Parsha Pinchas: Lessons of leadership

As rockets attack the Land of Israel, we should keep in mind the song of the Pilgrim’s ascent to Jerusalem, Psalm 122, where in verse 8 we read:  לְמַעַן אַחַי וְרֵעָי אֲדַבְּרָה נָּא שָׁלוֹם בָּךְ  For the sake of my brothers and my companions, I will say “Peace be within you.”

Dear Scouts:
In parsha Pinchas this week, we have an interesting discussion of leadership. God reminds Moses that he will not enter Israel, as punishment for having struck the rock for water in the Wilderness of Zin instead of asking it for water as God had commanded.

Moses then says to God, “May the Lord, God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the assembly who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall take them out and bring them in; and let the assembly of the Lord not be like sheep that have no shepherd.”

God said to Moses, “Take to yourself Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom there is spirit, and lean your hand upon him. You shall stand him before Elazar the Kohen and before the entire assembly, and command him before their eyes. You shall place some of your majesty upon him, so that the entire assembly of Israel will pay heed.”

These sentences teach us some great lessons about leadership.

First, a leader must have strong character or, as it is called here, “spirit”. The Hebrew word used is רוּחַ (ruach), which also means “wind”. The spirit of the leader must be such that, like the wind, it can move others in the direction the leader thinks the group should go.

Next, the leader must have studied what he is to do. Joshua was Moses’ untiring student, who is described as never leaving Moses’ tent, so that he could learn from the master. (Exodus 33:11)

Not only should the leader have studied how to lead, but he will benefit from having been well-trained by his mentor. God commanded Moses to lean his hand upon Joshua, meaning impart wisdom to his student. Two verses after this commandment, the Torah tells us that Moses leaned both hands on Joshua, which Rashi interprets to mean that Moses made Joshua like a vessel that is full and brimming over with wisdom. (Rashi to Numbers 27:23)
The new leader is presented to the people in the presence of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, to impress everyone with the solemnity of the leader’s work.

The old leader places some of his majesty on his student, so that the people, who have come to know the master’s work, will admire the student because of his association with such a great leader.
What qualities do you admire in a leader? If you were a leader, how would you turn over your work to the person taking your place?

Good leaders do not leave their responsibilities until they have prepared someone to take over. Remember the old saying, “No one is a success without a successor.” Have you trained your assistant or other Scouts to take over your patrol or troop job?

Shabbat shalom,
©2014 Nelson R. Block