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5578, Pinchas

The Torah relates how the daughters of Zelophchad came forward to claim their father’s inheritance in the Land of Canaan. Moshe didn’t know what to answer them and Hashem spoke to Moshe and Moshe relayed to them His response, that they were entitled to their father’s portion. Hashem subsequently taught Moshe the laws of inheritance, telling him who has the legal rights to the estate and what to do with the inheritance when a person doesn’t leave over sons, or any offspring at all.

    Seeing that Hashem had instructed him to involve himself with giving Zelophchad’s inheritance to his daughters, which consisted of a parcel of land in the Land of Canaan, Moshe hoped that he too might be allowed to enter the Land of Canaan, so Hashem reiterated the prohibition of him entering the Land. Instead Hashem instructed Moshe to go up onto the mountain of Avarim and to physically see the land, and to also attain a deeper vision, one that would enable him to grasp its inner spiritual essence.

    Once those two events had taken place, and on the one hand Moshe had witnessed the daughters of Zelophchad receiving their inheritance, while on the other hand he had heard that G-d wasn’t going to allow him to enter the Land of Canaan, Moshe now felt that it was the appropriate time to ask for a successor. The Torah records the conversation between Hashem and Moshe. [1]”Moshe spoke to Hashem, saying, ‘May Hashem, G-d of the spirits of the flesh, appoint a man over the assembly, who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall take them out and bring them in; and let the assembly of Hashem not be like sheep that have no shepherd’. Hashem said to Moshe, Take to yourself Yehoshua son of Nun, a man in whom there is spirit, and lean your hand upon him’”. Why when Moshe turned to request from Hashem the appointment of a new leader, did he refer to Hashem as “Elokei H’Ruchos – G-d of the spirits”, and then when Hashem tells Moshe to appoint Yehoshua as the new leader, He describes him as “Ish Asher Ruach Bo – a man in whom there is spirit”? What does this Ruach – Spirit mean? What is its significant when appointing a new leader?

    A person owned a business that polished diamonds. He would purchase the mined rough diamonds and they would undergo the multi-step process called cutting. He would first analyze the diamonds and instruct his workers what shape to cut them into, what size, and polish them, till they achieved a smooth and clear surface, in preparation to be sold as gemstones. He dealt mainly with small bits of stone and smaller carat diamonds, and the profit margin wasn’t very big, but he still managed to make a comfortable living. He employed a large staff, who worked together in a large workshop, each one sitting at their respective station beside the different machinery, each one an expert in their specific field. The supply of rough stone would arrive at his office and pass down the chain, each worker adding his personal touch, until the end product was ready to be sent out to the customers. One day, one of his suppliers started telling him about large rough diamonds, that with a lot of expertise and patience, one can produce from them beautiful finished diamonds and the profit margin is much greater than the small stones he currently trades in, and that could make him into a tycoon and give him a strong name in the industry. The man told his supplier that he needed time to contemplate the idea, as it would require a big outlay on his behalf to purchase the raw materials. The supplier kept bringing up the subject each time they met or spoke, and eventually the dealer agreed to give it a trial and see if he was successful. He placed an order and waited patiently to receive the merchandise. After a few days he received the first package of large, raw, uncut stones. He planned to do the most time-consuming part of the cutting process himself, the preliminary analysis of the rough stone. The analysis process needs to address a large number of issues, how best to cut and polish each stone etc., and bears much responsibility. He had an important meeting to attend so he left them on his desk, planning to examine them upon his return, and then give his workers specific instructions on how to cut and prepare this precious merchandise. However, when he returned later on in the day, he thought his world was about to come to an end, and he started having a panic attack. The box of diamonds was nowhere to be seen, and he feared the worst. When he began to enquire if any of the workers had seen the package they all shook their heads in the negative, until a voice piped up from the corner of the workshop “I didn’t have any more material to work on, so I took them from your desk and started working on them”. The owner started to fear the worst; bankruptcy, mafia, and who knows what else. He rushed over to that workstation, but it was too late, the stones were already being worked on, and that worker was giving them a regular polish like he did to all the previous diamonds. “What are you doing?”, screamed the owner, “those are big and precious diamonds”. “Big, small, they are all the same to me”, replied the worker.

Every Yiddisher Neshama is a diamond, and not just a cheap simple diamond, each one is a precious diamonds. Each Neshama is individual and we can’t just say ‘Big, small, they are all the same to me’. Each ‘diamond’ needs to be examined by an expert to decide how best to shape and polish it, to bring out its full potential. The Yiddisher diamond needs to be slowly polished and prepared for real life. But that process especially the preliminary analysis of the precious uncut rough stone requires someone with expertise. Not everyone is eligible to fulfill that position. Anybody can try and be a leader or sometimes even a dictator. But that doesn’t mean that they are fulfilling their position or responsibility faithfully or wisely. Amongst a nation there will be many different groups, and just as their facial features differ so too their opinions will differ. One will find many opinionated people, many believing that everyone must accept their opinion. There might be leaders who class everyone into one category, and believe that everyone was made in the same mold. However we see that that method is definitely not beneficial. Moshe understood this and therefore he asked Hashem to choose a leader that would be able to understand that every soul is really a rough unpolished stone, and even though to the naked untrained eye they might seem to be worthless, but with the expertise and wisdom to understand how to cut and polish the stone, the person can be transformed into a precious diamond, shining and glittering in the light. Therefore, Moshe referred to Hashem as “spirits of the flesh” in reference to the fact that He is the One who could see each individuals Ruach – Spirit and thus He would understand and appreciate the necessity to appoint a leader that would that would have the Ruach, and the qualities, to be able grade, class, and analyze each individual diamond and be able to decide how best to cut and polish it, until it would shine, in reminder of the famous De Beers advert that read ‘A Diamond is Forever’, yes, a Jewish diamond is forever, L’Netzach Netzachim. Thus, when Hashem told Moshe to appoint his student Yehoshua as the new leader, He described him as “a man in whom there is spirit”, Yehoshua possessed that quality called Ruach, and the ability to be able to discern the different people and give them individual advice and care that would be beneficial for them.

        This trait of Ruach is something we all need to incorporate into our daily lives. While it takes a different level of understanding and responsibility to be the leader of all of Klal Yisroel, this trait is scalable and applies on a smaller scale to everyone. It has many applications in our lives especially with our interaction with mankind. A parent with their children – each child is that uncut raw diamond, and with the discerning eye and the Ruach, the parent will be able to analyze and decide how best to polish the child. It is the parents’ obligation to realize that not every child is the same, and thus even though a certain institution was amazing for one child, but might not be compatible for another child. The same can be said about a teacher; they must realize that not all the students in their class came out from the same mold, and thus they must often look for an individual method to polish and prepare the diamonds. But it is also applicable to our daily interactions with fellow human beings in all spheres of life, irrespective of who they are. Each person is a diamond that might have just been mined and just needs to be prepared and then the profit margin will be very big. For that we need to a Ruach to understand, help, and nurture every person we interact with.                 

[1] Bamidbar 27; 15-18


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