"Moshe spoke to Hashem saying: Let the G-D of all living souls appoint a man over the community. Let him come and go before them, and let him bring them out and lead them, that Hashem's community not be like a flock that has no shepherd. And Hashem said to Moshe, take Yehoshua, the son of Nun, a man who has the spirit (of G-d) in him, and place your hands upon him. And place him before the Elazar the Cohen and before the community, and command him before them. Invest him with some of your splendor, in order that the entire congregation of Yisrael will heed him." (Num 27:15-20)
Parshas Pinchos is sometimes called the Parsha of Chassidus, since in it we learn what is a Rebbe/Teacher and what is a Chassid/Disciple, and the relationship between them. The relationship is the crux around which Chassidus revolves.
The Midrash in (Shemos Rabbah 2:2), relates how Moshe Rabbenu was tested by Hashem to discern which leadership qualities he had. He found that Moshe was compassionate and merciful and able to relate to the individual as well as to the group.
The Midrash quotes the verse (Psalms 11:5), "Hashem examines (tests) the Tzaddik." How was Moshe Rabbenu tested? He was tested by his flocks. Once, when Moshe was a shepherd for his father-in-law Yisro in the deserts of Midian, a small lamb ran away from the rest of the flock. Moshe ran after her to catch her. The lamb found a shady place with a spring of water. She rested there and drank slake her thirst. When Moshe Rabbenu found her there drinking he exclaimed, "I didn't know that you ran away because you were thirsty! You must be so tired!" Moshe took the lamb on his shoulders and carried her back to the flock. Said Hashem, "Moshe, you are compassionate extends to every animal in the flock. You shall also care for my flock, the children of Israel!"
This is the special quality of a leader of the Jewish people. His concern is not only for the general welfare of the nation, but also the personal needs of each and every Jew. He knows that each Jew alone is an entire world. He understands that the general welfare of the people is actually the personal welfare of each individual.
This is what Moshe Rabbenu expressed, "Moshe spoke to Hashem saying: Let the G-D of all living souls appoint a man over the community." (Num. 27:15-16) Rashi comments, " . . .G-D of all living souls . . .", Why is this said? Moshe said to Hashem, Master of the World, You know the nature (mind) of every individual in the nation, and no two are similar to each other. Appoint over them a leader who will be able to bear the responsibility for each and every one according to his nature.
It is not enough that the leader be able to lead the entire nation, he must be able to care for each individual according to his needs. This is a Jewish leader.
What is a Chassid/Disciple? It is not enough that the leader is interested in him personally and concerned for his personal well being, whether spiritual or physical. The Chassid/Disciple must be willing to accept upon himself the influence and guidance of the Tzaddik.
The Torah says that we must cleave to and attach ourselves to Hashem. (Deut. 10:20, 13:5) Yet Chazal ask, how is that possible? Is not Hashem an all consuming fire, and one who will cleave to him will be destroyed? (Deut. 9:3)
They answer that to cleave to Hashem, one must cleave to the Tzaddikim and the Torah scholars. Their depth of knowledge of the Torah and the ways of Hashem represent the will of Hashem. By cleaving and attaching oneself to them, one can cleave and become attached to Hashem.
There are several ways of cleaving to a Tzaddik and receiving on one self the influence of the Tzaddik/Teacher. This is defined by the author of the "Toldos Adam" according to the three different ways that a Tzaddik conducts himself in relating to his people, Machshava Dibbur and Maaseh. (thought, speech and deed)
There is the Tzaddik of Maasah, (deed) who through his depth of Torah study and intensity of prayer and self subjugation inspire those around him to climb higher, and they, by conducting themselves like him, are able to bring themselves up to a higher level of spiritual awareness.
There is the Tzaddik of Dibbur, (speech) who guides with his words. In the previous generations, a Jew would appear before the Tzaddik to receive inspiration in Avodas Hashem. The Tzaddik would speak very briefly with them and that was enough to rekindle a new spirit in the Jew. Even from the plain conversation of the Tzaddik he was able to discern significance and derive tremendous benefit. The Midrash declares that the plain conversation of the Tzaddik is as profound as the entire Torah. It is told about R' Elimelech of Lizhensk that he would sit with his chassidim during the half hour break between the Mincha and Maariv prayers in the evening and tell them simple stories. Each one would be able to find in these stories profound thoughts that inspired and encouraged him personally in his Avodas Hashem.
Finally there is the Machshavah Tzaddik who is on a very high yet detached level of existence, whose service is one of deep and lofty thought. A person who simply gazes upon a Tzaddik like this is changed for the good. All the more so when the Tzaddik sets his gaze upon the Jew, he can be instantly uprooted from his level of service and propelled to a new reality. It is furthermore told about R' Elimelech of Lizhensk that any person who would see him would not leave the world without doing Teshuva, and any one that he would set his gaze upon would be instantly changed for the good.
Today the importance of finding a teacher/spiritual guide/Rebbe is greater than ever. Judaism has survived, and continues tothrive today because its laws, wisdom, customs and practices have been passed on from Rebbe to disciple, from Father to son, from Mother to daughter, from friend to friend. No person is exempt from finding a teacher. Moreover, no one is exempt from being a teacher of others. The thirst for learning Torah today is greater than at any time since the era of the Babylonian Talmud. (acc.to historian Rabbi Beryl Wein) The need for teachers is crucial. I believe that everybody can find somebody who is in need of his type knowledge or method of guidance.
The Talmud says, (Baba Metzia 87a) "Tzaddikim say little but do a lot." We have a saying, "words that come from the heart go straight into the heart." Tzaddikim, since their words come straight from the heart, can accomplish much with few words since they go straight into the heart. (R' Yehoshua Heshel of Monastrichsh).
There is another take on this. Words that come from the heart
go straight into
the heart . . . the same heart from whence they came. When one gives of himself to another, the words re-enter his heart with a new clarity and sense of purpose. If they went out in truth they return with a greater sense of truth. The potential benefit to our people is tremendous.
See the story All Yisrael Together that goes with this Parsha.
Return to the Nishmas Chayim Parsha and Holiday Archives