The Torah reading “Pinchas” deals with different types of leadership seen through Moses, Pinchas, Joshua, Zelophehad’s daughters and Elijah.
In this parsha Moshe was once again told that he would die before reaching the Promised Land. Knowing this Moshe asked Gd to appoint someone to take over his role as leader. Beautifully he said, “…so that Gd’s community will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Numbers 27:17). Gd told Moshe to appoint Joshua, son of Nun , to take over to take over the leadership.
This choice may have been unexpected. The Torah reading begins by focusing on Pinchas, a Levi and Aaron’s grandson. He was a passionate and zealous man who killed two idolators in front of the אוהל מועד, the holy Tent of Meeting. It was a shocking act but it averted Gd’s wrath. Gd rewarded Pinchas by giving him hereditary priesthood and also gave him “My covenant of peace”. Pinchas and his descendants were given the honour because of his zealousness for Gd. Why was Joshua chosen rather than this hero and man of action?
Joshua appears a number of times through the Torah. The first time he appears he was appointed to lead a group of refugees from Egypt in war against Amalek. He must have had leadership qualities and experience to have been chosen for the task of leading untrained men into battle. Later, when Moshe went up Mount Sinai, Joshua accompanied him and waited 40 days and 40 nights until his leader descended. In addition, when Moshe appointed 12 leaders to spy out the land of Canaan Joshua and Caleb were the two men who were enthusiastic about the the land and confident in b’nei Yisrael’s ability to conquer their enemies and settle there.
These qualities- as well as Joshua’s experience of traversing difficult land and situations, and witnessing Moshe’s leadership qualities made him an excellent choice as leader.
The narrative includes a story which shows insight to two other leadership qualities. As the division of land is being discussed five sisters, Mahla, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah from the tribe of Menashe came forward and asked for the portion of their father’s land. They told Moshe their father Zelophehad had died. There was no son to take the land. They asked for their father’s portion in order to preserve their father’s legacy and name.
Their confidence in coming forward and questioning what they felt was an unfair law shows insight and leadership. Moshe’s reaction as judge and arbitor also shows wisdom in leadership. He was unsure how to answer and turned to Gd. Gd answered that the women were correct and should receive their father’s portion.
The haftarah also addresses a change in leadership. Elijah appoints Elisha to take over from him
We see different types of abilities, strengths, and skills in the players who take part in this week’s parsha and haftarah. It helps us to recognize how one set of abilities may be appropriate for a certain task or role. That same skill will create a leader in one situation but not another. We also see that a person who acts on his or her own is not necessarily fit for the larger role. The leaders should act in concert and with the support of others.
Shabbat Shalom, Laya
Remember: Come to the exhibit of my haftarah series and other art works at the Beth Tzedec Synagogue in Toronto, Canada. It continues until October 24, 2019. The exhibit is open during synagogue hours, 7 days a week . For more information e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Zelophehad’s Daughters- (or Stand Up For Your Rights)
art by Laya Crust
Pinchas: Numbers 25: 10 – 30: 1
This week’s Torah reading, Pinchas, deals with the division and inheritance of land. The land is to be divided based on tribal size. The patriarch of each family within each tribe will be assigned a parcel of land. When this is announced five remarkable young women, the daughters of Zelophehad, approach Moshe to ask for their late father’s portion of land. Their argument is that just because their father had no sons it is unjust that the father’s name and legacy should disappear.
Zelophehad’s daughters, Mahla, Noa, Hogla, Milca and Tirza speak to Moshe at the entrance of the “Tent of Meetings” a most public place. The priests, the assembly and the public can witness the events. The five sisters present the case with a solution within their opening statements. They speak of loyalty to family and perpetuating their father’s name rather than referring to their personal stake.
Moshe is unsure of what he should do and what ruling to make. He turns directly to Gd. Gd unequivocally supports the young women’s proposal saying, “The plea of Zelophehad’s daughters is just”. Gd then immediately announces new laws governing inheritance, and including daughters. It is a wonderful testament to the Jewish attribute of considering a situation and coming up with a just solution.
Samaria Ostraca- 8th B.C.E. pottery shards with Noa and Hogla as town names
Mahla, Noa, Hogla, Milca and Tirza teach us that when we see an injustice we must represent ourselves favourably. By seeking justice respectfully and not giving up, positive change can occur. These five sisters worked together to present a strong front. Their actions were important enough to merit their names being mentioned four times in the Bible: Numbers 26:33, 27:1 , 36: 11, Joshua 17:3.
If you suffer an unfair occurrence consider a good solution, present it, and stand up for your rights! (Just take a look at what Nitsana Darshan- Leitner is achieving through Shurat haDIn! http://israellawcenter.org/ )
Have a just and rewarding week, Laya
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