*This dvar Torah is dedicated for a refua shleima for Esther Tehila bas Arielle Tzipora b’soch kol cholei Yisrael.
Chani & I returned this week from an amazing week in Eretz Yisrael. BH, we had a chance to spend time in Yerushalayim, in Tzfat, and all kinds of places in-between. A great chance to reboot physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
And yet, as our time away was coming to an end, I couldn’t help but feel ready to come home. I had literally just davened mincha-maariv on Shiv’a Asar B’Tammuz in the Old City of Tzefat, and yet, the next morning I was yearning to get back to my routine – to giving a gemara shiur and waking my children in the morning, and even to getting back to work.
And I think the reason I felt that way – or at least some element of it – is reflected in an interesting story that is tucked away in this week’s parsha.
This week, we are introduced to two Jewish leaders. At the beginning of the parsha we are told about the heroism of Pinchas and the reward he receives from Hashem
However, later on, we are privy to a conversation between Hashem and Moshe Rabbeinu in which Moshe requests that Hashem choose a new leader for the Jewish People, and Hashem responds with the choice of Yehoshua.
And many of the commentaries are perplexed by the placement of this conversation. After all, Moshe was told back in Parshas Chukas that he would not enter Eretz Yisrael. If so, why does the Torah place the conversation about his successor here in Parshas Pinchas?
One could argue that it makes sense in context. Just before Moshe makes his request, Hashem commands him to ascend Har Ha’avarim and take a look at Eretz Yisrael because, after all, he will not be entering the land. It is at this point that Moshe makes his request for a successor.
However, this only explains why Moshe might speak up now. It doesn’t explain why he waited until now!?
The Kotzker Rebbe argues that the reason Moshe never asked for a successor until now is because he knew who it would be. From the moment Hashem told him that he and Aharon would die, says the Kotzker, Moshe assumed that Pinchas would be the next leader.
Moshe knew Pinchas well, he was his great-nephew, and clearly was aware of his great ability to stand up for what was right, to have a clarity of purpose, so he felt no need to make the request of Hashem to appoint a successor.
However, that was only true until the events found in last week’s parsha. At a moment when no one was willing to stand up, Pinchas stood up, and he did something heroic, killing Zimri & Kazbi in a moment of zealotry. And then, Pinchas is rewarded by Hashem for his great bravery.
And it was at this moment that Moshe became nervous. What if Hashem does elect Pinchas to be the next leader? Moshe understood that while the zealotry of Pinchas was necessary in certain moments, this would not be the model of leadership that would succeed with the people. In fact, it was in the moments when Moshe acted with zealotry that he sometimes got himself in trouble. The moment Moshe hit the rock is described by many rishonim as being wrong because Moshe did so in anger and without the calm, thoughtful demeanor necessary of leadership.
Therefore, it is specifically here, in Parshas Pinchas, after Pinchas has been lauded for using his mida of zealotry, of Kina, to show incredible leadership, that Moshe comes to Hashem and he begs Him to choose someone else to be the future leader of the Jewish People:
(טז) יִפְקֹד יְקֹוָק אֱלֹהֵי הָרוּחֹת לְכָל בָּשָׂר אִישׁ עַל הָעֵדָה:
Hashem, the One who understands the nature of people, please elect a new leader over this group.
And says Rashi – why does Moshe call Hashem, “Elokei HaRuchos L’Chol Basar, Hashem who understands the nature of people?”
מנה עליהם מנהיג שיהא סובל כל אחד ואחד לפי דעתו:
That just like You, Hashem, understand the needs of each and every person, choose someone who will be able to be patient with each and each and every person, understanding their nature.
Says the Kotzker, Moshe is asking HKBH to choose a leader who is a savlan, patient and calm, not a kanai, not a zealot.
My good friend and colleague, Rabbi Phillip Moskowitz, pointed out, that the Torah here is really describing for us two models of leadership, two paths to greatness, and perhaps even two models of growth in Avodas Hashem:
One is bold and dramatic. Spectacular and courageous. Moments that grab headlines. Those moments are meaningful, and they are significant. There was a story this week of a pizza-delivery guy who saved five people from a fire. That’s an amazing act of heroism and of courage and it should be celebrated. After all, Pinchas is celebrated as a hero for standing up for the honor of Hashem and His Torah.
However, most of our lives are comprised of actions that are not bold, not heroic, not dramatic, but rather quiet and regular. How, then, does one demonstrate greatness and growth in those moments? With something that is often even more difficult: With quiet consistency.
And perhaps that is why the Torah contrasts Yehoshua & Pinchas. Yes, what Pinchas did was amazing, and it was important, but it doesn’t represent what is truly important for us on a daily basis. And it cannot serve as the model for most of us, most of the time.
What are we told about Yehoshua? Yehoshua’s greatness was represented by his consistency, “Lo Yamush Mitoch Ha’Ohel”. He never left the tent of Moshe Rabbeinu.
As Chazal tell us, Yehoshua was the one who turned on the lights each morning, set up the chairs, and made sure everyone had the photocopies for the shiur.
Of course, Yehoshua had the other ingredients of successful leadership. He understood people, and he was a Talmid Chacham, but ultimately the main difference between Yehoshua & Pinchas was that Yehoshua was ready to be the quiet, steady hand.
As Moshe requests of Hashem:
(יז) אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא לִפְנֵיהֶם וַאֲשֶׁר יָבֹא לִפְנֵיהֶם וַאֲשֶׁר יוֹצִיאֵם וַאֲשֶׁר יְבִיאֵם...
Someone who will go out with them, and someone who will go in with them.
Says Moshe, they need someone who will be there with them at all times, someone they will be able to rely on, to know is there for them.
So, while the Torah gives an entire Parsha to Pinchas, and he deserves it, the mantel of leadership goes to Yehoshua, the quiet, consistent presence.
And, of course, this is the lesson Hashem teaches Eliyahu HaNavi in what is typically the haftorah for this week. Eliyahu, Chazal tell us, is Pinchas. And in his most intimate moment with Hashem, Eliyahu is taught that Hashem is not found in the ra’ash, the loud noise. He is not found in the eish, in the fire. Rather, Hashem is found B’kol demama daka, in the slow, still voice. In the quiet, simple moments of life.
We know that the Rambam was very meticulous not only in the way he decided questions of halacha in his Mishna Torah, but even in the way he categorized the halachos in his sefer.
If you were to look in the book in the Mishna Torah referred to as Sefer Ha’Ahava, what is found there?
- The halachos of Brachos, Mezuzah, and Bris Mila.
And you might ask: That’s love? A bris mila? A mezuza?
And the Rambam himself in the introduction to Mishna Torah says he placed in Sefer Ha’Ahave mitzvos which are tadiros, those which are done consistently. We say brachos 100 times each day. We pass by our mezuzos dozens of times a day, and the mitzvah of mila remains on a man’s body forever.
What the Rambam is teaching us is that true love is developed by giving with regularity. If we only give to our spouse – either with gifts, words, or our time – every once in a while, then that love doesn’t run quite as deep.
But when we show that love by giving in small, quiet ways, with a note, a text, or even a glance, consistently, then the love becomes so deep and so real that it can’t even be measured.
With all of this, it is no surprise that immediately following the appointment of Yehoshua as the next leader, the very next halacha which is taught to Am Yisrael is none other than the mitzvah of Korban Tamid, the daily sacrifice brought in the Beis HaMikdash every morning and every evening, without fail. As HKBH reminds us all that in the end of the day, steady, consistency will be our best model for our own success as a community and as individuals.
And perhaps that’s at least a little bit of the reason I felt ready to come home, even as we were enjoying such a special time away in Eretz Yisrael. With all of the majesty and inspiration that we felt in Eretz Yisrael, I then felt the need to take all we had experienced and ground it into the routine of the everyday. Not to forget it, but to channel it.
Because that, of course, is the goal for us all: To appreciate and celebrate the big moments, but to always remember that it is through our quiet, consistent devotion that we build a deep, loving relationship with Hashem.