Politics & Parsha: Pinchas 5771

Posted on July 14, 2011 In Archives

Politics & Parsha: “Shul Politics Like Never Before”

Each week IPA Deputy Director of Public Policy Howie Beigelman takes a look at the weekly parsha and discusses it in a way you may never have seen. Any hashkafic, halachic or political opinions are personal and do not reflect the official psak or policy of the OU.

Pinchas 5771: Just who is Pinchas?

Moses has watched Yisro return home and then Moses faces a mutiny from ten of the great tribal leaders which is quickly followed by an attempted coup led by his own cousin.  Surviving that, he now loses both his siblings in quick succession.  Aaron, the High Priest, his right hand and spokesman as well as Miriam, who acted as his own personal savior and the provider of Israel’s well water.  Miriam is, seemingly irreplaceable but in a play towards the King is dead, long live the King, Aaron is replaced by his oldest surviving son.  Moses sees that his role will be taken over not by a son but rather by his aide de camp, Joshua.

And yet when the new leadership is all assembled during the aftermath of Midianite treachery, and Moses faces yet another assault on his leadership by a leader of the nation, it is not Elazar or Joshua or Moses himself who responds.  It is Pinchas, himself of the tribe of Levi but not himself either a kohen or in any leadership role, who stands, spear in hand and acts decisively, at the moment of maximum danger, to quash rebellion and quell G-d’s rising anger.

All too often, in politics and government, those in power worry about preserving their own.  Moses wasn’t like that and he asked G-d but provide a successor to take over after him, and Moses didn’t conspire to ensure it was his own child, but rather the best person for the job, putting the national interest above personal gain.

That is lesson enough.  But the next lesson is that we don’t always know where the leader will come from and what crisis will inspire – or require – of someone.  Pinchas was not the heir.  He was not even the spare.  But he saw a need and filled it; a breach and he stepped into it.

Too often we don’t give enough thought – or put enough effort into – building a bench.  But we also need to remember that sometimes the next all star isn’t even on the team.

And we all need to model Moses (in so many ways, but especially this one):  he allows his underlings to wield power, accepts the replacements to his own generation’s leaders even though they are much younger, and he allows those unlooked for leaders to step up and in when their advice is true.

Words to consider, ideas to ponder — politics & the parsha.