Most of the Torah portion of Ha’azinu is taken up with Moshe’s song, known as the Song of Ha’azinu.1 At the conclusion of the song, the verse states: “Moshe came and proclaimed all the words of this song to the people, along with Hoshea son of Nun.”2

Rashi explains3 that on that day, Moshe and Yehoshua were both leaders. He goes on to state: “Why is he called here Hoshea [and not Yehoshua]? To tell us that he [Yehoshua] did not become haughty; although he was granted greatness, he humbled himself as before.”

Rashi’s intent is not merely to ascertain why Yehoshua is referred to as Hoshea after he had been given the name Yehoshua. Rather, it is to ask “why is he called here [in this verse] Hoshea”, for it is expressly here that he should be known as Yehoshua. Since the emphasis is on his ascendancy to leadership, why use the name he had before Moshe bestowed the more lofty name of Yehoshua?4

Rashi therefore explains that he is called Hoshea here “to tell us” something of Yehoshua’s humility — “he did not become haughty; although he was granted greatness, he humbled himself as before.”

It is man’s nature that when he achieves greatness, his conduct changes. Surely, when one becomes a leader of the Jewish people this arouses a feeling of exaltation — not, G‑d forbid, a feeling of egotism, but rather a feeling that leadership requires a certain degree of distance.

The Torah therefore informs us that notwithstanding Yehoshua’s succession to leadership, his humility remained unchanged — “he humbled himself as before.” Just as prior to his leadership he was “Moshe’s attendant,” the same self-effacement remained even after he assumed the mantle of leadership.

There is an important moral lesson here. Just as Yehoshua’s ascension to leadership did not cause him to become puffed up, so too in our own lives:

When one merits to ascend to an important position, or attains riches and the like, one may think that the very fact that he merited this ascent is an indication that he is worthy of receiving it. This can easily lead to a certain measure of conceit. Yehoshua’s conduct teaches us that the reverse should be the case. Specifically when one merits greatness, one should “humble himself as before.”

This is particularly true when one’s elevation involves ascendancy to a role of Jewish leadership. If a person is tainted by conceit, then not only will this weaken his good influence on others, but it may cause him to have the opposite effect. His conceit may cause a person who should be looking up to him to view him with disdain, and thereby become more removed from Jewish life, heaven forbid.

But if he is filled with humility and — like Yehoshua — looks upon his new role as being that of a servant to the Jewish people rather than their master, he can rest assured that he will have a positive effect on his fellow Jews. This also ensures that his greatness will endure.

This lesson is particularly germane to the time of year when the Torah portion of Ha’azinu is read — soon after Rosh HaShanah.

On Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish people crown G‑d as their King, and as King of the entire world.5 Since this vital act is accomplished through the efforts of the Jews, it proves their great importance in the overall scheme of things; it is we who are able to crown G‑d as King of kings. This may cause Jews to be puffed up.

That Yehoshua “humbled himself” teaches us that our ability to crown G‑d should lead to an even greater measure of humility, for the closer one comes to G‑d, the more one realizes how distant he is from Him.6

This self-effacement serves7 as the true vessel for all of G‑d’s blessings, assuring us of a good and sweet year spiritually as well as materially.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXIX, pp. 195-202.