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Jewish Leadership - Torah and Royalty

The Torah portion of Pinchas1 recounts how Moshe asked G-d to “appoint a man over the community” to be its next leader, so that the Jewish people will not become “like sheep that have no shepherd.” G-d replied to Moshe: “Take Yehoshua… and lay your hands upon him.”

In explaining how a Jewish king is appointed, the Rambam states:2 “The first king of a dynasty cannot be appointed save by the court of 70 [-one] elders and a prophet, as was the case with Yehoshua , who was appointed by Moshe and his court [of 70 elders].” The Rambam is thus of the opinion that Yehoshua was invested as a king.

Accordingly, the following must be understood:3 The Rambam rules4 “When a king is appointed, he is to be anointed with anointing oil.” Why then did Moshe merely lay his hands on Yehoshua and not anoint him?

The Midrash5 notes that Moshe had anticipated that his children would inherit his mantle. G-d, however, told him: “ ‘He who plants the date palm [merits that he] eats its fruits.’6 Your children…. did not occupy themselves in Torah. Yehoshua…. since he served you with all his might, is worthy of serving the Jewish people.”

How was it possible for Moshe to assume that his sons would inherit the mantle of leadership when he knew they were guilty of “not occupying themselves in Torah”?

Our Sages explain7 that Moshe hoped to be succeeded by two leaders, one to serve as king and military commander, and the other to lead in Torah. It was in the former position that he hoped to be succeeded by his children. G-d, however, replied: “Only one will lead them… Yehoshua will be their king… and [be their] preeminent Torah scholar, for ‘Two kings cannot make use of the same crown.’ ”8

The reason Moshe’s request for two leaders was rejected must be understood. While it is true that “Two kings cannot make use of the same crown,” Moshe desired that his position be divided into two distinct “crowns” — the crown of royalty and the crown of Torah scholarship. Why could they not be separated, with the crown of royalty being inherited by Moshe’s children?

The true function of a Jewish king is described by the Rambam.9 Not only must the king provide the Jewish people with their material needs,10 but his goal must be to “uplift the true religion,” i.e., to see to it that the laws of the Torah are carried out.

Thus, in the Jewish context, regency is an extension of the Jewish high court, whose purpose is to be “the pillars of Torah law for all the Jewish people.”11 The king must ensure that the Torah laws issued by the high court are obeyed by the populace.12

This is why in the Jewish scheme of things, kingship and Torah leadership cannot be viewed as two distinct entities. Rather, they are one continuum; splitting royalty and Torah scholarship results in “two kings utilizing the very same crown.”

The reason Yehoshua’s appointment to leadership came about through Moshe’s laying on of hands and not through anointment will be understood accordingly:

The regal aspect of Yehoshua’s leadership was a direct result of, and wholly secondary to, his Torah leadership. It therefore followed that the mantle of Torah leadership, a mantle transmitted through semichah13 — the laying on of hands — took precedence; anointment was entirely unnecessary.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXIII, pp. 198-205.

A Commensurate Reward

In commenting on the verse14 “Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aharon beheld this… and he took a spear in his hand,” Rashi notes: “He saw what was transpiring and reminded himself of the law that zealous individuals may attack one who is intimate with a heathen woman.”

The Torah goes on to say that as a reward for his zealousness, G-d granted Pinchas “eternal priesthood, to him and his descendants after him.”15

How was it possible for Pinchas to receive the priesthood as a reward for his actions? While Pinchas no doubt deserved a great reward, the priesthood is seemingly not something that can be given as a reward, rather it is a natural state of being.

Up until then, Pinchas was not a priest, for “The priesthood was only given to Aharon and his sons who were anointed with him, and their progeny who would be born subsequent to their anointment.”16 Pinchas, however, was born earlier and thus was not included in the priesthood. Since Pinchas was excluded from the priesthood, how did he suddenly become a priest?

The sin of illicit relationships is harsher than other sins in that it occupies the individual entirely and involves the person’s essence. As harsh as this sin is, the sin of intimacy with a heathen woman is even harsher. The reason for this is because other illicit relationships do not cross the boundaries that G-d established between the Jewish people and other nations, while intimacy with a heathen woman does, inasmuch as the child born as a result of such a relationship is not Jewish. Thus, a person who is involved in this type of relationship takes his ability to procreate — a power that stems from his soul’s essence — and utilizes it to father a non-Jewish child!

We must, however, understand the following: Since the division between Jew and non-Jew is a boundary that was placed within creation, how is it possible for a Jew to — Heaven forfend — overstep this boundary by being intimate with a heathen women and fathering a non-Jewish child?

A Jew’s ability to choose freely results from “Man’s being similar to Us” — he is likened, as it were, to G-d. Just as G-d can do whatever He pleases, so too can the Jew choose to do as he wills.17

Since G-d is not at all limited by laws of nature (so much so that the He is not limited to the separation between Jew and non-Jew, for it was He that chose to make that separation in the first place), so too can a Jew utilize his freedom of choice to choose that which is the opposite of holiness — fathering a non-Jewish child.

This is also why Pinchas was rewarded for his actions with “eternal priesthood,” even though priesthood is a natural state of being. Since the sin that elicited Pinchas’ zealous response was one that consisted of breaching the boundaries between Jews and non-Jews, therefore he was rewarded — measure for measure — with a priesthood that could come about only by a Divine elimination of the natural barriers Pinchas faced in obtaining the priesthood.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. VIII, pp. 150-156.

Division By Lot

In the Torah portion Pinchas ,18 G-d tells Moshe that Eretz Yisrael is to be apportioned to the tribes by lot. Division by lot was deemed to be so important that this method was chosen though it resulted in disproportionate allotments of land.19

What is so special about division by lot?

There are three distinct aspects regarding the Jews’ possession of Torah:20

a) Torah is considered the inheritance of the Jewish people, as the verse states:21 “The Torah commanded to us by Moshe is the heritage of the congregation of Jacob”; b) Torah is the acquisition of the Jewish people, as our Sages say:22 “G-d said, ‘I have sold you the Torah’ ”; c) the Torah was granted to us as a gift — “G-d gave the Jewish people three fine gifts… Torah, Eretz Yisrael , and the World to Come.”23

That the Torah can be at the same time an inheritance, a purchase and a gift can be understood if one considers the differences between these three things.

Inheritance has nothing to do with the qualities or standing of the person that inherits;24 young and old, rich and poor, great and small inherit equally.

When a person purchases something, however, he must pay for the object.

In both instances the receiver must have some tangible connection to the object received: an inheritor must be related to the legator, while a purchaser must pay for the item that is sold to him.

This is not so with regard to a gift. No relationship is necessary between a giver and a receiver; gifts can be simply an expression of the giver’s kindness.

The same is true with regard to these three things as they relate to the Jews’ possession of Torah:

Each and every Jew is part of the “congregation of Jacob,” and as such Torah is his or her rightful heritage. Thus we find that every Jew “possesses” a letter in the Torah that is uniquely his.25 This also explains why the obligation to study Torah applies equally to all Jews, for Torah is every Jew’s heritage, and as such can and should be studied or recited by all Jews, whatever their station in life.26

The “acquisition” of Torah refers to that part of Torah which is acquired through the effort of cogitation. As such, it is similar to an object acquired in exchange for something else of value. Concerning this level of Torah it is written:27 “Prepare yourself for the study of Torah, for it does not come to you through inheritance.”

With regard to this level of Torah, differences between Jews indeed exist, for each person’s intellectual capacity differs from that of his neighbor,28 so that the degree of Torah understanding varies from individual to individual.

Calling the Torah a “gift” refers to those aspects of it that are beyond any man’s grasp, and therefore must be granted as a gift from G-d.

Thus, this concept of the Torah as gift differs from both the description of it as a heritage received as a result of a Jew’s — finite — right of inheritance, and as an object “purchased” by man’s — finite — comprehension.

This third level of Torah is also referred to as “lot”; just as a gift depends wholly on the giver, so too the outcome of a lot depends strictly on G-d’s choice.29 “Lot” thus alludes to that which transcends man’s intellect.

The quality of Eretz Yisrael is such that “G-d’s eyes are on it at all times”30 — G-dliness is revealed there to a degree not found in the rest of the world. That such a state exists within this physical world cannot be the result of man’s limited service; it is a gift from above.

Eretz Yisrael thus had to be divided by lot, reflecting action at a level that emanates wholly from Above.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIII, pp. 114-121.



1. Bamidbar 27:15-23.
2. Hilchos Melachim 1:3.
3. This question is asked by the Minchas Chinuch in his glosses to Rambam ibid.
4. Hilchos Melachim ibid. 5-7.
5. Bamidbar Rabbah 21:14; Tanchuma Pinchas 11.
6. Mishlei 27:18.
7. Megaleh Amukos, Ofen Alef. Quoted in Yalkut Reuvaini, Bamidbar 27:15.
8. Chulin 60b.
9. Conclusion of ch. 4 of
Hilchos Melachim
10. See Berachos 3b.
11. Rambam , beg. of Hilchos Mamrim.
12. See Likkutei Sichos XIX p. 166ff.
13. See Sanhedrin 14a; Rambam Hilchos Sanhedrin beg. of ch. 4.
14. Bamidbar 25:7.
15. Ibid. verse 13.
16. Zevachim 101b.
17. Likkutei Torah, Emor 38b.
18. Bamidbar 26:52-56.
19. See Rashi ibid., verse 54.
20. Cf. Hemshech V’Kochah 5637 chs. 66,68; Ma’amar, Torah Tzivah, 5654 ; 5702.
21. Devarim 33:4.
22. Shmos Rabbah 33:1. See also Berachos 5a.
23. Berachos ibid. See also Bereishis Rabbah 6:5.
24. See Niddah 43b.
25. See Im Ruach HaMoshel 5695.
26. See Rambam, Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:8; Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein, Orach Chayim , beginning of Ch. 155.
27. Avos 2:12.
28. See Sanhedrin 38a.
29. See Teshuvos HaGe’onim — Jerusalem, 5720 — Sect. 60; Responsa Chavas Ya’ir , Sect. 61.
30. Devarim 11:12.



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