“Parsha and Purpose” – Pinchas 5781 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Every Generation Needs Its Own Leaders

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Parshat Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

“Every Generation Needs Its Own Leaders”

After wandering for 40 years in the desert, the Jewish People will soon be led into the Promised Land. 

But their leader, Moshe Rabbeinu, will not be accompanying them. 

This was made painfully clear to  Moshe in the Torah portion two weeks ago, when he famously struck a rock in order to draw water from it, instead of speaking to it as God had commanded. 

God explains to Moshe that he will not merit to cross the threshold of the desert into Israel:

כַּאֲשֶׁר מְרִיתֶם פִּי בְּמִדְבַּר צִן בִּמְרִיבַת הָעֵדָה לְהַקְדִּישֵׁנִי בַמַּיִם לְעֵינֵיהֶם

For, in the wilderness of Zin, when the community was contentious, you disobeyed My command to uphold My sanctity in their sight by means of the water. (Numbers 27:14)

And now, in this week’s portion of Pinchas, God reiterates the punishment, figuratively pouring salt in Moshe’s wound.

In fact, the narrative that Moshe will be replaced by another leader and not merit to enter the Land of Israel will be repeated no fewer than five more times between now and the account of Moshe Rabbeinu’s death. 

Surely Moshe comprehended this news the first time. What is the lesson we learn from its repetition? 

A careful look at the events preceding each time the message is given to Moshe hints at a possible answer: Moshe is not being punished merely for striking the rock. Moshe is being replaced because he is unable to engage the next generation.  

When the first generation of Israelites  leave Egypt were involved in the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe shows amazingly strong leadership qualities.

He is willing to sacrifice his own life for his people:

וְעַתָּה אִם תִּשָּׂא חַטָּאתָם וְאִם אַיִן מְחֵנִי נָא מִסִּפְרְךָ אֲשֶׁר כָּתָבְתָּ

Now, if You will forgive their sin [well and good]; but if not, erase me from the book which You have written!” (Exodus 32:32)

In this week’s portion, however, after the Jewish People engage in idolatrous behavior, the disconnect between Moshe and the second generation is woefully apparent.

He simply doesn’t understand them.

They were not born and raised in the crushing slave experience in Egypt. They live with Divine miracles on a daily basis. Their clothing grows with them and their food and drink comes from the Heavens! 

Moshe had high hopes for this unencumbered younger generation. He envisioned how their comfortable lives would enable them to devote their time to Torah study. 

But instead of striving to achieve greatness, they are rebellious and demanding. 

Deeply frustrated by this behavior, Moshe seemingly gives up on them. When action is required, he takes no initiative.

When the people engage in hedonistic and idolatrous indulgences, as they do in this week’s parsha, Moshe doesn’t intervene. All he can do is weep. (Numbers 25:6)

This is not the Moshe of the past, the active protector and leader of the Jewish People.

And for that reason, his fate is sealed.  He must step down.

Moshe cannot negotiate their needs; he cannot offer any resolution. 

This is not the Moshe of the past who was able to see the silver lining in clouds much darker than this. 

Every time an issue pops up, Moshe is no longer the pro-active protector/leader of the Jewish People; he realizes that he can no longer suffer their impudence at the moment. 

Moshe turns to God using this language: 

יִפְקֹד ה’ אֱלֹקי הָרוּחֹת לְכָל בָּשָׂר אִישׁ עַל הָעֵדָה

Let Hashem, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a person over the congregation who can tend to the diverse needs of all people;

אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא לִפְנֵיהֶם

who will go out before them;

וַאֲשֶׁר יָבֹא לִפְנֵיהֶם וַאֲשֶׁר יוֹצִיאֵם… 

someone who will bring the people together… (27:16-17)

Moshe says that a leader is someone who can tackle the needs of each person, who inspires people to think higher and live more purposefully, who will advocate for them, and who can unite them.

Just as Moshe articulated the leadership qualities necessary for the generation after his, we too need to connect with leaders who understand the generation and environment in which they live.

We must nurture these leaders; elevate them when they are ready; allow them to grow in their role; learn from them; engage them; support them and, yes, sometimes respectfully challenge them.

May we merit leaders who meet the standard for excellence mentioned by Moshe, and may they merit to lead us to our ultimate destiny as a people.

Shabbat Shalom.

Parshat  Pinchas (Numbers 25:10 – 30:1) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel –  “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take for yourself Joshua the son of Nun, an individual who has spirit within him, and lay (or lean) your hand upon him.  Stand him up before Elazar the Priest and before the entire congregation, and …

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Rachel Blumenthal

Parshat Pinchas: A Peaceful Encounter? Rachel Blumenthal studied at Midreshet Lindenbaum from 2012 to 2013. She currently teaches Navi in Middle School at Westchester Day School in Mamaroneck, NY. Sidrat Pinchas takes us on a long journey, beginning with Hashem’s promise to Pinchas that he will always have peace through the census of the nation, …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Pinchas 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“The Voices of a Just Cause: The Modern-Day Daughters of Tzelofchad”

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“The Voices of a Just Cause: The Modern-Day Daughters of Tzelofchad”

What a time to be alive! It seems like every time we check our phones, we see and read about truly historic events taking place.

So it’s quite timely that in a period of structural societal change taking place across the globe, Israel’s Attorney General issued a groundbreaking decision last week that will fundamentally transform Jewish life for the better – and in particular, the landscape of women’s Torah leadership.

Thanks to the remarkable efforts of the ITIM organization and others, women Torah scholars will now be able to obtain the very same level of government-approved accreditation for their Torah knowledge as men do.

This means that women who earn accreditation will be able to apply for and obtain those same positions that, when halachically appropriate, should be open to men and women alike who have mastered a corpus of Torah knowledge.

This decision establishes that at long last, women will have access to their rightful inheritance in the Torah.

That’s why it’s so fitting that we will be reading this Shabbat in Parshat Pinchas about a group of women fully committed to the future of the Jewish People who appeal what they viewed as an injustice in what they are told is Torah law.

The daughters of Tzelofchad stand before Moshe and entire leadership, pleading: Numbers 27:1-4

If we are considered to be sons when it comes to the laws of Levirate marriage, why are we not considered sons when it comes to the laws of inheritance?  Numbers 27:6-7

Our family deserves an equal portion in the land.  

Why should it be that the status quo of a woman not receiving an inheritance causes the name of our family to be erased?

Why are we treated unequally when it comes to the laws of inheritance? Why do we not have the right to an equal portion in the land?

Why should we be denied our rights?

God acknowledges the claim of the daughters of Tzelofchad; the status quo is changed; and they are assured of their rightful inheritance.

With the decision from the Attorney General last week, we see another improvement on a contemporary status quo that has now been rightly rectified.

Until now, women who studied the same texts as men studied for rabbinical ordination could not receive any form of government accreditation that would recognize their studies and their skills.

This meant they were paid less for the same jobs as their male counterparts. And they were unable to apply for positions that were otherwise halachically-appropriate, such as kashrut supervisor in the Knesset, which required government-recognized Torah knowledge of kashrut. 

There are wonderful programs in existence in which women study seriously – such as in Ohr Torah Stone’s Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership, an intensive five-year graduate program in which they study the same subject matter as men in our kollelim who are studying for rabbinic ordination.

The women take the same tests as men, except we, a private organization – Ohr Torah Stone – administer them instead of a government entity.

These women scholars, who study full-time for five years, while at the same time nurturing growing families, do not seek to supplant the rabbinical profession, God forbid, but rather want to complement it.

We were all frustrated that until now, their privately-conferred certification did not enable them to receive the same compensation in a high school or a seminary for the same work that their male counterparts received. Until now, the current status quo meant that their studies, their impressive accomplishments, were not recognized.

Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik taught that when important events happen, look at the parsha and allow it to speak to you in a contemporary context.

This week, one need not look very far or wide to see just how true this is. 

Welcome, B’not Tzelofchad!

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Riskin

Shabbat Shalom: Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin  Efrat, Israel – “Moses said to the Lord, ‘May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the …

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Yehuda Shtauber, OTS Deputy Director for Education

Parshat Pinchas: Leading a Desert Generation Rabbi Yehuda Shtauber is Ohr Torah Stone’s Vice President of Education  Historically, two main approaches to defining suitable leaders have appeared in the study of leadership in the Western world. One approach suggests that a leader is a celebrated individual with personality traits that set him or her apart …

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