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After G-d told Moses to view the Promised Land from a distance:
Moses spoke to G-d saying: "May Hashem, G-d of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a leader over the congregation. He shall go out before them and come in before them, and take them out and bring them in. And so the congregation of G-d shall not be like sheep that have no shepherd."
G-d replied to Moses with:
"Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man who has the spirit in him…" (27:15-18)
Moses' quest for a successor prioritized the qualities of leadership: "He shall go out before them and come in before them, he shall take them out and bring them in".
Rashi explains that it means a person of great spiritual merit who will successfully lead them at the head of military campaigns as Moses had in the recent wars of Sichon and Og, and Joshua in the earlier confrontation with Amalek.
The Sforno interprets "He shall go out before them and come in before them" as a military leader. "He shall take them out and bring them in" as an administrator of national affairs. Moses prayer to G-d was that the leader that came after him should be a successful general, and also an effective administrator. He should know how to lead the people in times of war, and in times of peace.
These are two very different leadership qualities. Moses himself had a perfect record in military affairs. Indeed, Yalkut Shimoni 168 quotes the tradition that as a younger man Moses successfully served Pharaoh as a general, enabling the Egyptian armies to defend its southern borders against the warring Ethiopians. However, Moses found the administrative side far more difficult, specifically when the Israelites went against his wishes. Indeed, during the 40-year period of his leadership he had more than once come close to total despair.
G-d's replied, with "Take Joshua… a man who has the spirit in him". The "spirit", explains the Sforno, is G-d's indicating that Joshua is spiritually developed to such a degree that he can receive G-d's direct communications and guidance wherever necessary. Such a person who has already spirit and wisdom is in a position to access even greater spirit and wisdom, as required for each situation as it happens.
Implied in Moses' dialogue with G-d is a vital quality needed when in charge of people, namely recognizing one's not having the answers to every situation - however experienced. The leader must have the 'spirit' of being able to interact with others whose input can assist, and duly take it into account in the decision-making process.
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Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: email@example.com for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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Also by Jacob Solomon:
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