Posted on March 23, 2011
by Aron Cohen
Parshat Pinchas opens with the discussion of Pinchas’s award, God’s blessing of peace upon him and his family, for his zealous actions. Last week, we read that Pinchas took initiative by killing an Isralite having sex with a Mideanite in the tent of meeting. His action proved that he was a capable leader through his example. He knew that the Israelite and Mideanite’s actions were wrong in the eyes of God, and took the appropriate steps. He was leading by example.
Later in the Parsha, we read a discussion between Moshe and God, in which Moshe asks God to appoint a leader over the Children of Israel. Moshe knows that he will not be allowed entering the land of Israel, and wants a capable leader for his people.
He asks God to appoint someone who “may go out before them (the Children of Israel), and who may lead them out, and who may bring them in.” Moshe wants someone that will fight at on the front lines when the Children of Israel are entering the land of Israel. Essentially, Moshe is asking for someone who can lead by example.
The saying is common. One must lead through example. You have to be a dugmah. Is it really that important to practice what you preach? Well, yes. How many times have you heard a parent yelling at his children not to yell? The scene is absurd. If the parent wants the child not to yell, it makes more sense for him to also not yell.
In USY, many of us become leaders in one way or another. Hundreds of USYers are on chapter boards. Each of these positions carries a certain weight. In each of these chapters, the board members are leaders. On regional board, many of us are required to keep Shabbat, and to observe Kashrut. This is so important because leading by example lays the groundwork for an observant community. When a leader is willing to take the initial step in his or her actions to do what is right, it makes it that much easier for the next person to do the same.
We can learn a great deal from Pinchas’s actions. We can do what we know is right, in God’s eyes and in our hearts, and take the first step. Being a leader doesn’t mean being in front of people yelling at them to observe Shabbat. Leading means observing Shabbat, and showing those around you how incredible Shabbat can be. Leading means doing something of your own volition because you know it is right, and showing, not telling others that it is the right thing to do. Shabbat Shalom.