Rabbi Sherman's Weekly Torah Commentary

July 10 & 11, 2020                                                    Parshat Pinchas

12 Tammuz 5780                                

What qualities make an effective leader?


Knowing he will not be leading the people into the Promised Land, Moses prepares for the next generation of leadership. God instructs Moses to ordain Joshua, giving him the authority to take over. But this week, we read about Pinchas, who also seeks a leadership role.


Pinchas was a priest and a zealot. When he caught an Israelite man having relations with a Midianite woman, Pinchas killed them both. The Torah appears to reward his passion for justice; his action stops a deadly plague, and God establishes with him a covenant of peace. According to a midrash (legend), Moses feared that Pinchas might rise up as a leader; he did not want a zealot to lead his people forward. Moses asked God for a leader who would be tolerant and patient, and not overly zealous. 


The Talmud teaches that Moses hoped he might turn his leadership over to one of his own children. Yet leadership at the time was based on merit and not heredity. So Joshua was appointed as the successor to Moses.


We might also learn the qualities of leadership from the daughters of Zelophehad, who challenged the patriarchy of the time. When their father died and left no sons, these daughters fought to receive their father’s property and possessions. This required courage and heart in a time when only sons could inherit.


So should leadership be defined by zealotry, by inheritance, or by merit? God commanded Moses to lay one hand on Joshua to transfer the authority of leadership to him. But Moses used both hands, “filling him generously with his own wisdom” (Rashi). Moses was known to be humble and generous. Perhaps this is why he is known as the greatest leader and teacher of all.



July 9 began Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz – the 17th of the month of Tammuz commemorates the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Roman army in the year 70 C.E. This day began a 3-week mourning period which will conclude on Tisha B’Av. During this time, many people refrain from haircuts, concerts and public celebrations such as weddings.



Please join our Shabbat celebrations on Channel 1963 – NOTE CHANGE:

Not Channel 1960.

This week I will be leading services from my home.


Friday at 4:30 PM, followed by candle lighting, Kiddush, hand washing, and motzi.

Saturday at 10:00 AM, followed by Kiddush, hand washing, and motzi.


Shabbat candle lighting time for the city of Mission Viejo is 7:45 PM.

Shabbat Shalom,                                                        Rabbi Karen Sherman


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