"And Moshe did as G-d had commanded and he took Yehoshua and stood him before Elazar Hakohen and before the people" (27:22). Moshe's role as leader was coming to an end. His fervent desire to enter the land of Israel would be denied. "G-d said to Moshe, climb the Mountain of Avarim where you will be able to see the land that I am giving to the Israelites" (27:12). Despite Moshe's personal disappointment, it is he who approached G-d with the request that a new leader be chosen.
Undoubtedly Moshe felt more than a tinge of sadness as he faithfully appointed his successor. Aaron was blessed to have his son Elazar succeed him as Kohen Gadol , and Moshe hoped the same would be true of his son (Rashi 27:15). But this was not to be. Leadership of the Jewish people would be entrusted to a non-family member.
For Moshe to anoint Yehoshua as he stood next to his nephew Elazar must have been doubly painful, highlighting as it did the contrast between his own sons and the son of his brother. No wonder Rashi (27:15) comments that Moshe demonstrated "the praise of the righteous who leave their desires and involve themselves in the needs of the community".
The failure of Moshe's son to be of leadership material may explain the differing attitudes of Aharon and Moshe towards their own deaths. We hear nary a word from Aharon about his own impending demise, and for good reason. "They (Moshe, Aharon and Elazar) went up the Mountain of Hor , in the presence of the entire community. Moshe divested Aharon of his vestments and placed them on his son Elazar" (20:27-28). In light of the tragic deaths of Aharon's two oldest sons, Aharon is comforted with the knowledge that his third son will be appointed as his successor. Aharon could thus go to his death quietly and peacefully.
Moshe, on the other hand, repeatedly pleaded to be allowed into the land of Israel, going so far as to blame the Jewish people for his death in the desert; "G-d also displayed anger at me because of you and He said: You too will not enter the land" (Devarim 1:37). He would not accept his fate and only stopped pleading to be allowed to enter the land after G-d got angry with him; "G-d said to me, Enough! Do not speak to me anymore about this" (Devarim 3:26).
While Aharon would have liked, no less than his brother, to enter the land, he was blessed to see his children carrying on his legacy. Moshe would see no such nachat . His death would mark the end of his line and that was a most painful reality, one he fought to the very end.
It is not coincidental that Moshe's successor is chosen in parshat Pinchas . The contrast between the grandchildren of Moshe and Aharon could not be more stark. "Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aharon was the one who zealously took up My cause...I have given him My covenant of peace" (25:11-12). It was the actions of Aharon's grandson that saved thousands of lives, turning back G-d's anger at the rampant idolatry and sexual immorality displayed by the Jewish people. The identification of Aharon as Pinchas' grandfather is quite unusual for Biblical identification, where generally only the father is mentioned. Pinchas, in his own unique way, was the heir to his grandfather's legacy, that of "a lover of peace and seeker of peace" (Avot 1:12).
Moshe's grandsons are nowhere mentioned in the Chumash. There is a tragic allusion (Rashi, Shoftim 18:30) made to his grandson and great-grandsons being "priests to the tribe of Dan" who were guardians of the "statue of Micha". Moshe would have nothing in common with his grandchildren. How sad!
Like many a great leader Moshe was not fully cognizant of his own greatness; "and Moshe did not know that the skin of his face had become luminous when G-d had spoken to him" (Shemot 34:29). Moshe "knew G-d face to face" (Devarim 34:10) but his humility may have led him to downplay his own uniqueness. Yet "no other prophet like Moshe has arisen in Israel " (ibid). While Moshe's biological children may have been found wanting, he was blessed with millions of children. "And you shall teach your children; these are your students" (Rashi, Devarim 6:7). Each and every Jew is the true child of Moshe. May we merit bringing honour to his legacy.