7/05/2018

Shabbat Pinhas

Candles - July 6th @ 8:10 pm
Havdalah - July 7th @ 9:05 pm

As Moses prepares to die, he asks God to appoint a successor. His words are “Someone who will go out before them, who will come in before them. Who will take them out and bring them in. So that the people will not be like a flock without a shepherd” (Numbers 27:16-17).

This 'taking out' and 'bringing in' is what a shepherd does with his flock and this is the characteristic of a good leader. To set examples, to show concern and involvement. Not to be detached, remote or insensitive to the needs of people. And sadly, today in politics or the rabbinate this becoming rarer.

Why didn't Moses ask God to appoint one of his own two sons? There are several examples in the Bible of fathers wanting their sons to succeed them even though they were inadequate and even corrupt. The sons of Eli and Samuel for example. But our tradition gives us mixed messages.

On the one hand, the Talmud (Nedarim 71a) says “Why do children of Talmidei Chachamim ( scholars, rabbis) rarely become Talmidei Chachamim? So that one shouldn’t assume that Torah can be passed in like an inheritance.” One has to earn it not inherit it. Yet the Kingship became hereditary and so did the priesthood. When they both failed the rabbis introduced the Sanhedrin which was a meritocracy, to begin with. Although over time it too ended up having dynasties that eventually wore themselves out.

Medieval Jewry tended to reinstate heredity in the rabbinate and gave priority to sons. And Hasidism reintroduced the idea of sons taking over even when they were clearly second rate. The Bible does indeed talk about how one generation influences the next and how generations decline. But like so many areas it gives us different options and models.

Here in the USA, we have a similar conflict. Presidential families try to pass on hereditary leadership. Disrupters try to break those chains. Sometimes they work well. Sometimes not. It was for that reason that Moses could not decide and asked God to intervene.