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Following the question on the order of Moses' teaching Torah to Israel, I noticed that the procedure does mention Aharon, Aharon's sons, the elders, and the people, but not Yehoshuah as Moses's successor in the transmission of the Torah.

Was Yehoshua left out purposefully? Was Yehoshua's way of study with Moses different?


The source (Eruvin.54b):

The Sages taught the baraita: What was the order of teaching the Oral Law? Moses learned directly from the mouth of the Almighty. Aaron entered and sat before him, and Moses taught him his lesson as he had learned it from God... Aaron’s sons entered, and Moses taught them their lesson while Aaron listened... The elders entered and Moses taught them their lesson.
Moses then departed to his tent, and Aaron taught the others his lesson as he had learned it from Moses. Aaron then departed and his sons taught the others their lesson. His sons then departed and the elders taught the rest of the people their lesson. Hence everyone, Aaron, his sons, the elders and all the people, heard the lesson taught by God four times.

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  • Didn't he teach Yehoshua as well? sefaria.org/Pirkei_Avot.1.1 Aug 16, 2021 at 19:37
  • @Kazibácsi The Mishnah says "he passed it on", but it does not say Moses taught Yehoshua. Passing is actually a very vague thing, that does not necessitate prolonged study, it's more like the "spirit" that Moses passed on him.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 16, 2021 at 19:49
  • @kazibacsi The order of the teaching was based on honor being accorded. Since Yehoshua wasn't in a position of authority at the time then there was no reason to accord him honor. When Moshe put his hands on him he "gave" him all his knowledge and Yehoshua in turn passed it on to the Elders. This was different than teaching since the Elders learned from Moshe but still had to "receive"from Yehoshua
    – Chatzkel
    Aug 16, 2021 at 21:42
  • 1
    As of late, I have heard two unrelated "Mechakri" (מחקרי with a מלעיל) explanations for these two traditions which, when put together, can explain the apparent contradiction. I myself dislike both so I'm leaving them as a comment: 1. The Eruvin tradition is actually using an anachronistic "code" to describe the manner in which Torah was studied in Yavneh. Moshe here, for example, represents the Nasi, Rabban Gamliel. I don't remember who wrote this, but I can try to find it if you like.
    – Harel13
    Jan 27, 2022 at 18:16
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    2. The Avot tradition purposefully leaves out the priests because it's an anti-priestly polemic, created at a time in which many priests were corrupt (the last few decades of the Second Temple). This was apparently first thought up by Moshe David Her in this essay.
    – Harel13
    Jan 27, 2022 at 18:16

4 Answers 4

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I heard from my Rabbi a very interesting explanation given by Rabbi Menashe Klein in his work ספר הקנינים (Sefer HaKinyanim).

Rabbi Menashe Klein writes (Sefer HaKinyanim, p. 39):

להם יהושע וזה א"א רק ע"י שימוש שללמוד אפשר לכל אדם אבל לשמש ולדעת אופן הקיום צריך שימוש ולראות הלכה למעשה כיצד עשה משה רבינו וזה הוא המסורה שקבל יהושע ממשה רבינו לבד הלימוד שלמד עם כל ישראל מסר לו סודות התורה והתכמה וסודות ההנהגה לכלל ישראל בכל מכל כל אשר א"א ללמד את כל ישראל וזהו הנקרא מסורת אבות ואפילו לפעמים יבא מי שהוא לדייק באופן אתר מפי הלימוד והפלפול היפוך מסורה זו לא נאבה ולא נשמע לו ונדע כי פלפול זה שקר הוא כיון שקבלנו מפי משה רבינו וקבלה נאמנת במסורה איש מפי איש והפלפול הוא נבנה על אדני השקר ואישתבש אותו התכם שיצתה לו נגד הקבלה ולא ירד לעומקה של הלכה

There are many secrets in the Torah, also known as the inner aspect of Torah, or, as the Alter Rebbe explains (Tanya, Kuntres Acharon 6):

the internal aspect of the depth, which is the inner aspect of Torah — pnimiyut haTorah— is totally united with the blessed Infinite Light that is clothed within Torah

So, according to what Rabbi Menashe Klein explains in his Sefer HaKinyanim (p. 39), these "secrets of Torah", e.g. the inner dimension of the Torah where known to Yehoshua, but the entire nation received "the basic Torah Sheba'al Peh".

The concept that Yehoshua knew the inner dimensions of the Torah, the Sod, is explained in Kol HaTor (2:98) by Rabbi Hillel Rivlin, a disciple of the Vilna Gaon:

“The secret of the Lord is for those who fear him” (Ps. 25:14) -- Whenever the word is mentioned, it refers to the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef as hinted at in the verse: “place it into the ears of Joshua.” In gematria, ! in the ears of, equals [70] and when the value of the letters of as pronounced are added up [i.e., ' '], they equal [566].

When G-d spoke face-to-face to Moshe Rabbeinu, Yehoshua was always in the tent, as it says (Shemos 33:11):

but his attendant, Joshua son of Nun, a youth, would not stir out of the Tent.

This is also explained by N.T. where the Meiri is quoted

This is why Yehoshua was called binun, meaning “the understanding one,” (Ramban, Shemos 33:1)

See also these lengthy articles about Moshiach ben Yosef and Yehoshua.

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  • Thank you +1 for the effort. Rabbis totally miss the point. Can you really learn Torah interpretations from serving a person? Can you learn ritual impurity laws from a person who's always pure? Those are posteriorly justifications (excuses). If it was true, the Talmudic rabbis would see the contradiction and mention the solution.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 23, 2022 at 14:41
  • I'm not sure what you mean whit "Rabbis totally miss the point". The Rambam mentions your question on if you should learn something from someone who is never ritual impure or from someone who was ritual impure but now is not anymore: "Likewise, a Rabbi who does not follow the good way, though he be a great scholar and all of the people stand in need of him no instruction should be received from him until his return to goodness"- Hilchos Talmud Torah 4:1.
    – Shmuel
    Jan 23, 2022 at 15:08
  • Sorry, I meant that you can't learn a lot just by watching.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 23, 2022 at 16:09
  • By "by watching" you mean that Yehoshua stayed in the tent?
    – Shmuel
    Jan 23, 2022 at 16:53
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According to the Meiri in his introduction to Avos, Yehoshua stayed in the tent the entire time, so he heard the Torah 4 times from Moshe too, based on the verse that says Yehoshua never left the tent.

והיה הוא ע״ה מוסר התורה ופקודיה וסודותיה וגנזיה לאהרן ולאלעזר ופנחס ויהושע ולזקנים הנאמר עליהם אספה לי שבעים איש כו׳ ולכל העם והוא מה שאמרו במס׳ עירובין נ״ד ב׳ כיצד סדר המשנה כו׳ והעולה מדבריהם הוא שמרע״ה היה מקבל את המצוה עם כל פירושיה ועניניה והיה כותב במצות ה׳ עיקר המצוה בעצמותה בתורה שבכתב וביאוריה היה מלמד על פה והוא ענין תורה שבעל פה כמו שתאמר דרך משל שהוא ע״ה כתב בתורה עיקר מצות הסוכה והוא ענין דכתיב בסוכות תשבו ז׳ ימים אבל למעלה מעשרים ולמטה מיו״ד ושיעור האורך והרוחב והחיוב והפטור ולבוד ודופן עקומה ובמה מסככין ובמה אין מסככין וכיוצא באלו היה מלמד על פה כלומר הקב״ה צוה בסוכה ואין סוכה אלא בדרך זה וכן בכולם והיה סדר לימודו שתחילה היה מלמד לאהרן ואחריו נכנסים אלעזר ואיתמר ולומד להם במעמד אהרן [ואחריהם נכנסים הזקנים ומלמדה להם במעמד אהרן] ובניו (כו׳) ואחריהם נכנסים כל מי שירצה מהמון העם ומלמדה להם במעמד כל הראשונים ואז היה משה יוצא ואהרן מלמד לכולם פעם אחת והיה אהרן יוצא ואלעזר ואיתמר חוזרין ומלמדין לזקנים ולעם והיו הבנים יוצאים והזקנים חוזרין ומלמדין לעם ונמצאו כולם למדים הענין מזולתם ארבעה פעמים אהרן מפי משה ארבעה פעמים ובניו מפי משה ג׳ פעמים ואחת מפי אהרן והזקנים מפי משה ב׳ ואחת מאהרן וא׳ מבניו וכל העם אחת מפי משה ואחת מפי אהרן ואחת מבניו ואחת מפי הזקנים ויהושע כבר ידעת שלא היה זז מתוך האהל וכבר שמעה הוא ד׳ פעמים ממשה

In fact, according to Rashi, Yehoshua's not leaving the tent is exactly why he merited to succeed Moshe. This makes a lot of sense according to the Meiri, because Yehoshua heard the Torah from Moshe the most times of anyone alive.

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  • Since everyone heard it four times, hewas no different from anyone in Israel. But why he's not mentioned at all? If Avot is an ancient tradition, it should have been mentioned in this Midrash.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 17, 2021 at 14:47
  • He heard it four times directly from Moshe, which no one else did.
    – N.T.
    Aug 17, 2021 at 19:01
  • @AlBerko I don't understand the second part of your question.
    – N.T.
    Aug 17, 2021 at 19:04
  • We basically have two somewhat unrelated traditions: one is in Avos, that Moses passed the Torah to Joshuah, and the second in the aforementioned Midrash (rabbinic line), that Moses taught Aharon and his sons (priestly line). A single tradition would mention both Joshuah and Aharon.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 25, 2022 at 9:01
  • By hearing from Moses you hint at the fact that Aharon and his sons altered the tradition, like their recall was somewhat different and inauthentic.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 25, 2022 at 9:02
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Rabbi Ouri Cherki suggests that the differing sources on who received the Torah from Moshe (the one in Eruvin and Avot 1:1, "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and passed it to Yehoshua") point to the difference between the Written Torah and the Oral Torah (my translation):

"...The Oral Torah, known in Eruvin as "the order of teaching", is needed in order to inform us what we must do actively. Here comes the usage of the hermeneutics that clarify the Torah, whose result is the halacha and not the simple understanding of the text. This is a form of study that requires a set institution that decides what is right in unresolved cases, and this duty is implemented by the priests and elders.

In contrast, the Written Torah teaches the ethical direction that forms the base of the Torah, which is learned from the wording of the text, even if it is not halacha...the one in charge of passing on the ethics of the Torah is the king, who reads from the Torah "so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God" (Devarim 17:19), and even actively acts according to the Written Torah with regards to leading the state (Natziv on Devarim 24:16).

This is evident from our parsha: "Then Moses called Joshua and said to him...“Be strong and resolute, for it is you who shall go with this people into the land..." (Devarim 31:7). On the face of things, Yehoshua is only given military and state duties alone. Immediately afterwards it says: "Moses wrote down this Teaching and gave it to the priests, sons of Levi...and to all the elders of Israel." (ibid. 9). We find here that this matches with what is said in Eruvin, where it is evident that Yehoshua does not take part in the giving over of the Torah. However, immediately afterwards it says: "And Moses instructed them as follows: Every seventh year...you shall read this Teaching aloud in the presence of all Israel." (ibid. 10-11). It says תקרא (singular) and not תקראו (plural). Therefore, Moshe is speaking to Yehoshua specifically, who remained at Moshe's side, as the passer of the ethics of the Torah in the Hak'hel..."

We see, therefore, that according to Rabbi Cherki, Yehoshua was not mentioned in the "order of teaching" because he was not tasked with passing on the laws, but instead mentioned in Avot because he was tasked with the giving over of the ethics of the Torah.1


1 As for the anachronism between the "order of teaching" and the fact that Yehoshua was only chosen as leader at the end of Moshe's life, it's possible, in my opinion, that Yehoshua was always intended to be some sort of military leader/statesman - we see this from the fact that he was chosen by Moshe to fight the Amalekites, plus his tribe chose him to be their spy. Therefore, from the beginning he was already excluded from the role of potential law-giving elder.

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  • How does it fit with Temurah 16a? Aug 17, 2021 at 8:57
  • @Kazibácsi I don't see the problem...
    – Harel13
    Aug 17, 2021 at 8:59
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    IIUC R' Cherki's words, he says (in an oversimplified way) that the halakhot were the business of the priests and the elders (see Eiruvin), while Joshua had to deal with the ethics (see Avot). Nevertheless, the midrash in Temurah clearly speaks about halakhot. What point am I missing? Aug 17, 2021 at 9:04
  • @Kazibácsi That's a good question. I'll have to think about it.
    – Harel13
    Aug 17, 2021 at 10:15
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    Thank you. It's a good start. IIRC, we don't have a tradition of such a division, the Oral law is inseparable from ethics, otherwise, it would look that the latter does not stem from the former or has nothing to do with God's commandments.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 17, 2021 at 15:00
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Yehoshua was not part of the initial teaching of Torah to the generation in the desert since he was a janitor (he was in charge of 50 people (Ba'al Haturim Bamidbar 13:3) which is basically his own extended family). Only by Moshe's death was he "upgraded" with wisdom and became part of the chain for later generations.

Yehoshua was a fool who could not learn (Yalkut Shimoni, Mishlei 959) let alone teach Torah. Yehoshua, not being able to learn any Torah decided to become the janitor and set up everyday (Yalkut, Pinhas 776). Rav Eliezer ben David explains that since Yehoshua did whatever he can for Torah, he merited to be the next leader. Hashem can give wisdom, He does cannot make someone give it their all (free will). Since he gave it his all which is the quality needed for a teacher (El Ginat Egoz Yaradti 3). When Moshe asked how could Yehoshua lead, Hashem said no problem, give him some of your greatness (Bamidbar 27:20). This is why all the Elders were embarrassed that Yehoshua was chosen as the next leader and not one of them (Bava Batra 75a).

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