Ben-Tzion Spitz
Former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay

The Harder They Fall (Vayelech)

Strength instead of being the lusty child of passion, grows by grappling with and subduing them. –James Barrie

Perhaps one of the greatest leaders the nation of Israel ever had, after Moses, is his successor, Joshua. Joshua is prominent early in the biblical narrative. We see Moses selecting Joshua to lead the Israelite armed forces against the Amalekite ambush shortly after the Exodus from Egypt. Throughout the desert journey, we see Joshua at Moses’ right hand, his aide-de-camp, his devoted disciple.

God Himself names Joshua as Moses’ successor when Moses pleads with Him to ensure that Israel will continue to have a mortal leader after God decrees his death. Joshua is the divinely ordained successor to Moses and his subsequently miraculous and powerful conquest of the kings of Canaan prove his suitability for the role.

However, the Chidushei HaRim on Deuteronomy 31:7, wonders as to a particular refrain that is repeated constantly regarding Joshua. Moses and then later God, as well as the nation of Israel, repeatedly tell Joshua “Be strong and of good courage” – Chazak ve’ematz. Why does Joshua, who was clearly a great man, need such repeated encouragement? It would make more sense to offer a weak, untried leader such ongoing support. Why did a proven, accomplished, and seasoned leader such as Joshua require such reassurance?

The Chidushei HaRim posits that it was actually Joshua’s greatness that was his Achilles Heel. Joshua was such a great man, that the slightest infraction might have spelled his doom. When one reaches the level of the fully righteous, the smallest sin stands in stark contrast to their otherwise saintly behavior and can bring with it significant negative consequences.

A greater person is held to a greater standard. The Chidushei HaRim states that if such a person were to deviate as much as a hairsbreadth from God’s directive, it could completely doom them. Therefore, ironically, the greater a person is, the more protection and support they require. Hence the need for the repeated instances of God, Moses and the nation supporting Joshua with the refrain of Chazak ve’ematz, be strong and of good courage.

May we all be providers and recipients of strength and support, no matter what level of greatness we’re currently at.

Shabbat Shalom and Gmar Chatima Tova,



To Eviation’s first test flight of their prototype all-electric airplane.

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay. He is the author of six books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. He is the publisher of Torah.Works, a website dedicated to the exploration of classic Jewish texts, as well as TweetYomi, which publishes daily Torah tweets on Parsha, Mishna, Daf, Rambam, Halacha, Tanya and Emuna. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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