(א) וַיְהִ֗י אַחֲרֵ֛י מ֥וֹת מֹשֶׁ֖ה עֶ֣בֶד ה’ וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה’ אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ בִּן־נ֔וּן מְשָׁרֵ֥ת מֹשֶׁ֖ה לֵאמֹֽר:
(ב) מֹשֶׁ֥ה עַבְדִּ֖י מֵ֑ת וְעַתָּה֩ ק֨וּם עֲבֹ֜ר אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֣ן הַזֶּ֗ה אַתָּה֙ וְכָל־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה אֶל־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לָהֶ֖ם לִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:
[יהושע פרק א]
(1) After the death of Moshe the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Yehoshua son of Nun, who had served Moshe: (2) “Moshe My servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the Land I am giving to them, the Israelites.”
Moshe, the servant of the Lord, died, and the Lord then told Yehoshua to prepare to cross the River Jordan with Am Yisrael (the Children of Israel) in another three days to enter the Land promised them.
There are two peculiarities in Posuk (Verse) 2:
- Why does the verse refer to Moshe as “the servant of the Lord”?
- The verse emphasizes “Now .. prepare to cross over the Jordan:” what is the connection between the death of “Moshe My servant” and the Lord’s commanding Am Yisrael to cross the Jordan River?
Since Moshe had died, it had become necessary for the Jewish People to enter Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) as soon as possible. This was essential, as dwelling in Eretz Yisrael reduces the Jewish People’s tendency toward anger
The Gemara [Nedarim (22a)] explains the posuk (verse) “…but Hashem shall give you there a trembling heart…” [Devarim (Deuteronomy) 28:65] as a tendency in which anger rules the hearts of man. While such a disposition exists in Babylonia, it is not so in Eretz Yisrael. As a proof, the Gemara cites the story of a person who got angry and killed his travel companion while traveling toward Eretz Yisrael. The Gemara explains that the story took place before they crossed the Jordan River into Eretz Yisrael. Thus, the act of murder did not take place within the borders of Eretz Yisrael, but rather east of the River Jordan. Although the east bank of the River Jordan is actually within the Biblical borders of Eretz Yisrael, the Ran [ibid.] explains that it does not have the same level of sanctity as the western side of the Eretz Yisrael for bringing the omer offering and other mitzvot requiring the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael.
From the Gemara, it can be derived that anger controls people who live in the Diaspora; only the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael and its special characteristics can help people overcome this evil trait.
As is well-known, the trait of anger is a byproduct of haughtiness. In contrast, a humble person is not (usually) inclined to anger. Indeed, Ramban (Naḥmanides) writes in a letter to his son: “וכאשר תינצל מן הכעס תעלה על ליבך מידת הענוה שהיא מידה טובה מכל המידות הטובות” (“When you will be rescued from anger, the trait of humility will come to mind – which is the best trait”).
As long as Moshe “My servant” – the humblest person on the face of the Earth – was alive, he was able to transmit his positive traits to the Am Yisrael (people of Israel) and influence them to such an extent that they were able to mend their ways. But after Moshe’, death there was a great danger that the trait of anger would subdue Am Yisrael (the Jewish People).
That is why the Lord told Yehoshua, “Moshe, My servant, died” – Moshe’ influence no longer remained for the Israelites to mend their ways, particularly the trait of anger, which “is an evil trait which causes people to sin” [Ramban’s letter to his son].
Thus, the posuk emphasizes, “… now, get up and cross over the Jordan” so that the sanctity and unique quality of Eretz Yisrael will influence Am Yisrael to have positive character traits, particularly to not be haughty.
Another connection between Eretz Yisrael and overcoming the trait of haughtiness will subsequently be explained.
The Uniqueness of the book of Yehoshua
The Gemara’s discussion of the connection between overcoming the trait of haughtiness and dwelling in Eretz Yisrael adds a comment on the uniqueness of the Book of Yehoshua:
“אמר רב אדא ברבי חנינא: אלמלא (לא) חטאו ישראל – לא ניתן להם אלא חמשה חומשי תורה וספר יהושע בלבד, שערכה של ארץ ישראל הוא, מאי טעמא? ‘כי ברוב חכמה רב כעס’
Rav Ada son of Rabbi Chanina states: “Had Israel not sinned, only the Five Books of the Torah and the Book of Yehoshua would have been given to them – the Book of Yehoshua, due to its praise of Eretz Yisrael. What is the reason? ‘For in much wisdom is much anger; and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.’” [Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 1:18]
Ran explains: “Since Eretz Yisrael is praised – the Book of Yehoshua specifies the towns of the Eretz Yisrael and its inheritance – even if the Jewish People would not have sinned, they would still need the Book of Yehoshua.”
In other words, the Exodus from Egypt, receiving the Torah and the Jewish People’s sojourning in the desert were all for the purpose of the Jewish People’s arriving in the Land of Israel and its inheritance, as described in the Torah. The goal is dwelling in Eretz Yisrael and its inheritance, as the Book of Yehoshua explains.
The Gemara asks: given that the goal is ultimately living in Eretz Yisrael, why does the Torah later state “For in much wisdom is much anger…”? The Shita Hamekubetzet explains [Nedarim 22b] that since Am Yisrael lapsed by violating the sin of anger, they needed to increase their knowledge (as elucidated in the other books of the Tenach) in order to withstand sinning.
Why is the sin of anger so severe and what is its connection to The Land of Israel?
Ran explains the Gemara statement: “He who loses his temper is exposed to all the torments of Gehinom” [Nedarim 22a]: “לפי שהכעס מביאו לכפור בעיקר”. (“Since anger brings one to deny God”). The leaders of Mussar explained that the reason that a person to get angry is his assumption that everything must be in accordance with his own perceptions. When things do not work out in accordance with expectations, a person gets angry. If one would only believe that it is God Who manages the world, and it is He who is behind everything that happens to him, then this person would never get angry at situations in which things do not go according to his expectations. One who gets angry essentially doesn’t recognize that God rules the world.
The more one increases his efforts, the more he deludes himself into thinking that all matters depend solely on his efforts, and that he is in fully charge of his destiny. In such a case, should something occur counter to his better expectation and wishes, that person will become enraged.
In contrast, there are situations in which it does not help for us to increase our efforts; in such cases, one will need to rely solely on God’s generosity. In those cases, there is less of a chance for people to become angry since most of the factors are beyond their control.
The Difference Between Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora
Moshe explained the difference between Egypt and Eretz Yisrael: [Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:10-12]:
(י) כִּ֣י הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר אַתָּ֤ה בָא־שָׁ֙מָּה֙ לְרִשְׁתָּ֔הּ לֹ֣א כְאֶ֤רֶץ מִצְרַ֙יִם֙ הִ֔וא אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְצָאתֶ֖ם מִשָּׁ֑ם אֲשֶׁ֤ר תִּזְרַע֙ אֶת־זַרְעֲךָ֔ וְהִשְׁקִ֥יתָ בְרַגְלְךָ֖ כְּגַ֥ן הַיָּרָֽק: ו(יא) ְהָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר אַתֶּ֜ם עֹבְרִ֥ים שָׁ֙מָּה֙ לְרִשְׁתָּ֔הּ אֶ֥רֶץ הָרִ֖ים וּבְקָעֹ֑ת לִמְטַ֥ר הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם תִּשְׁתֶּה־מָּֽיִם:
(יב) אֶ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁר ה’ אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ דֹּרֵ֣שׁ אֹתָ֑הּ תָּמִ֗יד עֵינֵ֨י ה’ אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ בָּ֔הּ מֵֽרֵשִׁית֙ הַשָּׁנָ֔ה וְעַ֖ד אַחֲרִ֥ית שָׁנָֽה:
For the Land you are entering to possess is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and irrigated by hand as in a vegetable garden. But the Land you are entering to possess is a Land of mountains and valleys, watered by rain from the sky.
It is a Land the Lord your God cares for. He is always watching over it from the beginning to the end of the year.
In the land of Egypt, the fields are always irrigated by human intervention and water is abundant. Thus, it is much harder for one to feel that God is the One who assists him with his livelihood. In contrast, the fields of Eretz Yisrael depend on rain that God brings. Man is able to work as hard as he wants, but without rain, which is independent of man’s efforts, he will not have livelihood. The Land of Israel requires God’s constant supervision in order for fields to yield crops – for it is “a Land which the Lord your God cares for, He is always watching over it from the beginning to the end of the year.”
It follows that one who lives in Eretz Yisrael, in the place where he is constantly aware of the fact that he depends on God’s benevolence, is much less prone to slip into the abyss of anger. He is bound to realize that anything that happens to him is due to God’s will. Thus, there is no need for him to get angry. It is certainly a challenge in Eretz Yisrael for one to always see God’s hand in all matters and not say “My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth.” [Deuteronomy 8:17] Nevertheless, the challenge is much greater outside Eretz Yisrael.
The Transition from the leadership of Moses (the Generation of the Wilderness) to the leadership of Joshua (the Generation of Entering The Land of Israel)
Under Moshe’ leadership, the way of life for the people of Israel was supernatural: they ate the manna, drank water from a rock, and their clothes never wore out. They did not need to make any effort to earn a living. Instead, they were totally dependent upon God in an overt manner. After Moshe’ death, it was time for Am Yisrael to live by natural means and to make efforts for their livelihood. As previously explained, the more one increases his efforts, the more he sees the fruits of his labor and not that of God. In such a case, he is more susceptible to anger when things do not go his way. Thus, as opposed to the Generation of Moshe, the Generation of Yehoshua was required to enter Eretz Yisrael imminently so that they would feel the hand of God even when earning a livelihood and living by natural means. Had the Generation of Yehoshua, the generation that lived by natural means, delayed entering Eretz Yisrael, the generation may have reconsidered entering Eretz Yisrael, a Land where they would need to constantly depend on the Divine – in which “He is always watching over it from the beginning to the end of the year.”
Had Am Yisrael, under Yehoshua’s leadership, delayed any further, Am Yisrael would have become more entangled in a condition of not seeing God’s Divine intervention; thus the danger of Israel becoming captives of the trait of anger would have greatly increased.
The Conduct of the “Generation of those who entered the Land” in our times
What we can extract from what we learned is that Eretz Yisrael is the best place for overcoming one’s anger since Divine intervention is more apparent there than any other place in the world. Once we internalize this truth, we will recognize that everything that happens to us is from God, and we have no reason to get angry. Understandably, even in the Land of Israel we must constantly reinforce this concept and increase our awareness regarding “Your miracles every day upon us, and Your wonders and goodness all the time [from the Modim prayer of the Amidah].” However, in the Land of Israel our awareness of Divine intervention is vastly greater than in other places.