Thursday, July 14, 2011
Pinchas 5771 - Covenant & Conversation - Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks speaks on the weekly Torah
Embedded in this week's parsha is one of the great principles of leadership.
The context is this: Moses, knowing that he was not destined to lead the next generation across the Jordan into the promised land, asked God to appoint a successor.
He remembered what happened when he was away from the Israelites for a mere 40 days. They panicked and made a golden calf. Even when he was present, there was a rebellion on the part of Korach and others against his leadership. The possibility of rift or schism if he died without a designated successor was immense. So he said to God:
"May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community to go out before them and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in. Let the Lord's people not be like sheep without a shepherd." (Num, 27: 16-17)
God duly chose Joshua, and Moses inducted him. One detail in Moses' request, however, always puzzled me. Moses asked for a leader who would "go out before them and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in."
That, surely, is saying the same thing twice. If you go out before the people, you are leading them out. If you come in before the people, you are bringing them in. Why then say the same thing twice?
The answer comes from a direct experience of leadership itself.