Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis Eliran Aharon

The most important lesson every leader should hear. This is what I believe Moshe taught us just before he passed away. In Parshat Pinchas, Hashem gives Moshe the sad news that he will die before entering into the Holy Land. Immediately Moshe’s response was, “Please God appoint my successor in my lifetime.”

And what was the reason why this was so important?

“Velo tihyeh adat Hashem katzon asher ein lahem roeh.” – “In order that the people of the Lord should not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Bamidbar 27:17)

Now, many of our mefarshim want to know why there are so many words. We know of course that the Torah always uses the briefest possible way to present an idea. Surely the Torah here should have said that the nation should not be ‘katzon bli roeh’ – like sheep without a shepherd? Why is it ‘katzon asher ein lahem roeh’ – sheep who ‘don’t have any shepherd for them’?

So the Ktav Sofer explains beautifully. He says this is a long-winded approach in order to include the word ‘lahem’ – for them. What Moshe was saying to Hashem about his successor was that the nation needed to have somebody who was there for them, not someone who’s there for the sake of their own ego, power or control. Rather, the mark of a true leader is somebody who is there in the interests of those who they are serving.

Now that’s such an important lesson for all of us. We should be parents for the sake of our children, teachers for the sake of those who are in the classroom, heads of communities for the sake of the members of the communities, and of course heads of nations for the sake of the interests of every single citizen.

The all important message conveyed to us by Moshe is: you can only be a good shepherd if you’re there for every single member of your flock.