Following Our True Shepherd

Yifkod Hashem Elokei haruchos l’chol basar ish al ha’eidah (Bamidbar 27:16)

After Hashem showed Moshe the Land of Israel but told him that he would not be permitted to enter due the episode at Mei Merivah, Moshe requested that Hashem appoint a successor to him who would lead the people, so that they would not be left bereft like a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Hashem responded by informing Moshe that his disciple Yehoshua had earned the position through his devoted service.

The Sfas Emes notes that the Jewish people certainly have a reliable shepherd to lead them — Hashem — as Dovid famously writes (Tehillim 23:1): “Mizmor l’Dovid Hashem ro’i— A Psalm of Dovid, Hashem is my shepherd.” If so, what was Moshe’s intention in asking Hashem to select a replacement for him to serve as their shepherd?

The Sfas Emes explains that even though in reality Hashem is always guiding us and serving as our shepherd, human nature is such that there are difficult times when we feel distant from Him and abandoned. The Torah alludes to this phenomenon when it records (Bereishis 22:4): “Vayar es hamakom me’rachok — Avraham saw haMakom (which literally means the place for the Akeidah, but can also be a reference to Hashem) from afar.” Therefore, we have leaders to help us understand that we are never forlorn, and to give us the recognition that Hashem is constantly watching over us.

His grandson Harav Pinchas Menachem Alter, known as the Pnei Menachem, adds that when Dovid wrote “Hashem ro’i lo echsar — Hashem is my shepherd, I will not lack,” he was praying that he should never lack the emotional connection and feeling that Hashem is his Shepherd, continuously protecting him and leading him through life, which is something that Moshe sought in his successor.

On this topic, Harav Yisroel Reisman tells the story of a well-known Jew in Williamsburg who was diagnosed with a terrible illness and given a poor prognosis. Before he began treatment, he first went to every chassidic Rebbe in Williamsburg for a brachah (blessing), and miraculously, after only two weeks, his disease disappeared and his doctor pronounced him completely cured. As news of his miraculous recovery spread, each group of Chassidim took credit by asserting that it was the brachah given by their respective Rebbe that healed him.

The man who was cured went to the Satmar Rebbe, Harav Yoel Teitelbaum, to personally inform him of his improvement and to thank him for his blessing and prayers. He mentioned that every chassidic group was claiming credit for curing him, to which the Satmar Rebbe replied that ultimately, the Rebbe who has the most Chassidim will get credit due to the fact that he has the most followers ascribing the miracle to the power of his brachah.

However, the Satmar Rebbe cynically added, the true cause of his miraculous recovery was Hashem, but sadly, He won’t receive credit due to the fact that He has very few Chassidim who follow in Moshe and Dovid’s footsteps in recognizing Him as their true Shepherd in life.

Q: Rashi writes (27:1) that the Torah specifically emphasizes that the ancestry of the daughters of Tzelafchad extended back to Yosef to teach that their love of the Land of Israel, in which they demanded to inherit their father’s portion, had its origins in Yosef’s love of Israel, to which he insisted on having his bones brought for burial. What love was displayed by their insistence to actually own a portion of the Land when they would merit entering the Land regardless, as opposed to Yosef, who had to request to be brought into Israel?

Q: Why does Hashem refer (28:2) to the korban tamid (Continual Offering) as “korbani — My offering,” while all other sacrifices are referred to as “korbanchem — your offerings”?

A: Harav Moshe Feinstein explains that when a person truly loves something, he wants to own it and feel that it is his, rather than something he must borrow from others. He adds that for this reason Hashem gave a mitzvah of owning a sefer Torah, which may also be fulfilled today according to many opinions by purchasing Jewish religious books, because a person should love Torah study so much that he should want to study from his own text and materials.

A: The Dover Shalom, which is one of the commentaries printed in the Siddur Otzar Hatefillos, explains that most of the offerings are brought as a result of human action, such as for a sin that needs atonement or after surviving a dangerous situation for which a person wants to express thanksgiving, and for this reason they are considered as belonging to the people who bring them. On the other hand, Hashem commanded us to offer the korban tamid twice daily for the purpose of bringing Divine blessing down to the world, and it is therefore referred to as Hashem’s offering.

However, Harav Aharon Leib Steinman cites the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 21:21) that teaches that there was never a person in Yerushalayim with a sin on his hands because the korban tamid offered in the morning atoned for any sins that were committed during the night, and the korban tamid brought in the afternoon atoned for sins that were done during the day, which implies that the korban tamid also served to bring forgiveness. He suggests that, nevertheless, it wasn’t considered as effecting atonement in the same manner as the other offerings.

Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email