by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – July 10, 2012
In the Torah section of Pinchas, G-d chooses Joshua, Moses’ devoted student who “would not depart from within the tent” (Sh’mot 33:11), always at Moses’ side, thirstily imbibing every word of his and waiting patiently for forty days at the foot of Mount Sinai until his teacher returned from accepting the Torah, to succeed Moses in leading the children of Israel into the Holy Land.
Joshua, thereby, fulfilled, as R. Avraham Pam notes (Sholom Smith, A Vort from Rav Pam, pp. 192-193), the words of King Solomon in Mishle (27:18), “He who watches over the fig tree shall eat its fruit, and the guardian of his master will be honored.”
R. Pam continues that our Sages explain that the fig tree is different from other trees in that other trees are usually harvested all at one time while the fig tree’s harvest is spread out over a period of time. Similarly, the study of Torah and its acquisition is comparable to a fig tree. One cannot expect to be a Torah scholar overnight. A strong knowledge of the Torah can only be acquired as a result of a determined accumulation of study over time.
Joshua, in recognizing the exalted nature of the Torah that his great teacher was passing on, persistently went on day after day with determination to absorb all that he could, and, consequently, merited to succeed his teacher as leader of the Jewish people.
May we all, like a fig tree represented by Joshua, persist with determination and imbibe the words of G-d’s Torah and, thereby merit greatness in this world and the world to come.