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Succession of Leadership

Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady wrote a book called Launching a Leadership Revolution. In their book, the describe the “five levels of fluence”:

· Learn: a leader must be able to learn from anyone.

· Perform: persevere through failure to find success.

· Lead: extend your abilities by expanding your team.

· Develop other leaders: learn to trust your people.

· Develop leaders who develop other leaders: create a legacy of succession.

In Parashat Yitro, Yitro recommends that Moshe appoints quality men to be leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands. Parashat Pinchas gives us a wonderful example of leadership. First, we learn about Pinchas, which is a continuation from the previous Parasha. Pinchas stepped up and stopped a plague. His act of zealousness was rewarded. He, and his descendants merited to be Kohanim. Later, Moshe knew that he would not be able to enter Eretz Yisrael. He asked G-d to appoint a successor.

יִפְקֹ֣ד יְהֹוָ֔ה אֱלֹהֵ֥י הָרוּחֹ֖ת לְכׇל־בָּשָׂ֑ר אִ֖ישׁ עַל־הָעֵדָֽה

אֲשֶׁר־יֵצֵ֣א לִפְנֵיהֶ֗ם וַאֲשֶׁ֤ר יָבֹא֙ לִפְנֵיהֶ֔ם וַאֲשֶׁ֥ר יוֹצִיאֵ֖ם וַאֲשֶׁ֣ר יְבִיאֵ֑ם וְלֹ֤א תִהְיֶה֙ עֲדַ֣ת יְהֹוָ֔ה כַּצֹּ֕אן אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֵין־לָהֶ֖ם רֹעֶֽה

“May the Lord, God of the spirits of all flesh, choose a person over the congregation who will go out before them and come in 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” (Bamidbar 27:16-17).

Who would be his successor? None other than Joshua. Joshua had been Moshe’s right-hand man throughout the whole journey so far since B’nai Yisrael were taken out of Egypt. Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe said that Joshua even went up Har Sinai, as far as he could go, pitched his tent, and waited there.

According to Rashi, G-d knows the character and intricacies of each person (Tanchuma, Pinchas, 11). A leader must be someone who can bear with each person. A leader is someone who can honor the diversity of each person and build a cohesive unit. Leaders truly care about others, including: the orphan, widow, and the stranger. George Bana said “Every leader has an incomplete set of tools to lead with and must, therefore, know what he can and cannot do. Effective leaders overcome their weaknesses by combining forces with (others) whose strengths compensate for those weaknesses, thereby creating a more complete and powerful mix of gifts and abilities.” Leaders are self-less and do not get caught up in ego. It demands self-discipline and sacrifice.

Another example of leadership are the daughters of Zelophehad. Zelophehad of the tribe of Manasseh, had died in the wilderness before the allocation of the land. He left five daughters but no sons. The daughters came before Moses, arguing that it would be unjust for his family to be denied their share in the land simply because he had daughters but not sons. Moses brought their case before God, who told him: “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them” (Bamidbar 27:7). And so it came to pass. The sages spoke of Zelophehad’s daughters in the highest praise. They were, they said, very wise and chose the right time to present their request. They knew how to interpret Scripture, and they were perfectly virtuous (Baba Batra 110b). They loved the land of Israel and wanted to have their share.

On July 4th, we will celebrate American Independence Day. The founders of the U.S. were leaders who sacrificed and risked their lives to build a country founded on the principles of freedom. They were deeply learned people who knew history and used history as a teacher to learn, not cancel it. They valued freedom but knew it would take hard work to keep it. Many of the founding documents drew their inspiration from the Hebrew Bible. This country was founded on the idea that we are all created with inalienable rights from our creator, not by man. One of those leaders was George Washington. He was the general that led continental army, who fought against the British.

He was involved as field commander. He did not go home for over 6 years. Instead, he led farmers and merchants and helped turn them into a formidable army. Eventually, The United States of America was born, separate from England and built on principles of freedom that would spread throughout the world. Sadly, as Rabbi Sacks wrote “we have abandoned the foundational belief that society is held together by a covenant that commits everyone to collective responsibility for the common good.”

Leaders are persistent and never give up hope because they know that G-d is helping them on their mission. Leaders recognize that they have been put in this position for a reason and strive to bring out the best in others. Pinchas, Moshe, Joshua, and the daughters of Zelophehad were all different types of leaders. Each of them stepped up when their time arrived. May we merit to recognize our time to step up and be the leader G-d wants us to be and may we have a positive influence on this world.


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