Haazinu – The Nickname That Stuck

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 Yehoshua (Joshua) Bin Nun, the successor of Moshe Rabbeinu, was given the name Hoshea at birth, and we in fact find a few times throughout the Torah his original name used. One instance is at the end of this week’s Torah portion of Haazinu, where it states: “And Moses came and spoke all the words of this song into the ears of the people he and Hoshea the son of Nun.”

The Chizkuni explains how he got the name Yehoshua: “In the beginning when he began being an attendant of Moshe Rabbeinu, Moshe called him Yehoshua, for this is normal practice of kings to change the names of their attendants, for example, Yosef, Daniel, Chananya, Mishael, and Azaryah. Now that he became the King he went back to his original name. Nevertheless in all of Tanach he is called Yehoshua because that is what he was used to being called.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

We know the nickname Yehoshua is not derogatory, because that was what Moshe used as a defense for Yehoshua against the bad influence of the spies. Also, the addition of the “yud” to the beginning of his name which starts with the letter “hay” combines to be one of Hashem’s names. However, it does seem to be a lack of respect and a detraction from the honor of the king to be called by the name he was called when he was just an attendant or servant of the previous king. Not only did he write and name the first book of Neviem by that name, Yehoshua, but he is also referred to as Yehoshua in other books of Na”Ch, which he did not write! Why just because of habit is it acceptable to call the king by the name he was called when he was just the attendant?

It would seem that the power of habit can change the rules of derech eretz, proper manners. This means that even though it would seem more appropriate to call him by Hoshea once he was king, since he already got used to being called Yehoshua, that turned into the acceptable name to refer to him as.

What we can take from this is that habit must be taken into account when deciding what is appropriate and not appropriate as long as it is not an insulting habit.