Sedra: Pinchas

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Sedra: Pinchas

Rabbi Alex Chapper looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

Rabbi Alex Chapper

It must have been the most devastating moment in his life. Having led a fractious people for 40 years, taken them out from slavery and guided them through the wilderness to the verge of the Promised Land, Moses is told by God he will not enter it with them.  

Instead, he is to ascend Har Nevo so he can be shown the land in its entirety and there he “will be gathered to his people” – passing away without fulfilling his life’s work and dream of leading the Jews in the land of Israel.

Having previously petitioned God on behalf of the people, sometimes when they did not deserve it, Moses, instead of pleading his case, asks God to
appoint a suitable leader so the nation would not be left “like sheep without a shepherd”. Why did he not first pray to God that he be allowed to enter the land? 

Rashi, quoting the Midrash, explains that Moses’ surprising action shows the praise of the righteous: when they are about to depart from the world, they abandon all thought of themselves and are occupied with the affairs of the community. The Torah records Moses’ incredible response as it displays the hallmark of the righteous who, to the very end, are more concerned for the needs of others than their own.  

Moses reminds us no one lives in a vacuum, no one can be so self-obsessed they cannot think of others and no one is bigger than the community. Perhaps his greatest legacy is an imperative for us to think more about how we can help others rather than just ourselves, and that each of us must find our place in and give of ourselves to the community.

  • Rabbi Alex Chapper serves Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue

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