Parshat Pinchas introduces us to an array of great Jewish heroes. The Parsha contains 3 stories that illustrate what true leadership and heroism mean from a Torah perspective.
The Torah portion begins with the Almighty rewarding Pinchas for his zealous act to sanctify God's name. When a Jew named Zimri publicly disgraced the Jewish people by having sexual relations with a Midianite woman and challenging Moshe and the Jewish people in front of the Tabernacle, Pinchas reacted by bravely grabbing a spear and ending the lives of both Zimri and the Midianite woman.
A short while later, we learn about the daughters of a man named Tzlafchad. Tzlafchad had died with no sons, and the daughters were concerned that their family would have no portion in the Land of Israel. Now, confronting Moshe and issuing a challenge to the system could have definitely been viewed as a rebellion of some sort especially in the wake of many other rebellions that we have been reading about. But for these women, their love for Israel was too strong to allow them to sit and remain silent and lose the potential opportunity to be part of inheriting the land.
The third story in the Torah is Moshe transferring his leadership mantle to Yehoshua. Rashi explains that Moshe had anticipated that his sons would inherit the leadership role. Yehoshua was not necessarily the obvious pick for the next leader, but because of his dedication to his teacher Moshe and because of his bravery during the incident of the spies, he was in fact rewarded with this
Why does the Torah group these three incidents so close together? It seems that these three chapters teach us 3 essential traits- the 3 C’s of great leadership: Conviction, Confidence, and Commitment.
In Pinchas we see the passion and the zeal to stand up for what he knew was right and wrong. Though, there are almost no circumstances when a person can resort to violence, Pinchas understood in his very blood that this situation called for him to challenge those who were causing disgracing of God's Name. He realized that behavior that would cause others to fall, disgrace Torah scholars and bring others to frown upon the Jewish people was crossing the line and called for extreme action.
Tzlafchad’s daughters showed confidence to stand up to the greatest leader of all time and suggest that he was doing something wrong. They were not to be content with their spiritual status and, therefore saw something that Moshe did not. And they had the courage to speak up and say what they saw.
And in Yehoshua we see an incredible commitment to his teacher Moshe, the ideal protégé and, therefore the one most suitable one to carry the torch to the next generation. This commitment to the values that he was taught, allowed him to withstand the pressure put on him by the other spies, even at a moment of great uncertainty.
In our own leadership role, we must learn to establish what are our principles that we will be unwavering about. We need to have the bravery to challenge the system when the system seems broken. And, finally, we need to have commitment to a set of values that will carry us even when we lack clarity.