Nitzavim – Vayelech


Encapsulated in the titles of this week’s double parasha are two key principles of life. Nitzavim and Veyelech. Standing firm and Walking.

There are times when what is required of us is to be firm, principled and resolute. There are other times when what is called for is to be flexible, compliant and adaptive.

The challenge is of course to apply the right quality at the right time.

The psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “when one only has a hammer, it becomes tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail!”

Both pieces of advice are offered to Joshua in parashat Vayelech.

Moses says, “Be strong and of good courage for you will come with [tavo] this people into the land.

G-d says, “Be strong and of good courage for you will bring [tavi] the Israelites into the land.

Rashi explains:

Moses said to Joshua, “Make sure the elders are with you. Act according to their opinion and advice.”

G-d said to Joshua, “For you will bring the Israelites – meaning even against their will. It depends on you…There is only one leader for a generation.”

According to G-d’s advice, Joshua is to be a Nitzavim, someone who will stand firm and assert his authority, when necessary even against the wishes of those around him.

According to Moses’ advice, Joshua is to a Vayelech, someone who will move and be consultative and conciliatory.

On the face of it, Joshua is being presented with two extremes: take command or go for consensus.

Yet when we consider the nature of Joshua’s succession as Leader, it becomes understandable why G-d and Moses should advise him in seemingly contrary ways and how both messages are necessary.

G-d has seen Joshua as the faithful, self-effacing disciple of Moses, never leaving his master’s presence. It will be necessary for Joshua to assert himself to establish his leadership. The people will respect him when they recognise he can command authority.

Moses knows that the role model of leadership that Joshua has seen from him has been assertive. Moses confronted the people when they rebelled. He stood up against Korach. He didn’t seek consensus. Moses wants Joshua to realise that the generation who will enter the land will need a leader who will take the elders with him.

Greatness in leadership and, indeed, in our own lives call on us to recognise when to act with firmness and when to act with flexibility, when to be strong and when to be gentle. Nitzavim and Vayelech combined.