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The Family Solution

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

“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.” (Numbers 27:16-19)

God tells Moses that he (Moses) will not enter the Promised Land and, so, Moses asks God to appoint a new leader over the congregation of Israel. In his request, Moses refers to God as “the God of spirits of all flesh,” an expression used only in this context in the Torah. Rashi explains that Moses said to God: “Master of the Universe, it is revealed before you the mindset of every one of them, and how they differ one from the other, appoint upon them a leader that will tolerate each one in accordance with their own mindset.” God then instructs Moshe to appoint Joshua, “a man of spirit”, which Rashi interprets to mean ‘a man who can deal with the spirit of each individual.’

As we know, people often have diverging political and religious views and different interests. It is natural that we are, generally, more tolerant  of and socialize more with people sharing similar views to our own. We tend to disassociate from people with a different mindset from our own. The family setting is one in which it is harder to avoid interaction with people of a very different mindset. I have often marveled at how children from the same family can be wired so differently. Virtually all parents are faced with this challenge in one form or another. A parent’s views and mindset may align more closely with a particular child within the family, but the truly loving parent will deal with each child, tolerate each child, and guide each child, according to that child’s individual wiring and mindset.

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelewitz, therefore, explains that Moses was asking God for a leader who would consider the members of the congregation as their own children. Only a leader with these credentials would tolerate and negotiate with every congregant with a particular mindset.

We are now in the period leading up to Tisha Be’av. We mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem that resulted from intolerance and baseless hatred. Perhaps this is what is needed for the correction—we need to make an effort to view others not as others, but, rather, as family members, as our own children and siblings. We will then be forced to understand, negotiate with, and deal with people with mindsets diverging from our own with love. We will, thereby, unite our people and merit the rebuilding of the Temple soon in our days.