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Parshas Pinchas (5776

Hillary, Trump and the Lack of True Leadership

Have you heard the latest joke going around the U.S.?

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were together on a boat. The boat started to sink. Who was saved? …... AMERICA!!!!

It is interesting that the Democratic National Convention and the campaign for a new leader to replace President Obama coincides with the weekly Torah portion of Pinchas in which Moses asks G-d to appoint a successor to lead the Jewish people after his death. As we will read this Shabbos in the synagogue:

“Moses spoke to G-d, saying. ‘May the L-ord, G-d of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the assembly, who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall take them out and bring them in; and let the assembly of G-d not be like sheep that have no shepherd’” (Numbers 27:15-17).

The Beis Yitzchak explains Moses’ request that the new leader of the assembly “go out before them and come in before them” and “take them out and bring them in” in the following manner:

The Talmud in Sotah 49b gives us fifteen ‘signs’ of what the world will be like immediately prior to the coming of the Messiah. This pre-Messianic period, known in Hebrew as Ikvesa D'Meshicha - the "Footsteps of the Messiah" – is the time when we believe the Messiah is just around the corner and his “footsteps” can be heard (and which many great rabbis, including the Chafetz Chaim, have declared that we are in presently!)

Here is the list of the signs that signal the Messiah's imminent arrival, as taught in the Talmud:

"When the footsteps of the Messiah can be heard:
(1) chutzpah (insolence) will increase;
(2) inflation will soar;
(3) the vine will yield its fruit, but wine will be expensive;
(4) the dominant power in the world will promote the denial of G-d;
(5) no one will be able to reprove another [for everyone will be guilty of the same transgressions];
(6) the meeting place (of Torah scholars) will be used for immorality;
(7) the Galilee will be destroyed, and the Gablan will become desolate;
(8) the people who live on the border will go around begging from town to town and will not be pitied;
(9) the wisdom of the Torah scholars will rot, and those who fear sin will be despised;
(10) the truth will be hidden;
(11) young people will shame old men, and old men will stand up before youngsters, a son will degrade his father, and a daughter will rebel against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
(12) a man's enemies will be the members of his household;
(13) the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog;
(14) a son will not be ashamed before his father;
(15) On whom can we rely? On our Father inHeaven."

[For a full treatment of the fifteen signs, and what they might mean for the times in which we're living, I recommend reading a book written by Rabbi Ezriel Tauber titled Days Are Coming, and especially Chapter 3 pages 142-176, in which he elaborates on each of the 15 signs in great detail.]

One of the really strange, cryptic signs mentioned in the above list is that in the time preceding the Messianic Era, "the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog".

Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman (a pre-war Torah giant who was murdered by the Nazis at the infamous Seventh Fort in Slobodka, Lithuania in 1941) cites the following explanation of this sign in the name of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter (as quoted by Artscroll):

The "face of the generation" means the heads (i.e. the leaders) of the generation. The behavior of the leaders of the generation will resemble that of dogs. When a dog is walked by its master, it trots ahead and thus appears to be leading. In reality, however, it is the master who chooses the direction in which to go. When the dog comes to a fork in the road, it stops and waits for its master to direct it. In the pre-Messianic era, the leaders will only appear to be leading the nation; in reality they will be following the whims of the masses.

It is for this reason, explains the Beis Yitzchak, that Moses asks G-d to appoint someone over the people who will “go out before them and come in before them” – i.e. a true leader who isn’t constantly turning his head like a dog to see what his constituents want him to say or do but is actually in front of them and leading them; for only if he is before the people like a real leader can he truly “take them out and bring them in” – otherwise, the people will be taking him out and bringing him in!

Indeed, G-d responds to Moses that he should take Joshua son of Nun as his successor for he is “a man in whom there is spirit” (ibid verse 18), and Rash”i explains this to mean that Joshua is able to go “opposite the spirit” of the people, i.e. he will be a true leader who will do the right thing even if his constituents want him to do something else.

Unfortunately for all those living in the U.S., the faces of the two candidates for president – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump - are more like the face of a dog than like the face of Joshua ben Nun – and many are worried sick about what is going to happen to the country (and the world) if either of these two “leaders” get elected.

But let’s not despair. After all, King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, teaches us in Proverbs 21:1: “Like streams of water is the heart of a king in the hand of G-d, wherever He wishes, so He directs it”. And the great medieval commentator Rabbeinu Yonah explains that since the choices of a king (or other world leader) affect so many people, G-d often intervenes to direct them, as a farmer who directs the flow of a stream to irrigate his fields.

So this means that we’re in Good Hands, as G-d will intervene when necessary (and knowing Hillary and Trump, it will likely be necessary much of the time!) to make sure that the future President of the United States doesn’t do anything too dangerous or crazy.

Who knows?! Maybe this presidential contest is the fulfillment of the 15th sign of the “Footsteps of the Messiah” listed above? When the world is at a place where everyone is saying: “On whom can we rely? On our Father in Heaven" because we simply can’t rely on the other two choices, then we will all merit to see the coming of the Messiah, a true leader, may it happen speedily and in our day!

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