17], the Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon) wrote that Moshe is the father of all the prophets, both the ones the preceded him and the ones that followed him. He attained the highest level of prophecy ever achieved, and it is through the light of his prophecy that[18] all true prophets receive their prophecy.

In every generation the soul of Moshe Rabbeinu shines through the Tzaddik (Righteous individual) of that generation. Moreover, a spark of Moshe Rabbeinu’s soul exists within each and every Jew. This is because the soul of Moshe is a general soul that contains all the souls of Israel in it[19], as the Torah states[20], “Moshe said: “I am in the midst of six hundred thousand footmen of the people”. Each one of us needs to discover and ignite that spark of Moshe within us. By doing so, we bring the true and complete redemption, through our righteous Moshiach, that much closer. Moshiach, like Moshe, will also have a general soul that includes the souls of all Israel[21]. May He come and redeem us with eternal redemption, speedily in our days. Amen


[1] 31:2-3.

[2] 31:2.

[3] Devarim 34:7.

[4] Devarim 3:23-25.

[5] Vayelech 184a, Vaetchanan 160b.

[6] Devarim 3:25.

[7] Devarim 3:26.

[8] Zohar sources for Moshe as the sun and Joshua as the moon: Shelach 157a, Vaetchanan 260b, and Vayelech 183b.

[9] Ecclesiastes 1:5.

[10] Baba Batra 75a.

[11] Zohar Chukat 181b, Ha’amek Davar on Devarim 31:14. Rabenu Bachyie Shemot 17:5, Bamidbar 27:20,

[12] Nachalat Ya’akov on Bamidbar 11:1.

[13] Chulin 60b.

[14] Devarim 31:16.

[15] Devarim 3:28.

[16] Yalkut Reuveni, Ki tisa, letter 116. Kaf Hachim Palagi, siman 12.

[17] Hakdama to Perek Chelek.

[18] Sefer Avodat Hokodesh chelek 3, perek 14.

[19] Midrash Raba Song of Songs: “Yochevet gave birth to 600,000”.

[20] Bamidbar 11:21.

[21] Zohar Beresheet 25:b, Korach 178b, and Ki Tetze 176b.

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