Parashat Pinhas

Who's Next? The Change And Challenge Of Leadership

The transition in leadership from Moses to Joshua provides us with a model for contemporary changes in leadership.

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We pray for all who hold positions of leadership and responsibility in our national life. Let Your blessing rest upon them, and make them responsive to Your will, so that our nation may be to the world an example of justice and compassion (Gates of Prayer for Shabbat and Weekdays, CCAR Press, p. 186).

It being the will of God that our race should exist and be permanently established, God in His wisdom gave it such properties that a human being can acquire the capacity of ruling others. Some persons are therefore inspired with theories of legislation, such as prophets and lawgivers; others possess the power of enforcing the dictates of the former and of compelling people to obey them and to act accordingly (Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed).

No Person except a natural born Citizen or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of 35 Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States (United States Constitution, Article II, Section 1, Clause 5).

When Moses here addressed himself to God, he thought that perhaps his sons would succeed him. But God told him that it was not to be as he imagined: "Joshua will be the one to come in your place, not your sons. For he served you many years, rising in the morning to prepare the house of study--arranging the benches, straightening the mats, and doing the same in the evenings. By right he is, therefore, the one to succeed you." Thus it is written [in Proverbs 27:18], "He who guards a fig tree shall eat its fruit" (Yalkut Shimoni).

Because of not daring to be ahead of the world, one becomes the leader of the world (The Way of Lao-Tzu).

The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on…. The genius of a good leader is to leave behind him a situation that common sense, without the grace of genius, can deal with successfully (Walter Lippman in "Roosevelt Has Gone," April 14, 1945).

It says, literally, "Appoint someone over the community" [Numbers 27:16]. Moses asked for a man among men; a man, not a superman; a man, not a burning zealot like Pinhas (Al HaTorah, vol. IV, p. 445).

Your Guide

Based on King David’s advice and the Gates of Prayer selection, how do you think faith and religion play a part in governance?

In Numbers 27:20, “Seek the decision of the Urim before Adonai,” the Torah makes a direct connection between God and leadership. How does this compare to the way in which Maimonides understands God’s involvement in the creation of leaders?

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Cantor Janice L. Roger

Janice L. Roger is the cantor at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, Indianapolis, IN.