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    Finishing the job – Pinchas

    Moses appoints Joshua his successor, woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860

    With this sidra, Moses is urgently reminded (Num. Chapter 27) that he will not live for ever. There will be a day to lay down his task. Someone else will have to take it up – and in turn that successor will eventually also have to withdraw, and the next person will have to assume the responsibility.

    Serving God, teaching the Torah and leading the people are an unending mission, and no-one, no matter when or where they make their contribution, will ever be able to say they have completed it.

    Naturally there is a temptation to say, “It’s not fair. I deserve to complete the task and receive the world’s plaudits!” But life doesn’t work like that.

    There is also a temptation to be a Samson and say, “If I can’t be the one to get the credit, I’m going to knock down the whole house of cards before I go!” That’s certainly not fair.

    It reminds me of a high official who is said to have destroyed his organisation’s records at a moment of pique before departing the scene.

    So what if someone else has to take up the task? Others need a chance to make their contribution, building on the foundations that you have laid – even if you don’t always get the credit and praise that is due to you. So what if the next person doesn’t do things in your way and may even be better than you in some respects? The task ought to be greater than the person.

    The Jewish principle is that of Pir’kei Avot, “It is not your duty to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it!” (Avot 2:21).

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