Parashat Pinhas

The Limits Of Leadership

Pinhas' violent act raises questions about the extent of any leader's authority.

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Regardless of which approach we take, this week's portion drives home the theme that no leader, not even Moses, has any absolute or permanent claim on authority over the Children of Israel. Leaders are certainly important, and sometimes they must take risks. However, as the commentators point out, they will always have to answer to the judgments of God and history, and it is the responsibility of the people to analyze their leaders' choices and decide whether they were the correct ones to follow.

Similarly, the entire Children of Israel, too, must be held accountable to the divine purpose. And just as the decisions of their leaders will be scrutinized and judged, the actions of future generations of Jews will be judged as well.

Ultimately, only successive generations of both leaders and the people are able to collectively fulfill the divine covenant. It takes the continued struggle and faith of each generation in order to enter the Promised Land and to fulfill the purposes of Jewish history. Equally, the Torah shows God's ultimate faith in us that, even if it does take many generations, we will ultimately be able to complete our journey.

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Simha Rosenberg

Simha Rosenberg is the New York Associate Director for the New Israel Fund.