Moshe directly requested of Hashem that He appoint an appropriate leader to succeed him after his passing. Hashem chose Moshe’s prize pupil, Yehoshua, as the candidate. The Midrash elaborates as to why Yehoshua was chosen: “Yehoshua serviced you and bestowed much honor upon you. He spent his days and nights in your bais medrash; he also arranged the chairs and spread the table cloths there.”
The explanation of the Midrash is difficult to comprehend: The fact that Yehoshua assumed responsibility for keeping the beis medrash neat and clean is very commendable, but in what way does it reflect greatness and leadership skills?
R’ Eliyahu Meir Bloch answers this question with a beautiful insight. Revolutionary discoveries and accomplishments are typically widely recognized and celebrated. Nobel Prize winners are wined and dined all over the world and their pictures appear in newspapers and magazines, whereas people who go about fulfilling their everyday jobs such as collecting trash, repairing electrical lines, fixing roads, etc. – tasks which are vital to the well-being of civilization – largely go unnoticed. However, a person who embodies greatness and leadership appreciates the importance of the menial tasks and celebrates the people who dutifully perform them.
It is important for a person who wishes to achieve success in their Torah studies to learn with “yishuv hadaas” – tranquility of the mind. Although achieving such tranquility is largely in one’s own hands, the ambiance of the place where they study is definitely a contributing factor. A clean beis medrash where the tables and chairs are arranged neatly and the seforim are in their proper places helps people maximize their opportunity to learn.
Yehoshua’s greatness allowed him to recognize the importance of a clean beis medrash, and he was therefore happy to personally assume the responsibility for that important task.