Torah Insights for Shabbat Parashat Pinchas
July 18, 1998
Rabbi Joseph Radinsky
In Parshas Pinchas, Yehoshua is chosen to be the leader of the Jewish people. What were the characteristics of Yehoshua that made him the worthy successor of his teacher Moshe?
Jewish tradition requires leaders who can bring out the best in others, as the Torah describes it, "one who will lead them out and bring them in."
Moshe, in asking G-d to appoint a new leader, says, "You are the G-d of the spirits of all flesh." Moshe prayed, says the Midrash, "Sovereign of the universe, You know the minds of all men and how the mind of one man differs from that of another. Appoint over them a leader who will be able to bear with the differing minds of every one of Your children."
In other words, Moshe prays that Hashem choose a leader who is able to bring out the best in others. A leader who brings out the worst in others by polarizing the community has not done his job.
This principle is found in sports. Very rarely do you find a baseball manager or a football coach who was a star player. The reason mangers and coaches are successful is not because they were brilliant players (most werent), but because they know how to bring out the best in others.
The Torah describes the pre-Messianic era as being led by a dog. What does this mean? When a dog and its master go out for a walk, the dog usually runs ahead. It appears that the dog is leading the man, but every once in a while, the dog looks back toward its master to see which way to go.
Unfortunately, many leaders of todays societies do not lead. They just look back every once in a while to see in which direction those they are supposed to be leading want them to go.
A successful leader must do what he thinks is right and not act based on what the polls are saying. He must have noble goals and set proper standards. A real leader teaches by example; his method is, as the Torah puts it, to "go out before them and come in before them."
A leader must tolerate the foibles and errors of the people he leads. Often, a leader must bear the problems until he is able to solve them.
But some leaders equate tolerance with approval and cannot lead because they always divide the people.
Yehoshua was chosen as leader of the Jewish people because his actions united them and did not divide them. He brought out the best in them. He set the standards and knew when to tolerate and when to disapprove.
This is the type of leadership we always need. Charisma and brilliance may be nice, but other things are far more important.Rabbi Joseph Radinsky
Rabbi Radinsky is rabbi of the United Orthodox Synagogue in Houston, Texas.
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