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Written by Rabbi Moshe Kormornick

And you shall place from your splendour upon him in order that the whole congregation of the Children of Israel will pay heed (27:20)

The Gemora tells us that when Moshe and Yehoshua were together, the Elders of the generation said “The face of Moshe is like the face of the sun, whereas the face of Yehoshua is [only] like the face of the moon.  Oh the embarrassment, Oh the shame”[1]

Many commentators explain that the Elders who cried out “Oh the embarrassment, Oh the shame” were despairing for Yehoshua’s embarrassment that the holy radiance of his face did not reach the level of Moshe[2].  But according to this, why would Yehoshua be so embarrassed that he was not as great and holy as Moshe.  The Torah itself tells us that no prophet of Israel was and ever will be as great as Moshe, since Moshe “knew Hashem face to face[3]”?
Rav Itzele Volozhinexplains the Gemora completely differently.

The phrase “Oh, the embarrassment, Oh the shame” that we had previously attributed to the Elders, commenting on the embarrassment of Yehoshua, was in fact said at theirown embarrassment for not attaining what Yehoshua achieved.

Reb Itzle illustrates this with the following analogy:
One day a rich merchant passed through a poor city.  In need of workers, he offered the people of the city the opportunity to work for him, and he would support anyone who joined him.  No one agreed to join the merchant except for one poor man.  After some time, the merchant and his worker returned to the city of his worker, and they were both now very rich.  When the worker’s friends saw their ‘poor friend’ who was now very wealthy, they hid their faces in embarrassment.

“Why are you embarrassed before me?”  He asked,“If it is because of my wealth, my boss is many times richer than me!”

His ashamed friends replied“Your boss comes from a family which Hashem has always blessed with great wealth.  What are we paupers, who have lived in poverty all our lives to be embarrassed by him?  But you, you were one of us, you were as poor as us, and we had the same chance you did to become rich.  But you took that chance and we squandered it!  That is why we are embarrassed in front of you.”

So too, the Elders were saying to Yehoshua ‘It is not for us to be embarrassed in front of Moshe,  for his greatness comes from Hashem and cannot be reached by us.  But you, Yehoshua, attained greatness because of your dedication to Moshe at every moment.  For this we are embarrassed because we too had the opportunity to achieve greatness like yours, but we squandered our chance.’[4]

[1] Bava Basra 75a
[2] For instance, see the Shita mikubetzes, Ri Migash and Rabbeinu Gershom.
[3] Devarim 34:10
[4] Peh Kadosh Hashalem

Rabbi Moshe Kormornick, is the best selling author of SHORT VORT, available in Jewish bookstores worldwide, as well as at and on amazon. 

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