Take to yourself Joshua the son of Nun…And you shall place all your splendor on him. (Bamidbar 27:18-20)
The Gemora in Bava Basra (75a) says that the Elders of that generation saw Moshe’s face as the sun and Joshua’s face as the moon, and said “Woe is to that embarrassment.” Rashi explains that the elders saw how great Moshe was, yet Joshua—though great—was not as great, and felt bad. However, Rav Itzel from Velozhin explains this based on a Medrash in this week’s parsha. The Medrash Raba (21:6) tells us “He who guards a fig-tree shall eat its fruit…” (Mishlei 27:18) and explains as follows:
There was once a rich man who was brought up by his father—a very successful businessman. His father taught him the ins and outs of buying and selling, and interpreting the market. But as an adult he fell on hard times. He wandered into a community and asked for people to help him start up a new business. Though everyone recognized that he had the “street smarts”, only one person invested with him. Their joint venture was a success, making them both wealthy, though the man with the “street smarts” received a significantly larger share of the profits. When they returned to town and people saw these two wealthy men, the townspeople were in awe of the prominent individual, but utterly ashamed of their peer who ascended greatness in the financial world, and established himself firmly. The new millionaire asked his friends “Why are you so devastated by my wealth? My partner is far wealthier than me!” They answered “We attribute your partner’s wealth to his ‘gift from G-d’ of understanding business and the training that he had in his father’s house. You, on the other hand, had nothing going for you, were an equal to us, but because of your “stick-to-it-ness” and by associating with the right party, you have achieved greatness that we too could have had.”
Thus the meaning of the gemora: Moshe is like the sun: He generates and projects greatness as a gift from G-d. Joshua is like the moon: A rocky desert, but if it finds itself basking in the glory of the great sun, it too can shine. How? By revolving around the sun and reflecting its light.
So the Gemora tells us “Woe is to the embarrassment in regards to how far away we are from Moshe, but that is not so devastating because he was cut from a different bolt of cloth. However, Joshua really embarrassed us to the core because we could have done what he did too.”
I think that the lesson is quite clear: Many people say “if I had been born with his talents, if I would have had his opportunities, I could have achieved greatness. But what could I do? I am a victim of circumstance.”
B”H we find ourselves in a time that there is a large variety of “great shiurim” from spectacular people who are willing to let us access their knowledge, excitement and greatness in Torah. Let us all take this opportunity to follow our leaders’ shining example and at least reflect this light for we all have within us the ability to shine.