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Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

“God said to Moses, ”Take to yourself Joshua, son of Nun,
a man in whom there is spirit, and lean your hand upon him.” (Numbers 27:18)

Parashat Pinchas is when God confirms to Moses he will get a glimpse of the Land of Canaan before he dies but will not enter it (Num. 27:12-13). Moses accepts his fate but beseeches God to provide the right leader for the people (Num. 27:13) This request hits home to us in the US, coming on the heels of both the Republican and Democratic national conventions.

Moses then lists the qualities the leader should possess (Num. 27:16-17). Rabbi Abraham Twerski (1930 – ; American Chassidic rabbi and psychiatrist specializing in substance abuse) provides a commentary: “Let the Lord, Source of the breath of all flesh, appoint someone over the community…” (Someone with better than average wisdom and character) “…who shall go out before them and come in before them…” (Someone who is a role model, setting proper standards of behavior for the people to follow) “…so that the Lord’s people may not be like sheep that have no shepherd for them.” (Someone who defines leadership as service to the people and not an opportunity for personal gain) This seems like a pretty good list of leadership attributes.

The rub, of course, is the perception of leadership is subjective and in the eyes of the beholder. No single individual, not even Moses, can satisfy everybody all the time. In fact, a universally- beloved leader is suspected of not exerting authority and responsibility properly (Babylonian Talmud Ketubot 105b). This means the essence of leadership is doing what is right, not necessarily what is popular.

God responds to Moses by designating Joshua as his successor; that’s how a theocracy works. In a modern democracy, however, the decision is ours to make.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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