“Moses spoke to the LORD, saying,“Let the LORD, Source of the breath of all flesh, appoint someone over the community who shall go out before them and come in before them, and who shall take them out and bring them in, so that the LORD’s community may not be like sheep that have no shepherd.”
And the LORD answered Moses, “Single out Joshua son of Nun, an inspired man, and lay your hand upon him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before the whole community, and commission him in their sight. Invest him with some of your authority, so that the whole Israelite community may obey. But he shall present himself to Eleazar the priest, who shall on his behalf seek the decision of the Urim [breastplate of decisions] before the LORD.” (Num 27:15-21)
I’ve been watching the nominating conventions these last couple of weeks. Sometimes I think it would be so much easier if God picked the next leader. Of course, over the endless primary season, many people who aspired to leadership thought God actually had chosen them, and as they put themselves forth as God’s gift to us, the drawbacks of that particular system were apparent.
Torah may deal in God-picked successors, but we don’t. However, Torah gives us a glimpse as to how we function in the human realm: the daughters of Zelophechad. Earlier in Chapter 27 of Bamidbar, we meet the five daughters of Zelophechad. They have no brothers. Their father died in the wilderness, and he was a good man, “not one of Korah’s faction…Let not our father’s name be lost to his clan just because he had no son. Give us a holding [of land] among our father’s kinsmen.” (Num 27:3-4) The law was set as to inheritance, a group of people stood up and pointed out its obvious flaws and oversights, and the law was changed.
This was a huge step. It was a time when the heavenly law of God was amended by the people, to meet the reality of human existence. Zelophechad’s girls showed us what the next step was in the evolution of a people’s leadership. Leadership is certainly inspired, by God or whatever spiritual source one may have. True leadership takes, as we heard this week on a podium, “grit and grace”. Human work and spiritual support.
We’ve been hearing a lot of speeches…plus balloons, bands, and banners. And we will have a lot more over the next four months. We retain some of the same pomp and ritual that we see in this parasha, as we present new leadership possibilities to the country, and the world. In November, we will see the chosen ones at all levels of government come before the entire community, after the decision is made by, not the magical “Urim”, but the voice of people, one by one making their choices.
The lesson is clear: God cannot choose the next leaders for us. God may provide the spiritual strength these leaders need, but in the end, it is the result of people standing up and pointing out the flaws and oversights of the current situation that will make the changes. None of that happens without the “Urim” of those whom the laws affect. None of that happens without individuals who are the victims of injustice, working together through peaceful means, to bring change.
As the months unfold, and as we get closer to the elections, the blending of spiritual and social, between God choosing and the people speaking, must be our guides to choosing our next leader. Not just the one at the top, but all those down the line, who need to hear our voices and get our votes. We are the Urim of decision today.