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D’var Torah: Parashat Pinchas

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In this week’s D’var Torah for Pinchas, the Chief Rabbi explains why Moshe Rabbeinu was a truly great leader.

Great leaders are not irreplaceable. They ensure that they will be replaced by the best possible person. This was the hallmark of the greatest of all of our leaders – Moshe Rabbeinu.

In Parashat Pinchas, Hashem informs Moshe that he is just about to pass away. Moshe expresses no remorse. He doesn’t wallow in self-pity, even though he will not be achieving his lifelong aspiration to enter into the Holy Land. What is his response? Moshe says, “Yifkod Hashem Elokei Haruchot Lechol Basar – May the Lord, the God of the spirits of every person, appoint a leader over the community.”

Moshe’s only consideration was who was going to succeed him and he went about ensuring that the mantle of leadership will be passed over from him to his successor during his lifetime. And how does Moshe describe Hashem in this context? It is a description for the Almighty we do not find anywhere else. “Hahsem Elokei Haruchot Lechol Basar – God of the spirits of every person.”

You see, Moshe recognised in Hashem the fact that He is the creator, He is the master of the entire universe and at the same time He cares about every single person.

Similarly, Moshe is saying, the type of leader I would like to be succeeded by is someone who will lead the nation at global level but would also be a person who cares about every single individual within that nation.

Here we find the attribute that is necessary for a truly great leader. It is not just a national leader, it could be an organisational leader or the chairman of a shul. They have to worry about the entire community, the direction that the whole entity is moving in and, at the same time, they need to have genuine care for every single person who makes up that community.

We have a fascinating bracha to be recited on rare occasions. When you see more than six hundred thousand Jewish people, we say, “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam Chacham HaRazim – Blessed is the Lord, the God of the entire universe who has the knowledge of the secrets of every person.”

When seeing such a vast crowd of people one would have thought that the bracha is over the extraordinary nature such a huge group of people, but instead the bracha mentions the fact that Hashem knows the secrets in the minds of each person. What is most important in that large gathering is every single individual. That is exactly what Moshe identified as being the characteristic of a great leader – to lead the nation and also to care for every single person.

So therefore, here in our Parasha, we have one great leader, passing on the mantle to another great leader and yet again the Torah shows the way.

Shabbat Shalom