Parshat Pinhas: A leader of everyone

The 40 years during which Am Yisrael waited in the desert before entering the Promised Land are about to come to an end.

June 27, 2013 20:51
3 minute read.

Bible 521. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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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.

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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 opinion.

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.

Therefore, Moshe 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. Absolutely not.

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 person.

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 future.

The writer is rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites.

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