by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
The great transition is about to take place.
Moses' career as a leader is coming to an end. Joshua was leadership is about to begin. Moses blesses his successor. Then God does. Listen carefully to what they say, and to the subtle difference between. This is what Moses says:
"Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance." (31: 7)
And this is what God says:
"Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you." (31: 23)
The difference in Hebrew is even slighter than it is in English. Moses uses the verb tavo, "go with". God uses the verb tavi, "bring." It is the slightest of nuances, but Rashi tells us the words are worlds apart in their significance. They refer to two utterly different styles of leadership.
Here is Rashi's comment:
Moses said to Joshua, "Make sure that the elders of the generation are with you. Always act according to their opinion and advice." However, the Holy One blessed be He said to Joshua, "For you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them" -- meaning, "Bring them even against their will. It all depends on you. If necessary, take a stick and beat them over the head. There is only one leader for a generation, not two." (Rashi to Deuteronomy 31:7)
Moses advises his successor to lead by consultation and consensus. God tells Joshua to lead firmly and with authority. Even if people do not agree with you, you must lead from the front. Be clear. Be decisive. Be forceful. Be strong.