“Aren’t you coming out for recess?” Fraidy asked Dena.

“No,” replied Dena with a slight air of importance. “Morah Katz said she wanted to speak to me privately in the teachers’ room.”

Nechamah, another seventh grader, thought Dena had raised her voice a bit so other girls would hear. As Dena left the classroom, Nechamah whispered to Fraidy: “You know, ever since Dena was chosen as class president, she...”

“Oh come on, Nechamah,” Fraidy interrupted her. “Let’s not speak Lashon Hora. Besides, Dena is talented and she’s a good organizer. She’ll do a lot of nice things for our class.”

Yet Nechamah was right about Dena, and their teacher had sensed it too. That is why she wanted to speak to her.

“Dena,” began Morah Katz, as the two met in a private corner of the teachers’ room. “I would like to share some thoughts with you from this week’s parshah.”

Dena was a bit surprised. A private parshah class, just for her, on Tuesday? She realized there must be something behind this, and listened intently as Morah Katz continued: “The Torah tells us that both Moshe Rabbeinu and Yehoshua bin Nun recited the song of Ha’azinu and spoke to the Jewish people. Rashi stresses that, at this time, both Moshe and Yehoshua were fulfilling the role of leader.

“Moshe arranged for Yehoshua to speak before the people just as he himself did. Why did Moshe do this? We read about many leaders who appointed their successors, but most did not put them in that position during their own lifetimes.

“But with Yehoshua, it was different. You see, Moshe was concerned that people might not be sure that Yehoshua was able to lead.

“The Midrash tells us that Moshe did not want people to question Yehoshua’s leadership, saying: ‘Wait a minute — you never said much during Moshe’s lifetime, now how can we be sure that you have something to say and can lead us?’ So Moshe stood Yehoshua by his side and had him recite Haazinu as a leader.”

“But Morah,” asked Dena. “Why would people think that Yehoshua was not a capable leader?”

Rashi helps us understand. He quotes this Midrash, but changes ‘you never said much’ to ‘you never lifted your head.’ Everyone expects a leader to show his importance. But Yehoshua ‘never lifted his head.’ He was always batel to Moshe, attending to him like a faithful servant.

“Moshe raised up Yehoshua in his own lifetime, because Yehoshua never ‘raised his head’ on his own. Even when he was given the leadership role, he did not feel his importance.

“In this parshah, he is not called Yehoshua, but Hoshea — as he was called when he first began serving Moshe. The use of that name shows that he had remained humble.”

Morah Katz looked at Dena and knew she didn’t have to say another word. Dena was as bright as she was talented, and understood the lesson.

(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIX, pg. 199 ff.)