Polishing Up the Resume: Pinhas 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Why are we sometimes hesitant to trust people who are younger than us? Are we concerned that they lack enough life experience or maturity? Or are we simply used to trusting our peers?

Our portion this week speaks of the transfer of Israelite leadership from Moses to Joshua:

The Pitch: “Invest him with some of your authority, so that the whole Israelite community may obey.” – Numbers 27:20

Swing #1: “The elders had been ashamed to perform … menial tasks [under Moses]. But now, when they saw that Joshua had become the leader of the people precisely because he had not been unwilling to do this work, and that his ‘countenance shone as the moon,’ they all cried out: ‘Alas for that foolish pride of ours which kept us from cleaning the house of study, for now we must endure the shame and the disgrace of having to be the disciples of this young Joshua in our old age.’” – Rabbi Hayyim Joseph Azulai, Commentary on the Ethics of the Fathers

Swing #2: “This is a profound moment, because it is the first separation of church and state. Religious authority goes to the priest Eleazar, secular authority to the warrior Joshua. Neither is supreme, and they are independent of each other. This is remarkably canny of Moses and the Lord. … Splitting the authority allows the undistracted Joshua to carry out the gritty, down-to-earth work of conquering the Promised Land. Meanwhile, Eleazar can make sure to mind the Lord’s p’s and q’s.” – David Plotz, Good Book

Swing #3: “The congregation is specifically called to witness the transfer of authority. Despite the fact that the congregation is portrayed only as an observer of the ritual, it nevertheless receives the benefits of the successful outcome of the ritual.” – Gerald A. Klingbeil, Bridging the Gap: Ritual and Ritual Texts in the Bible

Late-Inning Questions: What larger lessons do our commentators learn from this leadership transition? How do leadership transitions reflect the values of society?

Summer Training: Sticking to a health plan while on a road trip is difficult. To be continued.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of leadership transitions, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how well Rob Manfred has served as MLB commissioner after Bud Selig’s retirement. Manfred has combined Selig’s desire for maintaining baseball’s grand traditions with a desire for sensible innovation.

Shabbat Shalom!