Pinchas: No Envy

Copyright 2011 Neal Joseph Loevinger 

Torah Portion: Pinchas


Before we have a quick Torah thought for the day, a few brief announcements: 

1) Rabbineal-list is going on vacation for a couple of weeks but will be back soon! 

2) I’m very excited to have a great goal for the end of the summer- I’m going on the Hazon  Hudson Valley – NYC bike ride to raise money for Jewish environmental organizations. 

I’d be so proud if you would consider sponsoring me and being part of this effort. Just click here for more information. You can be the first to sponsor me- I just committed to the ride ! 

Now, on to a brief Torah thought. 

A famous passage from this week’s portion, Pinchas, relates that Moshe had to give over his authority to Joshua, the next leader, in a commissioning ceremony in the presence of the High Priest and the entire community: 

“Moshe did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and before the whole community. He laid his hands upon him and commissioned him—as the Lord had spoken through Moshe. . . “ (Bamidbar/ Numbers 27:22-23)

The commentary Torah Temimah brings a teaching from the Talmud which notes that Moshe placed both his hands on Joshua during the leadership commissioning- but a bit earlier, in verse 18, God only tells Moshe to place “his hand” [singular] on him. The Talmud teaches that this shows that a man is not envious of his disciples- that is, Moshe “grabbed it with both hands,” as it were, and did not hold back from raising Joshua up to the level of leadership which Moshe was about to relinquish. 

A small detail- two hands versus the commanded one hand- but it shows an orientation to which most of us can only aspire. It’s so hard to take true joy in the accomplishments of others, without any jealousy, envy, coveting, griping, or gossip. It’s so hard to put ego aside for another- yet here was Moshe, after 40 years of service to his people, ready to see Joshua taking up the mantle, knowing his disciple would achieve what Moshe could not. 

Humility is not thinking “I’m a nothing, others are better than me.” Humility like Moshe’s is knowing that each of us has a unique capability to do something extraordinary to heal this broken world – usually one interaction at a time. Moshe could empower Joshua with both hands when the time was right, setting an example for each of us to rejoice and be grateful for those moments when we can raise up others, and in doing so, be truest to ourselves. 

Shabbat Shalom, 



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