Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah – Pinchas

What is the hallmark of a great leader?

In Parashat Pinchas we find Moshe appealing to Hashem prior to his passing, to appoint his successor. This would be in order to guarantee a smooth transition of authority from one leader to the next. But what would the qualities of the next leader need to be? Moshe said to Hashem, please appoint a man, ”אשר יצא לפניהם ואשר יבא לפניהם – who will go out ahead of the people and come in ahead of the people …ולא תהיה עדת ה׳ כצאן אשר אין להם רעה – in order that the assembly of the nation should not appear to be like sheep who have no shepherd”.

Why did Moshe use this particular comparison? The Ktav Sofer explains beautifully – he says, often when a shepherd guides his sheep, he allows them to run ahead to pasture, while he remains at the back, with his staff in hand in order to keep the flock together. Therefore somebody looking at this flock might not notice the shepherd lagging behind – they might appear as sheep who have no shepherd.

Why is the shepherd doing this, asks the Ktav Sofer? He is doing it to protect himself. If a thief or a wild animal should attack, at least the shepherd would be able to flee for his own life.

Moshe was appealing to Hashem for the next leader to be visible, who would be there for their sake and not merely to protect his own position. Let the next leader be one who will go out ahead of the people always, in order to guarantee their successful future.

Ever since that time, our nation has been blessed with some truly outstanding leaders who have gone out ahead of the nation, who have been visible and who have been trailblazers. It is as a result of these courageous leaders of conviction that our nation has not appeared as sheep who have no shepherd.

Shabbat shalom