Slow but Steady
So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him.” —Numbers 27:18
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Pinchas, which means “Phinehas,” from Numbers 25:10–30:1.
My family and I enjoy taking walks along the many beautiful hiking trails that Israel has to offer. On one such hike, we paused to watch a tortoise laboriously lumber across the path in front of us. My husband laughingly remarked, “Slow but steady wins the race.” Our children gave us a puzzled look. “What does that mean?” one asked.
We then explained the Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare that compete in a race. The hare is fast and swift, the tortoise, slow but steady. The hare gets a great start, but then falls asleep on the job. The tortoise can’t sprint, but keeps at it and wins the competition. The lesson, we told our children, is that “slow but steady often wins the race.” Consistency wins.
This is the underlying message we find in this week’s Torah reading where Moses named his successor: Joshua. We read that verse with the assumption that, of course, Joshua would become the next leader. In fact, according to Jewish tradition, Moses had other ideas. He thought that his own sons would have been the natural choice. Phineas would have been another worthy candidate after his heroic actions that we recently read about. Caleb wouldn’t have been a bad choice, either, as he, too, had displayed leadership qualities. God chose none of them.
The greatness of Joshua was not in any one act. He wasn’t about any grand display of righteousness or any one act of leadership. The greatness of Joshua was in his ability to do what he did day-in and day-out. And what did he do? He clung to Moses and never left his side. He made it his business to learn from Moses, draw closer to God, and to help others do the same, every single day of his life.
Joshua was that “slow but steady” personality. Nothing grand, nothing extraordinary. Just consistent and persistent. His constant acts of quiet righteousness made him a hero in the eyes of God.
Humble acts of dedication are what God values most, even more than dramatic demonstrations of bravery and heroics. We don’t need to do anything extraordinary — just be extraordinarily dedicated to all that we do.
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