This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Pinchas (5762)
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:
"THE CONGREGATION OF G-D WILL NOT BE LIKE SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD." (27:18)
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, a few years ago (2006). The story was told by Rabbi Yitzchak Idan, who was to become the Mayor of the Israeli city of Elad but then the head of a Torah academy (Kollel) in Bne Brak.
He, like hundreds of thousands of other Jews throughout the year was visiting this holy place to pray and receive spiritual inspiriation.
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 and the blessings he had received. Then the Rebbe’s gaze had left him speechless and all the blessings he gave came to fruition.
But then he noticed something unusual. A boy and girl in their early teens were standing near the door like security guards eagerly examining everyone that entered. But something was strange about them. They were too young to be plain clothed security guards and it seemed that they were looking for something other than suspicious visitors ……. but they drew his attention and curiosity.
Rabbi Idan pointed it out to one of his friends that was accompanying him. It was clear that the young couple was looking for someone or something and they seemed quite harmless and ……. 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.
But when they returned just moments later, more confused than ever, he again approached them and this time they calmed down, realized that he only wanted to help and revealed their secret.
They told him that they were brother and sister, fifteen and thirteen years of age respectively and they were looking for their father.
When they were just babies, twelve years ago, their father left their house and they hadn’t seen him since. It seems that he and their mother got into some sort of argument, she involved her entire family and things got so out of control that he got mad and insulted and simply abandoned ship.
Everyone figured it was just temporary. Their mother regretted what happened and wanted to apologize and they were sure that he would show up any day. But the weeks, months, and years passed and not only did he not show up but they informed the police and it seems that no one, not even his own family, knew where he was.
So, with no other choice, 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 a dollar, a blessing and advice 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 told her 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. The dream she had was last night. They came here for the first time in their lives and were waiting with faith and hope 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 reminded her and was similar to that of their father’s just like the girl, his sister’s face was similar to her mother’s.
Rabbi Idan and his friend were filled with emotion from the touching story and curiosity to see what would happen. They had a busy schedule before them for the day and had planned to stay only a short time but now they weren’t able to leave. They felt that they were about to witness a miracle and when others in the crowd noticed their excitement they asked them what the young children had 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. It seems to me that what caused him to approach her was her similarity to her mother. He asked her something and then the brother joined in.
They spoke for a few minutes, he pulled out a handkerchief and covered his face then 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; why did Moses compare the Jews to sheep.
One reason is that there is no such thing; sheep without a shepherd become scattered and lost. As in our story; without the Rebbe the family would have never united. And as we know from fact, that when Jews leave Judaism only the greatest leaders can keep them from scattering, remind them of their identity and bring them back.
Another, deeper reason is that the nature of an animal is to ….. follow its nature and urges while man can follow values and truths such as honesty and kindness ABOVE nature.
The job of a true Jewish leader is to remind the Jewish people (feed them like a shepherd) so their ‘Jewish’ soul becomes strong enough to cling to Jewish values to the degree that they can ignore and even change their ‘natural’ natures to Jewish ones. Something as it will be in the days of Moshiach when the ‘world’ will be filled with the ‘awareness of G_d’.
This is the true unifying factor in the Jewish people; to follow G-dly, infinite, values……. and without this we are not much different from animals.
That is why Abraham, is not only one of the forefathers but also one of the Shepherds of the Jewish people: because he inherited to ALL the Jews the ability to be shepherds.
This is implied in the ‘motto’ of Judaism; “Shma Yisroel” prayer (see Rashi Deut. 6:4); that the Jews are to teach ALL mankind to be aware of the Creator and to ‘unify’ the Creator and His creation. That is the true meaning of ‘G-d is ONE’.
So what Moses was ultimately referring to was to was the ultimate leader of the Jewish people (see Rambam Laws of Kings chapt 11); the Moshiach who will finish the work begun by Abraham and fulfill the ‘Shma Yisroel’ and inspire the Jewish people to teach the entire world to not be sheep i.e. unaware of G-d.
As the Rambam writes; Moshiach will build the Third Temple, bring all the Jews back to Israel and ‘fill the world with the awareness of the Creator.’
But it all depends on us. If we really want Moshiach we can do it by learning the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbes (called Chassidut and Sichot) and bring them into reality (see your local Chabad House for details.
Then, just one more good deed, word or even thought can turn the world over and bring
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