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Hashem said to Moshe take to yourself Yehoshua bin nun, a man in whom there is spirit, and lean your hand upon him And he (Moshe) leaned his hands upon him and commanded him as Hashem had spoken through Moshe. (Bamidbar 27:18,23)
The above posuk records the very first rabbinical ordination. Rashi here notes a discrepancy. Hashem originally commanded Moshe to confer ordination on Yehoshua by putting one of his hands upon his head. Yet, when Moshe fulfilled Hashems command, the Torah records that he leaned with both his hands. Rashi explains that Moshe fulfilled Hashems request generously, above and beyond what had been called for. Rashi goes on to explain that Yehoshua like was like a vessel, which is full and brimming over. We may ask, what is the significance in the difference between two hands as opposed to one hand that prompted Rashi to give this interpretation.
The commentators note a similar discrepancy regarding the tablets. In parshas Ki Sisa the posuk says, Moshe turned and descended from the mountain with the two tables of the testimony in his hand (Shemos 32:15). Here the tablets are described as resting in one hand. Yet, in parshas Ekev when the posuk describes the very same event, it says, So I (Moshe) turned and descended from the mountain and the mountain was burning with fire and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands (Devarim 9:15). Here the tablets are described as resting in both of Moshes hands. How do we explain this discrepancy?
Chazal teach us that although Torah is a gift from Hashem, a person is given the ability to acquire it to the degree that it can be considered his own. This concept is expressed in our Torah blessings. Before we read from the Torah we recite a blessing where we refer to the Torah as His (Hashems) Torah. Upon concluding the Torah reading again we recite a blessing. Here we describe the Torah as our Torah. The commentators explain that through reading and studying Torah, we can acquire it to the degree that we can call it ours.
There is a major difference between the description of the giving of the tablets in Ki Sisa and Ekev. In Ki Sisa the giving of the tablets is described from the perspective of the Torah. From the Torahs perspective Moshe is mentioned in second person. The posuk says the two tables of the testimony in his hand. However, in Ekev, Moshe describes the same event from his perspective. Thus, Moshe mentions himself in first person. The posuk there says and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands. In Ki Sisa where the Torah records the event from its perspective it says that Hashem placed the Torah in only one of Moshes hands. In Ekev, where Moshe describes what happened from his perspective, he says that he received the Torah with both of his hands. This is explained with the above concept. Hashem originally gave His Torah as a gift to Moshe. This gift was placed in only one hand. However, through Moshes personal self-sacrifice and diligent study of the Torah in heaven for forty days, he acquired the Torah to the degree that it was considered to be resting in both of his hands. The second hand is thus symbolic of Moshes personal acquisition.
Hashem instructed Moshe to place one hand on Yehoshua. What is the symbolic meaning of conferring rabbinical ordination through the resting of the hand? The most basic and obvious qualification for rabbinical ordination is the thorough knowledge of the entire Torah. Hashems gift of Torah was described as something that was given to Moshe and placed in his hand. When leadership was now to be transferred to Yehoshua, Hashem instructed Moshe to transfer to Yehoshua the same gift that was given to him. Just as Hashem placed the Torah in only one of Moshes hands, so too Moshe was instructed to place that single hand on Yehoshua. However, Moshe placed his second hand as well. The second hand is symbolic of Moshes personal accomplishments and experiences that he acquired through his own self-sacrifice. Moshe did not just relay to Yehoshua the contents of the four parts of Shulchan Aruch, but taught him the fifth part as well. He imparted to him his personal experiences and insights. He transmitted to Yehoshua what it took him a lifetime to understand and acquire.
Moshes actions define the essence of rabbinical ordination and Jewish education. It is not sufficient for a teacher to transmit just the technical laws and text of the Torah. By doing so the teacher has only fulfilled his obligation of placing one hand on his student. The teacher has failed to follow in the example of Moshe who placed both hands on Yehoshua. A teacher should ordain his students his second hand as well. A Torah educator must strive to instill in his students the flavor and spirit of a true Torah perspective.
© Efraim Levine 5761/2001