Sheep Count! by Dr. Joel Berman


...הסר משם כל שה נקד..., “…remove every speckled lamb…” (30:32)

Why does the Torah, usually terse in Describing events, devote ten Pesukim following this one to explaining in great detail Yaakov’s remarkable ability as a shepherd?  It is interesting to note that Yaakov is not the only shepherd who became a great Jewish leader.  Avraham, Moshe, and David were also shepherds.  David was in tune with the needs of the flocks entrusted to him, and he was therefore careful to let the weaker, younger animals graze first so that they could benefit from the more easily available grass and shoots.  Only afterwards would he allow the older, stronger animals to graze, since only they had the strength to dig up the roots.

What is the connection between shepherding and Klal Yisrael?  We can look at Parshat Ki Tisa for an explanation.  Bnai Yisrael are reveling around the golden calf.  Moshe Rabbeinu descends from the mountain carrying the Luchot (32:15).  Towards the bottom of the mountain he meets Yehoshua, and the two have a most interesting exchange.  Yehoshua reports to Moshe, קול מלחמה במחנה, “[I hear] the sound of battle coming from the camp.”  Moshe corrects Yehoshua, קול ענות אנכי שומע, “[No,] it is the sound of distress I hear.” 

Rav Shimon Schwab, zt”l, in his Sefer מעיין בית השואבה, explains that the Torah records lessons in both leadership and psychology.  He brings a Gemara Yerushalmi from the fourth Perek of Taanit where Moshe asks Yehoshua how Yehoshua, the future leader of Klal Yisrael, could fail to distinguish between one sound and another.  Of course Yehoshua recognized the sounds of revelry and drunkenness.  He thought, however, that these were the results of a battle of rebellion against Hashem.  Moshe Rabbeinu knew better.  He explained to Yehoshua that these were not the sounds of Simcha and joy but the sounds of depression, despair, and bitterness, the results of Bnai Yisrael’s mistaken belief that they were abandoned and leaderless in the desert.  Moshe was explaining to Yehoshua that it was incumbent upon him, as a future leader of Klal Yisrael, to understand the needs of his people no less than the master shepherds Avraham, Moshe, and David understood the needs of their animals.  Just like a shepherd guides his flock, so too a leader of Klal Yisrael must lead and tend to the needs of his people.


Spiritual Guidance by Rabbi Yosef Adler

Yaakov the Tzaddik by Jonathan Frank