SALT - Tuesday, 13 Tammuz 5776 - July 19, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

 

            We read in Parashat Pinchas of Moshe’s request that God appoint a successor who would lead Benei Yisrael after his death.  In response, God instructs Moshe to formally assign Yehoshua as his successor in a public ceremony.  Immediately thereafter, God presents the commands regarding the temidin u-musafin – the sacrifices offered each day and the additional sacrifices offered on special occasions (Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and festivals).

            Rashi (28:2), citing the Sifrei, offers the following explanation for why the command of temidin u-musafin appears immediately after the story of Yehoshua’s appointment: “The Almighty said to him [Moshe]: Before you command Me with respect to My children, command My children with respect to Me.”  Meaning, after God “obeyed” Moshe’s “command” that He name a successor, He then reminded Moshe that Benei Yisrael must obey His commands to them, as well.

            Chazal here warn against focusing too much attention on the issue of leadership, at the expense of our own responsibilities.  Moshe was certainly not wrong to ask God to name a successor to ensure a stable transition after his passing.  Leadership is vitally important, and undoubtedly we should be concerned that our communities and our nation have capable and deserving leaders.  Often, however, we devote too much thought and attention to the appointment of leaders that we neglect our own obligations and responsibilities.  And thus Chazal warn, “Before you command Me with respect to My children, command My children with respect to Me.”  We must avoid excessive preoccupation with politics and the selection of leaders, notwithstanding its importance, and give proper attention to the responsibilities to which we need to attend.

            Significantly, Chazal make this comment in particular reference to the temidin u-musafin.  The message underlying these mitzvot is that each day presents us with obligations to meet and challenges to confront.  Some responsibilities present themselves each day (“temidin”), whereas others arise on certain occasions or under particular circumstances (“musafin”).  But on each and every day, without exception, we have obligations that we need to fulfill.  Excessive preoccupation with our leadership threatens to divert our attention from our “temidin u-musafin,” our obligations, as it causes us to cast the entire burden of responsibility on the leaders’ shoulders.  It leads us to think that our success or failure depends solely on how the leaders execute their responsibilities, without worrying about how we execute ours.  Chazal here remind us that notwithstanding the importance of leadership, our primary focus must be our “temidin u-musafin,” the responsibilities that we must tend to each and every day throughout our lives.