God miraculously causes the sun to stand still, allowing the Israelites under Yehoshua’s command to win the battle (painting by John Martin)
Hoshea bin Nun (c. 1355-1245 BCE) was born in Egypt during the time of the Israelite slavery. Upon the return of Moses, Hoshea became his trusted servant and right-hand man. He was the only one allowed to approach Mt. Sinai other than Moses himself, and is one of the few people in the Torah described as being filled with a Godly spirit. In the wilderness, he became the chief military commander of the Israelite army, leading them to multiple victories. When the Israelites originally reached the Holy Land, Hoshea was dispatched as one of the twelve spies. It was then that Moses renamed him Yehoshua (more commonly known as Joshua), to give him strength for his mission. He was the only one, along with Caleb, to bring back a positive report, and for this was rewarded with permission to enter the land of Israel, while the rest of the generation was condemned to perish in the wilderness over a forty year period. At the end of those forty years, when Moses passed away, Yehoshua took over and led the Jews into Israel, overseeing their successful reclamation and re-settlement of the land with a series of miraculous victories. His work complete, Yehoshua passed away in the Holy Land at the age of 110, having gained a reputation for wisdom, humility, and most of all, being a beloved caretaker of his people. He is believed to be the author of the Biblical book of Joshua. As his origins are obscure, and he alone has the moniker “bin” in his name (as opposed to the standard “ben”, which means son), several legends have come forth regarding his birth. In one of the most enigmatic, it is said that the baby Yehoshua was among those newborns thrown into the Nile River by Pharaoh’s soldiers. However, he was swallowed up by a great fish which was later caught by fishermen; Yehoshua was thereby accidentally rescued from the fish’s belly, hence the name “bin Nun” (nun means “fish” in Aramaic). Yehoshua’s yahrzeit is commemorated on the 26th of Nisan, which this year falls on Saturday.
Words of the Week
The Persian Empire was always against the Muslim Arab Empire, especially against the Sunnis. The threat is from Persia, not from Israel. – Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal
When it comes to Passover, most of the attention is placed on Moses (realizing this, the Jewish Sages who composed the Passover Haggada omitted any mention of Moshe!) Few give credit to Moses’ elder siblings (and prophets) Aaron and Miriam. It was the prophecy of the eldest Miriam that inspired the Israelites in Egypt to start procreating again, after they had previously decided not to bring any more children into such a cruel existence. That stimulus gave birth to Moses. It was Miriam who ensured the basket stayed afloat in the Nile, and who made sure Moses received a Jewish wet nurse (his mother!) even though he grew up in Pharaoh’s palace. Later, we are told that Miriam had a mystical well that supplied the Israelites with all their water needs during their travels through the wilderness. The Talmud explains Miriam was nicknamed Azuva (“left behind”) since she was physically unappealing and had a hard time finding a husband. However, a great man named Caleb married her for her spiritual holiness. Miraculously, she transformed into a very beautiful woman, and was thus renamed Efrat (which means “beauty”). This marriage gave birth to the ancestor of King David (and therefore Mashiach)!
Meanwhile, Aaron was the leader of the Jews in Egypt. Because Moses had a speech impediment, Aaron was the official mouthpiece and spokesperson of God. He also carried out the first three of the 10 plagues that struck the Egyptians. For his peace-loving and self-sacrificing ways, Aaron was later granted the high priesthood, and all his descendants became Cohanim. Amazingly, scientists have discovered a gene on the Y-chromosome that is shared by cohanim around the world, whether Ashkenazi, Sephardic or other. The gene traces back 3300 years, which is precisely the time of the Exodus!
Words of the Week
There are none so hopelessly enslaved as those who believe they are free. – Von Goethe
Having entered the month of Adar, famous for the holiday of Purim and the heroics of Queen Esther, it is fitting to speak of the very first Jewish heroine: Sarah (c. 1803-1677 BCE). According to the Talmud, Sarah was among the four most beautiful women that ever lived (as was Esther). She was the first matriarch of Israel, and in many ways the first Jewish woman; a wise teacher and a great prophetess who “made souls” (see Genesis 12). A woman of great strength, she survived two abductions over the course of her travels across the Middle East, from present-day Iraq, to Syria, Israel and Egypt. Miraculously, she became pregnant at age 90. Sarah reached such a level of holiness that her tent shone with the Divine Presence. Sarah (שרה) is not to be confused with a lesser-known Biblical character: Serah (שרח). With her expert musical skills, Serah (also spelled Serach, or Serakh) soothed and saved her grandfather Jacob from devastation. Legend has it that for this she was blessed with immortality, living to the times of the Exodus and helping Moses in some of his endeavours. In fact, many believe she was the very person who identified Moses as the redeemer of Israel! Having never died, it is said Serah owns a palace in the afterlife where she teaches the Word of God to the masses.
Words of the Week
We, all of Israel, are emissaries of God, each of us has Divine Providence decreed for us. None of us is free from this sacred task placed on our shoulders… – Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch (1880-1950)