The 40 years during which Am Yisrael waited in the desert before entering the
Promised Land are about to come to an end. Of the two brothers and the sister
who led the nation, Miriam, Aharon and Moshe, two have passed away and now Moshe
remains alone with his role about to end as well.
Moshe, the great leader
who took the nation out of Egypt and bravely faced the hardships of the journey
through the desert, would very much have wanted to continue leading the nation
to the great moments of its entrance to the land. But he knows that he will not
be privileged to do so.
The sin of hitting the stone prevented Moshe and
Aharon from entering the land, “Therefore you shall not bring this assembly into
the land which I have given them.” (Numbers 20, 12).
Now, on the verge of
entering the Land of Israel and before his parting speech which we will read in
several weeks, Moshe asks G-d to choose a new leader for the nation about to
enter its land and create in it an independent and glorious state – a role which
ultimately goes to Moshe’s student, Yehoshua bin Nun.
Moshe asks as
follows: “Let the Lord, the G-d of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the
congregation, who may go out before them, and who may come in before them, and
who may lead them out, and who may bring them in; that the congregation of the
Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” (Numbers 27, 16-17) Moshe prefaces
his detailed request with a rare name for Hashem, “the G-d of all spirits of all
flesh.” The meaning of this name has been explained by sages as the main and
outstanding quality of the intended leader, according to Moshe’s
This is how the midrash explains Moshe’s request: “Lord of the
Universe, it is clear and known to You the opinion of every single person, and
the opinions of Your children are not similar to one another. Please, if You
choose to appoint a leader over them, appoint a person who tolerates each and
every one according to their opinions.” (Yalkut Shimoni, Parshat Pinhas) Who
better than Moshe understood the complex and sensitive role of leadership? The
last 40 years during which Moshe led the nation taught us the traits necessary
for the leader of the nation, the first of which is the incredible ability to be
“the leader of everyone”; to understand the opinion of each person, to
understand the desires of the rich as well as the poor, to show sensitivity to
women and to men, to the young and the elderly.
This is the first and
basic quality that Moshe feels must be present in the leader of the nation. But
this trait can also be an expression of weakness and inability to stand on
principle. There are those who indeed understand everyone, but they are so
accepting that they lose their own personal stand.
continues and details the traits necessary for leadership: “Who may go out
before them, and who may come in before them, and who may lead them out, and who
may bring them in.”
The leader Moshe is requesting is not a man who can
be dragged around or whose opinion can be changed with every passing breeze.
This is a person with leadership abilities, a person who
can lead the masses, a man who has the spiritual ability to call “After me!”
without neglecting the importance of listening to each and every
Strong leadership abilities, along with tolerance and acceptance
of every person, create the suitable personality for leading the nation – a
personality capable of leading the nation into a promising and victorious
The writer is rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites.