By Rabbi Joshua (spiritedly known as The Hoffer) Hoffman [z"l]
After informing Moshe that the daughters of Tzelaphchad, who dies without sons, would inherit his portion of land in Eretz Yisroel, God tells him to ascend the mountain of Ebarim and view the land, because he would not enter it. Upon hearing this, Moshe asks God to appoint a leader over the nation, and God tells him to take Yehoshua, “a man in whom there is spirit”, and appoint him as the new leader (Bamidbar 27:18). What quality did Yehoshua possess that led God to describe him in this way, and how did it uniquely qualify him to lead the people into Eretz Yisroel and conquer it?
Rabbi Hillel Lieberman, H”yd, in his Ahavas Ha-Aretz, says that the spirit referred to here is an allusion to the spirit mentioned in regard to Yosef, Yehoshua’s ancestor in Parshas Mikeitz. After Yosef interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and told him to seek out a discerning and wise man to prepare Egypt for the years of famine foretold in the dream, Pharaoh told him servants, regarding Yosef, “could we find another like him – a man in whom is the spirit of God?” (Bereishis 41:37). Thus, God was telling Moshe to appoint as the new leader Yehoshua, because he had the same quality that Yosef possessed, as described by Pharaoh. What, then, was this quality, and how did it relate to the conquering of Eretz Yisroel?
We have explained in the past that what was extraordinary about Yosef was that through the way he explained Pharaoh’s dream and advised him, he was able to convince him, a former idolater, that it was God who controlled events in the world, and who would bring the famine to the land. This was “the spirit of God” that Yosef possessed, and that was shared by Yehoshua, and used by him in leading the nation into Eretz Yisroel. As Rav Kook taught, Eretz Yisroel is the land on which the Jewish people was charged to fulfill its function as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, teaching all of humanity that religion is not something relegated to people who live on a mountain top removed from the world, but relevant to all aspects of life, to a nation fully involved in the social, economic and political realms that are necessary for the proper functioning of a society. Yosef’s example of convincing the former idolater, Pharaoh, that it is, indeed, God who rules the universe, and that a man who has within him the spirit of God is the proper person to organize the affairs of state in preparation for a coming crisis, would thus inform Yehoshua in leading the nation into Eretz Yisroel, and serving its function as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.