parasha

Pinchas 5779

"Let the Lord, the G-d of spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go forth before them and come before them, who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd."
(Numbers 27, 16-17)
Moses does not worry about himself. He worries about the fate of the nation. He asks G-d to choose a dedicated leader for the nation. And his request is answered as G-d tells him:

"Take for yourself Joshua the son of Nun, a man of spirit, and you shall lay your hand upon him… By his word they shall go, and by his word they shall come…”
(Ibid Ibid, 18 – 21)



A midrash on the book of Numbers, called Sifri, compares Moses to Joshua with the following description:
“The face of Moses was like the sun; the face of Joshua was like the moon.”
(Sifri, Numbers, paragraph 140)
Joshua did indeed take Moses’ place, but that didn’t mean they were equals. There was a big difference between Moses and Joshua, like the difference between the sun and the moon. Why were the sun and the moon used to illustrate the difference between these two men?
Simply, the sages of the midrash meant to say that a leader illuminates for the entire nation the path it should take. He does this not only by the political decisions he makes but also as a role model. A leader who acts with integrity and justice radiates these values upon the entire nation and illuminates their lives. Therefore, say the sages, Moses illuminated as the sun illuminates the day while Joshua illuminated as the moon illuminates the night – with a much weaker light.
On another level, the comparison between the sun and the moon shows us the relationship between Moses and Joshua in a new light. As Rabeinu BeChayei Ben Asher (Spain, 1255 – 1340) said in his commentary on the Torah:

“Just as the light of the moon does not come from itself, [but] only gets its light from the sun, so does Joshua get from Moses.”
(Commentary of Rabeinu BeChayei on Numbers 27, 20)



Joshua was the Jewish nation’s second leader. He faced different options of leadership methods. He could have gone in a direction that differed from that of the previous leader, Moses. Joshua was “a man of spirit” and we might have expected him to be innovative in his leadership. But Joshua chose to be a student of Moses’ and continue in his path. He chose to be like the moon that gets its light from the sun.
If we thought that the comparison between Moses and Joshua is an attempt to describe Joshua’s comparative weakness, we now understand that it is actually praising Joshua who chose to continue Moses’ leadership and learn from him rather than create a new and independent path.
Joshua teaches us how to see leadership roles. We are all, actually, leaders – of students, of our families, of ourselves. First and foremost, leadership demands responsibility. The preservation of continuity and tradition is the first condition of behaving responsibly. Truthfully, leadership in different times demands different modes of action. Leadership in a monarchic culture is not the same as leadership in a democratic and free culture. And blind comparisons can’t be made between different generations. But every change has to be made responsibly and carefully, with the underlying goal being the preservation of tradition.
Joshua, who preferred getting his light from Moses, is the ideal leader who G-d appoints to follow Moses; therefore, he is also the ideal role model for each and every one of us.

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