Shabbat Commentary

26/27 July: Pinchas : Shabbat comes in 8:44 pm,  ends  9:55 pm

In this week’s Parasha, God makes it clear that Moshe’s time is nearly at hand: “Ascend this mountain of Abarim and look upon the land that I am giving to the Israelites.  And when you have seen it, you will be gathered to your kin also, as was your brother Aharon” (Num. 27:12-13) Moshe doesn’t, as one might expect, renew his pleas to be allowed to enter the Land.  Instead, he responds, “Let Adonai, Source of the breath [ruach; also “spirit”] of all flesh, appoint a person over the congregation.  One who will go out before them and who will come in before them, and who will take them out and bring them in, and do not let the congregation of Adonai be like sheep without a shepherd” (Num. 27:16-17).  God immediately names Yehoshua bin Nun, “a man who has spirit [ruach] in him” (Num. 27:18), upon whom Moshe will lay his hand, and whom he will then present to the Cohanim and the people.

The commentator, Rashi cites a Midrash here that Moshe asks God to, “choose for them a leader who will consider each one according to his outlook.”  In other words, God is both being called upon to exercise a unique ability to see individuals as individuals, and to name a leader whom God knows will do the same.  By putting God in charge of the selection, Moshe is co-opting God into working with the next leader, as God’s choice, just as Moshe himself was God’s choice.  Moreover, despite his own metaphor, Moshe is not asking for a mere shepherd of sheep – he is asking for a leader “who will not be a leader of only their bodies alone, but will lead the spirits” (Malbim [R. Meir Leibush b. Yehiel Michel, Russia 19th C.] to Num. 27:16).

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman




July 25, 2019