The Three Hands of Leadership

The following is a summary of an audio lecture
for the Torah Portion of Pinchas (#E_026)

The Three Hands of Leadership

The Weekly Torah Portion of: Pinchas

A Successor for Moses

After God informs Moses that he will not be leading the Jewish People into the Land of Israel, Moses turns to God to appoint an appropriate successor. God instructs Moses to appoint his disciple, Joshua (in Hebrew:Yehoshua), “a man with spirit within him,” and to place his hand on Joshua’s head. Moses’ hand becomes the conduit to channel his spiritual power to Joshua.

At the conclusion of this section, the Torah writes that Moses fulfilled God’s instructions exactly “in the hand of Moses.” Our Sages teach us that the concluding words of a section summarize the entire section. From the fact that the Torah uses the unusual phrase “in the hand of Moses” to conclude this section we can understand that the concept of ordination, transferring leadership from generation to generation is a function of the hand. This is the secret of the hand, which has power to project Divine energy from mentor to student, transforming the student to a sage in his own right.

Why Both Hands?

The Torah describes how Moses placed both hands over Joshua’s head. Both the sages and Rashi immediately call our attention to a discrepancy. God commanded Moses to place his hand on Joshua’s head, but Moses complied by placing both hands on his head.

For most people, the stronger and more dominant hand is the right. This hand is called the yad hagedolah, “the great hand.” When God instructs Moses to place his hand on Joshua, it is automatically presumed that this refers to the stronger, right hand.

In Kabbalah and Chassidut we learn that the right hand represents loving-kindness. By placing his right hand on Joshua, Moses channels his own capacity for loving- kindness into Joshua.

Although loving-kindness is a dominant factor in rectified leadership, it cannot stand alone. Just as rainfall, which is God’s loving-kindness, needs might to penetrate the earth and quench it, so a leader must augment his loving-kindness toward his flock with might. (This explains why penetrating rainfall is called gvurot geshamim,“the might of rainfall.”) Moses thus placed his left hand, which represents might, on Joshua as well. In order for Joshua’a loving-kindness to be consummate, Moses knew that it must include the left-handed power of might. The left hand is called yad hachazakah“the hand of might.” 

A Man of Spirit”

The ability to include left in right is the talent to relate to each individual in his own “space,” while maintaining one’s own convictions. Joshua is chosen as Moses’ successor due to this essential talent. He is a “man of spirit,” knowing how to relate to the individual soul of each person in his congregation, bonding their different perspectives into one whole, which includes left within the right.

The Third Hand

The story of Joshua’s succession of Moses concludes with the phrase “all was done consummately by the hand of Moses.” This hand is not the right hand of loving-kindness or the left hand of might that augments it. Yet a third hand, representing another essential leadership tool, is alluded to in this concluding phrase.

Joshua’s name was originally Hoshea. When Joshua went out as part of the 12 spies to reconnoiter the Land of Israel, Moses added a yud to the beginning of his name, transforming it to Yehoshua. The added yud gave Joshua the spiritual power to resist the temptation of the other spies who spoke evil of the Land. This is the power of the leader to overcome the majority opinion when it is wrong, and remain firm in his convictions. In order to integrate that power into his psyche, a yud was integrated into Joshua’s name.

The letter yud means “hand.” It is the most pure and abstract hand, and also the first letter of God’s essential Name, Havayah (spelled: yud, hei, vav, hei). The hand added by Moses to Joshua’s name is the middle hand, called the yad ramah. It is neither right nor left, but is the middle energy channel running down the torso. The five fingers of this mysterious inner hand project upward, above the head. This hand uplifts a person to the source of his own soul, where he is one and alone and not vulnerable to enticement by the majority. At this level, the leader remains faithful to his convictions, reaching up to his essential connection to his mentor and spiritual source. Moses endowed Joshua with this uplifitng hand when he saw his humility. Given to Joshua prior to his ordination, this connection to his soul source and to Moses is a prerequisite for him to succeed Moses as leader of the Jewish People.


Some Handy Numbers

The numerical value of Joshua’s full name, Yehoshua bin Nun, equals 549.

The sum of the three hands, yad hagedolah, yad hachazakah and yad ramah equals 459.

The initial definition of a leader that Moses requests is ish al ha’eida, “a man over the congregation.” This phrase equals 495. These three numbers are all permutations of each other, pointing to a link between them.

The word yad, (“hand”) is inscribed in the second letter of the phrase ish al ha’eida, (yud) and the second to last letter of the phrase (dalet).

Yad also appears in the very first word of this section of the Torah portion, yifkod, which begins with a yud and ends with a dalet. The word yad appears explicitly in the second to last word of the section, b’yad, “in the hand (of Moses).”

Let us write the phrase ish al ha’eida, which has 9 letters, as a square of 3 as follows (from right to left):














The three diagonal letters spell eleh (alef, lamed, hei), “these,” while the numerical value of the remaining letters is 459, the exact value of the three hands.

The middle column of this phrase spells yeled, (yud, lamed, dalet) “child.” When a lamed is inserted into theyad, it produces a child. While the rectified leader — possessing the qualities of the three hands — must be anish, a mature person, he must retain the purity of a child. When a leader is pure, his leadership gives birth (another meaning of the root yeled) to rectified successors from generation to generation.

When the dalet and lamed of this phrase are added to ish, the words Kel– Shakai, “God Almighty,” are formed. This phrase equals 345, the numerical value of Moshe (Moses). Moses requested of God the ability to project himself with all three hands into the soul of his disciple. That successor is a new version of the very same eternal truth of the soul of Moses. This holds true for all successors of the Moses of every generation.

Permutations and Attributes of the Heart

Any number of three digits has six possible permutations. The numbers 459 (value of 3 hands), 495 (value of “man over congregation”) and 549 (value of Yehoshua bin Nun) precede the following three permutations of this set, 594, 945 and 954. The first three numbers, which all appear in our Torah section, define the set of six.

In Kabbalah we learn that the six permutations correspond to the six attributes of the heart. 459, corresponding to the value of the three hands, corresponds to the attribute of chesedloving-kindness. All three hands are included in the right hand of loving-kindness in order to ordain and appoint.

495, corresponding to the “man over the congregation,” corresponds to the attribute of netzach, the ability to conduct or lead.

549, corresponding to Yehoshua bin Nun, corresponds to the attribute of hod, the splendor of the leader. God instructs Moses to place his hod over Joshua. The splendor of the leader is his aura, the character traits represented by all three hands.

Hand Applications

The first hand that the potential leader receives is the uplifting hand. This ability to rise above conflict and opposition must become part of his name and his essential nature. He can then lead with the loving-kindness of his right hand, while augmenting this quality with his left-handed talent — the ability to relate to each and every person on his own ground, including left within the right. When we apply these qualities in our own lives, we, too, can successfully lead others in a rectified manner.