[First posted on The Times of Israel: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/pinhas-the-power-of-honoring/]
Ibn Ezra Numbers: Pinhas
The Power of Honoring
“Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other” -Edmund Burke
God has informed Moses of his impending forced retirement. Moses will not cross the Jordan River with the people of Israel to enter the promised land. Rather, God tells him that he will ascend the mountain, see the land, and die there outside of Canaan. Moses makes a final request of God: don’t leave the people leaderless – appoint someone to follow me.
God acquiesces to the request and informs Moses that his disciple Joshua will take over the reins of leadership. Joshua is the one that will lead the people into Canaan and conquer the land.
In the first act of “semicha” or ordination, Moses places his hands upon Joshua and transmits to him some of his spirit, his glory, his authority. Ibn Ezra on Numbers 27:20 is so impressed by this act that he claims it had the immediate effect of raising Joshua’s status in the eyes of the entire nation. By Moses honoring Joshua so, by raising Joshua to his own level, he showed the highest form of respect. The people of Israel immediately understood the action of Moses, the honor that he was showing Joshua, and they learned to honor Joshua as well, following Moses’ example.
May we always have opportunity to see deserving people honored.
To the chain of tradition, that has continued from Moses until this day. See here for an interesting presentation showing the unbroken chain of ordination that includes some of my Rabbis.