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Parshat Pinchas (5771)

This week's Torah portion tells us of the changing of leadership from Moses to Yehoshua.

According to Judaism at the beginning of any endeavor we must pray to G-d. So too here, Moses, knowing that he is not to enter Israel, prays to G-d and asks Him to appoint a replacement in order that:


At first glance this is not a nice comparison for Moses to make. Why liken the Jews to sheep? Why not liken them to a people without a king, travelers without a guide or even a man without sight? Why to animals?

In fact why use a metaphor at all? G-d certainly knew that the Jews cannot exist without a leader, why did Moses add this comparison?

Here is a story that might help us understand. (HaYidion, Kfar Chabad, 30.6.11)

This scene is by the gravesite of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in New York, just five years ago (2006). The story was told by Rabbi Yitzchak Idan, presently the Mayor of Elad but then the head of a Torah academy (Kollel) in Bnei Brak.

He, like hundreds of thousands of other Jews throughout the year visited this holy place to pray and receive spiritual encouragement.

He sat in the large tent (ohel) near the grave and remembered the first time he entered the Rebbe’s room over thirty years earlier, The Rebbe’s gaze left him speechless and all the blessings the Rebbe gave him came to fruition.

But then he noticed something unusual. A boy and girl in their early teens were standing near the door eagerly examining everyone that entered. They were too young to be plain clothed security guards so it wasn’t clear what exactly they were doing but they certainly were up to something.

Rabbi Idan even mentioned it to his friend that accompanied him. Obviously the young couple was looking for someone or something and they seemed quite helpless. So the Rabbi’s friend approached them and asked if he could help.

They seemed shocked that anyone noticed them, shook their heads no, and quickly left the large room to avoid him.

But when they returned just moments later and he again asked them they softened up, realized that he only wanted to help and revealed their secret.

They told him that they were brother and sister. He was fifteen and she two years younger. Twelve years ago their father and mother had a big argument that involved their mother’s entire family and their father left the house never to return.

No one dreamed that it would come to that, they kept hoping that he would show up any day, but the weeks, months, and years passed and not only did he not show up but no one, not even his own family, knew where he was.

Their mother raised them as best as she could but as the years went by their longing to see their father grew and grew until it became unbearable and managed to creep into almost every conversation they had. Then one day one of their friends suggested that they write a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, put it in one of his holy books and wait for an answer.

The girl took the advice, she had never done such a thing before and didn’t really know much about the Rebbe but nevertheless she wrote the letter, went to a nearby Chabad House, put it in a book and waited. And she didn’t have to wait long.

A few days later, which was last night, she had a dream. She was standing in a long line of people waiting to get ‘dollars’ from the Rebbe and when her turn came she burst out in tears. She had seen pictures of him but this time it was in person. The Rebbe then gave her a dollar, told her to stop crying and that if she wanted to see her father she should go to the ‘Ohel’ and there she will meet him.

So that’s why they were here. They came here for the first time in their lives and were waiting with complete faith that the dream would materialize.

They didn’t even have a picture of their father. The only sign they had was that their mother often had said that the face of the boy was similar to that of their father’s and of the girl to the mother.

Rabbi Idan and his friend were overcome with emotion and curiosity. They had a busy schedule planned out before them for the day but they weren’t able to leave. They felt that they were about to witness a miracle. When others who were there noticed the excitement of the Rabbis they too asked the young couple what they said and within a short time there were tens of people waiting at a distance for something to happen.

People constantly trickled into the tent and nothing seemed to be happening. But after a short time a tour bus stopped before the place, tourists began to exit one after the other, entered the large tent and become swallowed up in the crowd while the brother and sister examined the face of each middle aged male that entered.

Then there descended from the bus a distinguished man dressed in an expensive business jacket with a straw hat. When he entered the tent his gaze caught the eyes of the young couple and he stopped for a second and returned their stare.

Rabbi Idan relates, “From where I stood it was possible to see that the man approached the girl and began the conversation. He asked her something and then the brother joined in. It seems to me that what caused him to approach her was her similarity to her mother. After a few minutes they all burst out crying. This was the father they had been seeking! Ten minutes afterwards the three of them left the tent, while constantly wiping tears of joy from their faces, entered a taxi and left”

This answers our question. Moses compared leaderless Jews to a flock with no shepherd because there is no such thing, at least not for very long. Without a Shepherd to unite the sheep they become scattered and lost. As we see in our story.

But Moses was implying something even deeper. The job of a true Jewish leader is to keep the Jews together by reminding them of their ‘Jewish’ soul: Namely their ability and responsibility to reveal the Creator in His creation. This is the true unifying factor in the Jewish people and without this we are not much different from the animals.

That is why Abraham, who founded Judaism, was called the ‘Father of all Nations’ and what is implied in the ‘motto’ of Judaism; “Shema Yisroel” prayer (see Rashi Deut. 6:4); namely to ‘unify’ the Creator and the creation.

Therefore, what Moses was ultimately referring was the ultimate leader of the Jewish people (see Rambam Laws of Kings chapt 11); the Moshiach.

As the Rambam writes; Moshiach will finish the work begun by Abraham and fulfill the ‘Shma Yisroel’ by building the Third Temple, bringing all the Jews back to Israel and ‘filling the earth with the awareness of the Creator.’

But it all depends on us. We must learn the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and bring them into reality.

Then, just one more good deed, word or even thought can turn the world over and bring

Moshiach NOW!

Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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