Parshas Pinchas

This week’s Parsha is Parshas Pinchas. In Parshas Pinchas, Moses asks Hashem to appoint a new leader for the Jewish people before he dies. Hashem tells Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man ‘asher ruach bo’ – a man who has ruach (spirit) in him.” (Numbers 27:18) What does ruach – spirit mean? Why did this quality of Joshua make him fit to lead the Jewish people?

To understand this, the Alter of Slabodka teaches, we must understand what the job of a true Jewish leader is. In every group there are different people with different ideas, feelings, and emotions. As the saying goes, “Different folks, with different strokes”. Because of this diversity, people have different issues that bother them. A good leader has to be able to understand what is bothering each and every person. Only after he appreciates what is really bothering each individual can he then attempt to help each person.

When Moses asked Hashem for a leader, Hashem answered to take Joshua who had “ruach bo – spirit in him”. What is spirit in him mean? This is the spirit of a person to control himself. If a person is able to control his passions and desires, to do what he is supposed to, when he is supposed to, he is someone who can be trusted to be in a position of power for the community. If a person is weak, and just follows his whims and desires, how could he be given any position of authority in the community? Instead of directing what is really best for each person in the community to do, he will end up just trying to please those who he hopes to benefit the most from.

Joshua was a man with “ruach bo – spirit in him”. He was able to control himself, to do what was right and when it was right, not being controlled by passions and desires. This was the man fit to be the leader of the Jewish people, to help each individual.

Although we may not have to run the entire Jewish people as Joshua did, there is an important lesson here. As much as we would like to help others, we must first gain control over ourselves. The more we can gain control over ourselves, to control our own passions and desires, the more we become able to affect and help our fellow Jews.