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A Man who has Spirit Within Him?

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

Moses spoke to the Lord, saying: Let the Lord, the God of spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go forth before them and come before them, who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd. The Lord said to Moses, “Take for yourself Joshua, the son of Nun, a man of spirit, and you shall lay your hand upon him.” (Bamidbar 27, 15-18)

Moses approaches God and asks him to appoint a new leader for the Jewish people to lead them into the promised land. His use of the rarely used expression “Lord, the God of spirits of all flesh” in this context requires further explanation. God responds that Joshua should become the new leader and that he is indeed a man of spirit. The term “a man of spirit” also requires further explanation.

Rashi explains that Moses was in fact asking God for a leader with a specific character trait. He was effectively saying to God: “God, you created all these different people and know how each of them is unique. Please appoint a leader who is able to deal with each person based on their individual personalities.” God responds by saying that Joshua should be chosen because he has the ability to relate to each individual person.

Rabbi Yisroel Miller points out that the ability to relate to different people requires empathy. One has to have the ability to put oneself in the other’s position and feel and view life from their vantage point. Moses felt for each individual and felt their pain. He was thus able to constantly look for mitigating factors in defense of the nation and plead to God on their behalf for forgiveness. Empathy is not a character trait that is either naturally present or naturally absent. It is a character trait which we can and should always and actively work to develop and improve. In so doing we will also become greater leaders in our personal, family and national this content.