D’var Torah – Parshat Pinchus

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Jeremy KalmanofskyBy Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky 

Parshat Pinchas records God telling Moses that the time has finally come for his great mission to end: “And the Lord said to Moses, climb up this Mt. Avarim and see the land which I have given to the Israelites. See it, and then be gathered to your ancestors – yes, you, too, just like Aaron your brother [Numbers 27:12-13].”

Moshe Rabbenu isn’t quite done as Israel’s leader yet. He still has to give the lengthy speech and teach the new laws that constitute the book of Deuteronomy. But this moment is a real turning point, as Moses realizes that his road soon must reach its end.

Unlike today’s politicians – who tend to fret over what their legacies will be when they leave office – Moses’ greatest anxiety is over whether his successor can lead his people to their destiny. “Oh, Lord,” he prays, “God of the unique spirits of each person, please appoint another person over the community to lead them out and bring them back.” Then Hashem instructs Moses to take Joshua, “a person of spirit,” and “place one hand upon him … and give him some of your glory,” so that the people would follow him in Moses’ place.

Significantly, Moses deviates from God’s precise plan. Instead of placing “one hand” upon Joshua, Moses gives his successor a blessing with both hands, giving not only “some” of his specialness, but all, symbolizing that he was not jealous of Joshua’s success. “No teacher envies a student,” says the Talmud, Sanhedrin 105b. In Rashi’s comment: “Moses blessed Joshua more generously than he had been commanded. He filled him up to overflowing with wisdom.”

This gift calls to mind the work we aspire to do here at CRB. As a camp parent (for 10 years) and as an educator here (for seven years now), I hope we give our kids summers full of fun and friendship. Moreover, I hope we place upon their heads two brimming handfuls of our love of Torah, Jewish tradition, Shabbat and the people of Israel. We parents and teachers inherited those blessings from others. May our kids inherit them from us, so that they can take their place as Jewish leaders for future generations.

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