The Bible Says What? God is not enough?!
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The Bible Says What? God is not enough?!

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner takes a controversial topic from the Torah and looks at a Reform Jewish response

Within our faith, we make sure to prioritise the oneness of God. Our central prayer, the Shema, emphasises that our God is one – we need nothing and nobody else.

Over the centuries Jews have gone to great lengths to ensure we do not find ourselves following anything physical.

In different traditions this has included not having images of people in our places of prayer, or people blessing the community by placing talitot over their heads to give blessings.

Even the great sin of Moses, which prevented him from entering Israel, was for giving the appearance that it was he and his staff who gave the people water by striking it, not God.

Yet, when it comes time for Moses to step aside, he tells God that a person must be set in place as a new leader – because without a human leader, the people would be “as sheep which have no shepherd” (Numbers 27:17).

But isn’t God supposed to be our shepherd?

Is following in the path of God not enough? And yet, God obliges, placing Joshua as the new leader. Is God really admitting to not being enough?

The text gives us a clue to the real meaning. Moses says this person is one who would go out and come in before the people, be someone whose actions can be seen.

While the inspiration of the divine may be all we as Jews need, what we need is not leadership, but role-models to whom we can relate.

Moses was not asking for a figurehead, but someone who could demonstrate what it might look like to bring that divine inspiration into the world.

Without people we can aspire to be like, who find their leadership in the ways of our tradition, that is when we become lost.

Laura Janner-Klausner is senior rabbi at the Movement for Reform Judaism

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