In this week’s parsha Moshe was informed of his imminent passing. The great leader instead of focusing on his own needs, he busied himself with the needs of the Jewish people. The Torah recounts Moshe’s prayer to Hashem that He should appoint a leader to take over the position that he had filled for the last forty years.

Regarding his successor[1] Moshe actually had in mind one of his sons would fill the position. Rav Shlomo Wolbe  explains[2]that Moshe was not concerned with employment for his children. He felt that it would be beneficial for the Jewish people to have a leader whose approach paralleled that of his predecessor, and thus the best candidate for the position would be one of his own sons.

However, Hashem replied that He had someone else in mind: Joshua bin Nun would be his successor. What did Joshua do to deserve the loftiest spiritual position on Earth? Rashi (ibid.) enlightens us to the secret of his success. His merit came as a reward for his constant presence and service in Moshe’s tent. More specifically, the Midrash relates that he arranged the benches and spread out the mats for those who came to learn Torah from Moshe.

Rav Wolbe points out that it is amazing to think about the fact that such a seemingly small act should accomplish such enormous reward. However, truth be told, every single positive action performed in the spiritual realm merits awesome reward.All our deeds are noted and recorded by Hashem, because they are truly important. No act is forgotten. No deed is ignored. There are numerous examples found in the teachings of our sages. Moreover, many of the actions were performed with ulterior motives and nevertheless earned those who performed them great reward.

The Torah relates several cases to illustrate this point: Over the course of his encounter with Bilaam, Balak offered forty two sacrificial offerings. Our sages[3] tell us that in this merit he was rewarded with a descendant, Ruth, who was the grandmother of King Solomon who brought thousands of sacrificial offerings in the holy Temple. Despite the fact that Balak’s intention was far from altruistic, he received great reward for his actions. Another example is that when Moshe was afraid when he fought against the giant Og, king of Bashan. He knew that many years before Og informed our Patriarch Abraham that Lot had been taken captive. Although his intention behind this superficial act of kindness was the desire that Abraham be killed in battle so that he would be able to marry Sarah, this did not preclude the possibility for great reward[4].

The Gemara[5] describes how Nebuchadnezzar, the wicked Babylonian king, was allowed to destroy the first Bet HaMikdash as a reward for once having gone out of his way to show respect to Hashem. A messenger from King Merodach Baladan was carrying a letter to King Hezekiah. Nebuchadnezar felt that the text of the letter showed a lack of respect for Hashem, and he ran four paces after the messenger in order to retrieve the letter and change it. The angel Gabriel stopped him after four paces. Otherwise, this merit would have been so great that it would have enabled him to exterminate the Jewish people entirely.

Frequently we think that the value of an isolated action is insignificant. One simple deed can have such an overwhelming effect that it has the power to change the life of many people.The following true story is a case in point. A well-known Rosh Yeshiva explained how he did Teshuva: Born in a secular family from Haifa, he lived all his youth as a non-religious person. In his early twenty’s he worked and saved money to take a trip to Tel Aviv to the opening day of the newest night club in the area. The “big night” came and he found himself struggling at the entrance of the discotheque with a mob of people who wanted to get in. Suddenly, he noticed across the street from where he was standing a religious Jew walking through. When this person turn to see what was happening in the other side of the street he only glanced for a split second and turn back his head in order to not look anymore and speeded up his pace. The young future Rosh Yeshiva asked himself: Here I am fighting with dozens of people trying to get into this place and this person doesn’t even want to look at this direction. Because of this unknown person who did a seemingly unnoticed and unimportant action the Rosh Yeshiva started to learn Torah and changed his live completely and the lives of many others.

Sometimes we forget, or maybe we never realized that a smile, a good word, or Torah learning even for just a few minutes is worth its weight in gold. Next time we’re contemplating learning Torah or performing a small act of kindness, we should bear in mind the lesson learned from Joshua. Every mitzvah planted yields a crop that boggles the mind!




[1]  See Rashi in Bamidbar 27, 16.

[2]  Shiure Chumash.

[3]  See gemara Sotah 47a.

[4] Another version explains  that Og’s merit was that many years ago hewas circumcised by our forefather Abraham when he had been a member of his household. Moshe understood that this one merit could bring Og victory against the entire Jewish people. Hashem Himself had to tell Moshe “Do not fear him.”

[5] Sanhedrin 96a, Rashi.

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