click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Joshua: No Task Too Menial
Mom with a View

Joshua: No Task Too Menial

Want to be a great Jewish leader? Learn from a consummate example -- the prophet Joshua.


This Madison Ave. style slogan actually describes the attitude of one of the greatest leaders in Jewish history, the prophet Joshua. Many people know that "Joshua fit the battle of Jericho," but few know any other details of his character or life.

Clearly demonstrating that nepotism is not a Jewish ideal, neither of Moses' two sons was chosen to be the leader after him. Instead, the Almighty's favor rested upon Joshua ben Nun. What qualities did God perceive that led to this distinction?

Joshua didn't care at all about his own personal honor, only for the honor of the Jewish people. It reminds me of a quote a friend wrote in my 8th grade yearbook, "There is no limit to how far a man can go or how much he can accomplish as long as he doesn't mind who gets the credit."

Joshua would set up the chairs in the study hall, and put them away at the end of the day. He would sweep the room when it was dirty (he probably also ‘did windows'!). His respect for the learning of Torah governed his actions, not an arrogant sense that certain tasks are beneath his dignity or not in his job description. He merited fulfilling the description in Proverbs, "He who guards the fig tree will eat its fruit."

Joshua did not look for honor. He didn't check the latest polls and adjust his opinions accordingly.

When Moses died, Joshua was around 82 years old. His whole life had been about serving the Almighty and his servant Moses. Joshua rarely left Moses' side, to the extent of climbing part way up the mountain with him when he went to receive the Ten Commandments and waiting there for his return. He was totally willing to subjugate his needs and his ego to "serve the wise man."

This ability is unique. Looking around our world, we see few whose lives are totally about the service of others rather than themselves, even those who work for non-profit organizations! Particularly in America, with its worship of the individual, egos are hard and overindulged. Our leaders lack substance. It's hard to follow someone if it's all about them, if it's all ego and narcissism.

Joshua did not look for honor. He didn't check the latest polls and adjust his opinions accordingly. He stayed true to what he knew was right.

We are confused about the meaning of humility. We think of it as synonymous with meek. Yet our greatest leaders, particularly Moshe and Joshua, are characterized by their humility. They weren't afraid to lead, to voice unpopular positions, to chastise the people, to take responsibility.

Humility requires a commitment to do what's right, a commit that transcends our personal needs and desires. Few of us are able to achieve this, to rise above or conquer our egos.

Although Joshua led the Jewish people through many battles in their conquest of the land of Israel, his most successful battle of all was the one he waged against his own "evil inclination."

A leader who is a very powerful orator may win over followers. But only a leader who is able to take himself out of the picture can create something that will last. Only a man who dominates his ego, rather than allowing it to rule over him, could engineer the successful war for the holy land and then allocate it to each tribe in its assigned fashion.

Joshua has been immortalized in song for causing the walls of Jericho to come tumblin' down. But the ‘tumblin' down' of his ego was his true accomplishment and the real lesson for us.


June 3, 2006

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Katrinaandgirls, July 4, 2006 12:00 AM

This website has really deepened my knowledge to a whole new level. It's wonderful and such creative, intelligent writers with views I have never before opened my mind to. As for this article I can't agree more how important seeing the bigger picture is than gaining your own glory, and humbling yourself to others because no one really is any better than anyone else in our Creator's eyes..............He is no respector of persons...........and actually He hates the sin of pride! Keep up the great teaching as we all grow by it! Thanks! : )

(2) yehoshua, June 28, 2006 12:00 AM

name change

there's a midrash that says why moshe changed hoshea's name to yehoshua. moshe added the yud, the first letter of G-d's name to hoshea because of hoshea's humility. by adding that letter and making the name "yehoshua", moshe was giving him the courage he needed. (see commentary to parsha shelach).

(1) sjhepner, June 5, 2006 12:00 AM

Wow, that is thought provoking...

Joshua was a good man and a potential leader.. his devout servitude to Moshe Rabainu, and the Torah, did not intefere with him getting promoted to Leader.. and he had great Leadership skills, and military tactics.. and the story of him choosing which Men to fight in the Battle For Jerich is just astounding in its tactics and understanding... maybe Humility and dedicated servitude to a great man and ideals are a kind of apprenticeship to higher goals!!???

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment