Torah Weekly

For the week ending 11 July 2015 / 24 Tammuz 5775

Parshat Pinchas

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d tells Moshe to inform Pinchas that Pinchas will receive G-d's "covenant of peace" as reward for his bold action - executing Zimri and the Midianite princess Kozbi. G-d commands Moshe to maintain a state of enmity with the Midianites who lured the Jewish People into sin. Moshe and Elazar are told to count the Jewish People. The Torah lists the names of the families in each tribe. The total number of males eligible to serve in the army is 601,730. G-d instructs Moshe how to allot the Land of Israel to Bnei Yisrael. The number of the Levites' families is recorded. Tzlofchad's daughters file a claim with Moshe. In the absence of a brother, they request their late father's portion in the Land. Moshe asks G-d for the ruling, and G-d tells Moshe that their claim is just. The Torah teaches the laws and priorities which determine the order of inheritance. G-d tells Moshe that he will ascend a mountain and view the Land that the Jewish People will soon enter, although Moshe himself will not enter. Moshe asks G-d to designate the subsequent leader, and G-d selects Yehoshua bin Nun. Moshe ordains Yehoshua as his successor in the presence of the entire nation. The Parsha concludes with special teachings of the service in the Beit Hamikdash.


Iron Man

“May G-d… appoint a man over the assembly who shall go out in front of them and who shall come in before them…” (27:16-17)

Democracy has many virtues: its greatest weakness however is that it produces politicians rather than statesmen.

When power is vouchsafed to the continuing popularity of the leader, that leader will always be looking over his shoulder to make sure that he still has the support of his power-base. He seeks the advice of spin-doctors to make palatable the compromises that bought his election support. His media image is as, if not more, important than the content of his policies. His every word and move reflect his dependence on the electorate.

In Britain in the twentieth century, two people come to mind who managed to climb above petty-politicking and ascend to the level of statesmanship: Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. Interestingly both owed their initial power-base to the Jewish vote. Churchill started his political career as Member of Parliament for Manchester North West where the Jewish vote was significant, and Mrs. Thatcher’s parliamentary seat was East Finchley in London, a predominantly Jewish electorate.

I well remember the “Iron Lady’s” classic October 10th, 1980 speech, when faced with soaring unemployment from 1.5 million to 2 million within the space of a year. “The Lady’s not for turning,” said she. And Churchill’s indomitable spirit of resistance put heart and backbone into a nation standing alone against the vicious and merciless Hun.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a) says about the generation of Mashiach, “The face of the generation is the face of a dog.”

When you see someone taking his dog for a walk, the dog will often run out in front of his master, but he will be constantly looking behind him to see in which direction his master is going. The dog may be in front, but there’s no doubt who’s following whom.

Moshe sought from G-d a leader who would go out in front of the people and who would come in before them; someone who wouldn’t be constantly looking over his shoulder for approval.

And G-d answered him,“Take Yehoshua bin Nun, a man in whom there is spirit.” Rashi explains, “That he can go against the 'spirit' of each and every one.” Someone who wouldn’t be looking over his shoulder to check his “approval ratings”.

  • Sources: based on the Beit Yitzchak in the name of Rabbi Moshe Mendel; Rabbi Yisrael Salanter as seen in Lekach Tov

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