Thinking about the Future
An inspirational section of this week’s parasha is the appointment of Moses’s successor: God tells Moses that it is almost time for him to ascend Mt. Avarim, gaze upon the Land of Israel, and die. He will not merit to enter the land; there will be no changing God’s mind.
The exemplary ruler that he is, Moses does not complain or wallow in misery, but thinks practically about the well-being of the people he has cared for. He turns to God and asks that his successor be appointed, so that Israel will not be “like sheep without a shepherd.” (Numbers 27:17).
The Midrash supposes that Moses hoped one of his sons would be appointed, but God responds to Moses’s request by telling him to appoint his faithful student Joshua (Rashi on v. 16). Again, perhaps hurt and disappointed, Moses immediately does as he’s told, laying his hands upon Joshua and appointing him as successor in front of all the people. Moses demonstrates how a true leader leads without personal interest, putting their charges well before themselves.
Selflessness is far from the only quality Moses embodies as a leader. When Moses asks God to appoint his successor, he addresses God in a unique way: “the God of the spirits of every flesh” (v. 16). We don’t find this term used anywhere else in the Bible. Rashi explains that Moses was saying, “You, God, know the opinions of every person and know how each varies from the others’. Appoint for them a leader who can welcome each and every one according to their opinions.”
Strength and foresight in leadership aren’t enough. Selflessness isn’t enough. A broad, welcoming, pluralistic attitude towards others is critical in providing quality leadership. Working to see and understand each person and value them for whom they are allows those people to see the leader as their own, and inspires a desire to help the group as a whole succeed.
Every person is a leader as well as a follower at every stage of their life. May we all learn to appreciate everyone else in our lives and work to help them achieve their own potential.