Parashat Pinhas

Who's Next? The Change And Challenge Of Leadership

The transition in leadership from Moses to Joshua provides us with a model for contemporary changes in leadership.

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The following article is reprinted with permission from the Union for Reform Judaism.

Parashah Overview

    Pinhas is rewarded for killing the Israelite and the Midianite woman who disobeyed God. (25:10–15)

  • Israel fights a war against the Midianites. (25:16-18)

  • A second census is taken. (26:1–65)

  • The daughters of Zelophehad force a change in the laws of property inheritance. (27:1–11)

  • Joshua is chosen to be Moses’ successor. (27:15–23)

  • The sacrificial ritual for all festival occasions is described in detail. (28:1–29:39)

Focal Point

Moses spoke to Adonai, saying, "Let Adonai, Source of the breath of all flesh, appoint someone over the community who shall go out before them and come in before them and who shall take them out and bring them in, so that Adonai’s community may not be like sheep that have no shepherd." And Adonai answered Moses, "Single out Joshua son of Nun, an inspired man, and lay your hand upon him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before the whole community and commission him in their sight. Invest him with some of your authority so that the whole Israelite community may obey. But he shall present himself to Eleazar the priest, who shall on his behalf seek the decision of the Urim before Adonai. By such instruction they shall go out and by such instruction they shall come in, he and all the Israelites, the whole community" (Numbers 27:15–21).

Your Guide

Moses’ foremost concern upon learning that he will soon die is for the welfare of the community. What does this indicate about him as a person? As the head of a family? As a leader?

What assumptions does Moses make about what will happen to the Israelites after he dies?

God says that Joshua is "an inspired man." Are there other qualities aside from "inspired" that you would use to describe a leader of the Israelites? What does the phrase "inspired man" mean to you?

Why must Joshua also have the decision of the Urim (objects used to ascertain God’s will) after Moses has performed the ritual of succession?

How much authority do you think Joshua should have while Moses is still alive?

What might the consequences, both positive and negative, be regarding the timing of Moses’ death?

By the Way…

When David’s life was drawing to a close, he instructed his son Solomon as follows: "I am going the way of all the earth; be strong and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of Adonai your God, walking in God’s ways and following God’s laws, commandments, rules, and admonitions as recorded in the Teaching of Moses, in order that you may succeed in whatever you undertake and wherever you turn" (I Kings: 2:1–3).

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Cantor Janice L. Roger

Janice L. Roger is the cantor at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, Indianapolis, IN.