13 Jul Rabbi Hillel Skolnik’s Torah Spark for Pinchas 5777
Torah Spark for Parashat Pinchas 5777
This Shabbat we read from Parashat Pinchas, which is famous for containing the special maftir aliyot for all the major Jewish holidays of the year. Among the other important moments in this week’s portion is when Moshe’s successor is formally established. Moshe is instructed to take Joshua and lay his hands upon him in front of Elazar the High Priest and the entirety of the People of Israel, thus signifying the impending transference of leadership that will take place upon Moshe’s passing. What is fascinating is that this moment is the result of Moshe’s initiative as he asks God to determine now who the leader of the future will be. Only then does God command Moshe to conduct this ceremony with Joshua. In my eyes, this is one of the most important acts of Moshe’s 40+ years of leading the people. Recognizing that the Israelites need to know who will lead them after he’s gone and not being threatened by the presence of that future leader during his final days is a model all leaders should follow. We are blessed to live in a time when in stable democracies power can be transferred from one party to another without bloodshed. But we also know, even within our own Jewish community, how turbulent transition can be when no succession of leadership is formally established. Moshe deserves tremendous credit in this moment for saving his people from potential upheaval and doing so with grace and dignity.
Rabbi Hillel Skolnik