Moses spoke to יהוה, saying,
“Let יהוה, Source of the breath of all flesh, appoint someone over the community who shall go out before them and come in before them, and who shall take them out and bring them in, so that יהוה’s community may not be like sheep that have no shepherd.”
Moses has learned that he will soon pass away. One of his chief concerns is the continuation of guidance and success for the Israelite people. He offers a prayer to God that the next leader might embody some of the defining characteristics of his leadership: his faith, his understanding of the Israelite’s needs, and his concern for their well-being.
Rabbi Kerry Olitzky suggests that Moses was so entrenched in who the Israelites had been and where they had come from that he could not recognize the necessity for a new type of leadership. Moses prayed for a new leader who embodied the qualities the Israelites needed from Moses at the time.
God knew that more was required for the people to enter the promised land; thus, the next leader (Joshua, in this case) would have different tasks and leadership goals. New leadership, says Olitzky, was necessary to accomplish a new objective, and this leadership also needed to be leadership inspired by faith and concern.
Whenever there is a change in leadership, the transition is crucial. This vignette in the Torah presents one model for such a transition. However, every change in leadership — be it in the political, religious, or business arena — produces its own set of circumstances and needs. Our mission is to recognize this reality and act accordingly. The Torah provides models and principles to guide us in that endeavor.