Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, LCSW serves as Rabbinic Director of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services in New York City, working with individuals who are ill, bereaved, or survivors of trauma, through Jewish spiritual counseling, support groups, workshops and printed materials. He has been deeply involved in human rights advocacy, Jewish-Muslim relations, interfaith exchanges, and the nexus of spiritual resources and mental health for over thirty years.
This week’s Torah portion is named for a man –Pinhas- who represents both heroism and horror in our tradition. It is, to say the least, complicated in terms of role models for leadership. In contrast, Moshe, recognized as the greatest of the Jewish people’s leaders, and who in this week’s portion is engaged in the search for his impending replacement, ‘advises’ the Almighty regarding his successor and in so doing, offers a prescription for a good leader.
And Moshe spoke to God, saying, Let the God of the spirits of all flesh set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them, and who may go in before them, and who may lead them out, and who may bring them in; that the congregation of God be not as sheep that have no shepherd. (Numbers 27:15-17)
Moshe’s counsel as set out in these three verses and elucidated by a number of Torah commentaries, points to the leadership challenges the state of Israel faces at present, with a current leadership that has failed to take the actions that would result in the much desired goal of security and peace for Israel, and for the Palestinians as well.