The appointment of Yehoshua as the successor of Moshe may seem like an obvious choice, but what’s interesting is how in takes place in a parsha named for someone else: Pinchas. Yehoshua, as we know, did not have his own parsha. We also know, that while Yehoshua was a helpful apprentice of Moshe, we rarely hear of his outstanding scholarship. In regards to Pinchas, on the other hand, we are told “The truth of Torah was in his mouth” (Malachi 2:6). Rashi on Avot 1:1 (attributed to him) actually asks this very question- ‘why was the Torah transferred to Yehoshua and not Pinchas…?’.
When we look into the appointing of Yehoshua, the Rabbis in the Midrash tell us startling anecdote that showed his relevance for the job: ‘Yehoshua would arrange the seats in the study hall…’ (Bamidbar Rabbah 21:14). What does setting up chairs have to do with leading the Jewish people? Pinchas was a scholar!
When it comes to the continuity of the Jewish people, and even specifically our education, what is important is not simply a person’s intellectual capacity. What is also important is their drive to share it with others. To know a lot of Torah is obviously an admirable feat, but it’s not the entirety of Jewish leadership. Leadership entails a willingness to help others grow. Yehoshua’s setting up of the chairs was not an indication of his janitorial skills, it was an expression of his care for the scholarship of others. It was this perspective that made him fit to be the next chain from Moshe Rabbeinu- not just knowing the Torah, but his drive to share it.
Each one of us is a ‘leader’ in some way or another. Whether it be as a parent, friend, spouse, or co-worker, we all have the ability to help share the wealth of Torah with someone else. For some, that means teaching as much as one knows, or publicizing a class people may not know about. And for others, it can even be as simple as setting up the chairs.