Pinchas – Aspects of Leadership

R’ Jay Kelman wrote about the three types of leadership in this week’s parasha. The zealotry of Pinchas,was to  take action when everyone else was paralysed to stop the public display by Zimri and Cosbi the Midianite, by killing them both. His act of violence earned him a covenant of peace, his zealotry putting an end to a plague. R’ Kelman wrote that the rabbinic limitations to zealotry render its practical use obsolete, so zealotry has little place in Jewish life.


Joshua was chosen as a successor to Moshe, rather than Pinchas because he offered a different style of leadership. He was to be “someone to go out before them, and come in before them, to lead them out and bring them in.” R’ Kelman commented that this would show inclusiveness and responsiveness to the needs of the people. R’ Jonathan Sacks commented that the challenge of leadership was to encourage people to change at their own pace, because if you do not challenge people you are not a leader, but if you require too much too soon, disaster happens. After dissension and complaints, there are challenges to leadership, which grow more clamorous until rebellion can ensue. A leader who fails to work for change is not a leader, but a leader who attempts too much change in too short a time will fail.


R’ Sacks wrote that “to go out before them and to come in before them” was for someone leading from the front. To “lead them out and bring them in” is harder, because it requires a sense of timing and people have to be ready. The battle is between the changes you know must be made and the changes people are willing to make.


The other form of leadership was shown by the daughters of Tzelofachad. They had no brothers and approached Moshe with regard to their right to inheritance of land. The result was that the sages said “ the daughters of Tzelofachad merited to have this law written through them.” This was a good example of civil activism, a third form of leadership shown in this parasha.

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