Dear Congregation Kehillah and Friends,
Moses is told that his life is nearing its end and that he will not be accompanying the Israelites into the Land of Israel. His request of God focuses on what he believes to be the qualities required of his successor:
"May the Lord, God of the various spirits of all flesh, appoint a person over the [community] who will go out before them and come in before them [empowering them to follow his lead] and who will take them out and bring them in [caringly, lovingly nurture them], so that God's community shall not be like a sheep without a shepherd."
Moses was the leader of a group of newly freed slaves who had spent their lives in servitude; his successor would be the leader of a self-confident people equipped with a law code and a driving purpose, primed to enter into the land that was promised to them, free of the demoralization their parents and grandparents endured.
describes Moses' preparations for transferring the mantle of leadership to Joshua. Moses ordained Joshua by laying his hand on Joshua's head publically, much the same way as a rabbi is ordained today.
is named after Pinchas, yet it was Joshua and not Pinchas who was chosen as Moses' successor.
Pinchas was a kohen/a priest, grandson of Aaron, son of Elazar, both High Priests during the time of the wandering in the desert. Pinchas committed a horrendous act of zealotry for a cause in which he strongly believed. He thought he was absolutely 'right' (and perhaps, may have been)...and he went very far to prove it. He was rewarded with a covenant of peace.
The story is a very difficult one to understand. How can one be rewarded for a heroic act that his descendants are asked never to emulate?
As we learn time after time in the Torah, no leader is perfect. A good leader combines passion and wisdom and makes room for others to step up, grow and share in leadership. Different styles of leadership are required for different times.
Our great Rabbi and commentator, Rashi, taught that a leader must have a clear set of values, but be diligent in listening to alternative viewpoints and even make determinations that are sometimes at odds with following 'the party line.' Joshua was that kind of leader. He was able to unify the Israelites and led them in the successful conquest and settlement in the Land of Israel. If only we had leaders like this today!
Ideology is important, but only takes us so far.
Civil discourse, respectful consideration of viewpoints that differ from our own...this is what makes us able to live together in a society that works for the common good. How can we learn if we only listen to those who think as we do? The covenant of peace given to Pinchas may have been aspirational.
Monday night the 31st and Tuesday, August 1st is Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the month of Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar on which both Temples were destroyed (the first in 586 BCE by the Babylonians and the second in 70 CE by the Romans). We are taught that the 'back story' of why the Second Temple was destroyed was because of the senseless and baseless hatred of one person towards another in a climate of strong ideological convictions (in dealing with the common enemy - Rome).
What are the qualities of the leaders we need now? It's something to think about in the charged political climate of today, rife with strong ideological pronouncements which, at first, may sound admirable if you follow that line of thinking, but ultimately alienating and potentially threatening to the community if they disallow and exclude those who think differently.
A kavannah for candle lighting on Shabbat Pinchas
Torah has much to say about leadership! Be part of an amazing 4,000-year-old conversation, as relevant today as it has always been: Join us when Torah Talk resumes for great insights, perhaps just what you've been looking for!
Help me to integrate my passions and fervor with balance, kindness, compassion and understanding , knowing when to act and when to take a step back, so that my actions lead to goodness and healing in the world.