Moses' lesson for US presidential hopefuls

Real leaders don’t want to lead, but neither do they shun from doing morally correct thing when everybody else has failed to act

The race to be the Republican Party nominee for president of the United States has now begun in earnest. Last week saw the first primary in New Hampshire.


But as one listens to the candidates it is difficult not to be disappointed. Something about this competition seems unbecoming of individuals who want to become the next leader of the free world.


The question that I keep coming back to is what qualities should we really be looking for in a potential president of the United States?


It seems that all people really want is a president who will represent them, their interests and their views. But is that really what a leader is?


Tragically, nowadays real leadership is severely lacking. A leader is not someone who tries to do what is popular, what will make them money or what will bring them personal success. A real leader leads.


Moses in the Torah was one such leader. The beginning of his story is a portrait of the development of a real leader.


The Torah tells us that Moses grew up and left Pharaoh’s palace to visit his brothers who were working in the fields. While he was out, he witnessed an Egyptian man beating an Israelite. Moses immediately reacted. The Torah says that “he turned this way and that way, and saw that there was no man; so he struck the Egyptian and hid him in the sand” (Exodus, 2:11).


The commentators wonder about the phraseology of “he turned this way and that way, and he saw that there was no man.” This means, I suggest, that Moses was disgusted to see the Egyptian unjustly beat the Israelite. He immediately looked around to see if anyone else shared his sense of moral outrage.


“He looked this way and that way and saw that there was no man.” In other words, after a brief search he realized that there was no one willing to take a stand against the evil that was being perpetrated against an innocent man. Moses therefore stepped forward and took a stand against this terrible injustice that was taking place.


The great Talmudic teacher Hillel said, “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man” (Ethics of the Father, 2:5). Moses looked around and saw that there was no real man, and thus felt compelled to take on the role of a man – a leader.


This was not something that Moses needed to be taught. He instinctively acted as a leader when the calling came. This is the nature of a real leader. An authentic leader does not seek leadership. In fact, as we see later on, Moses was a reluctant leader.


Real leaders don’t want to lead but neither do they shun from doing the morally correct thing when everybody else has failed to act.


As Moses demonstrated, real leaders take a stand even when it is not in their best interests to do so – even when the result may be very disadvantageous, even potentially dangerous to themselves personally. This is something all wannabe leaders need to learn if they ever want to truly lead and make a difference.


Authentic leader

As I scan the political landscape, there is only one candidate who comes even moderately close to any of these ideals of leadership. That man is Jon Huntsman.


Here is a man who has consistently stepped forward to do the right thing both in his personal life when he adopted orphaned children and also in his service to his country as a politician, civil servant and diplomat.


Those who listen to him carefully are able to discern a leader who is humble yet determined. He is clearly a man of principle who has stepped forward to lead because he has realized that there is no other “man” willing to do so. This explains why he refuses to pander and won't play the typical political game of speaking from both sides of his mouth.


In today's politically charged environment, real leaders find it difficult to gain traction in the polls. Nonetheless, it is incredibly refreshing to see an authentic leader emerge amongst the political class.


It may take such a leader longer to fully develop and get elected as president, but as long as he stays true to himself that day will come, and when it does it will be a boon to all of us.


Rabbi Levi Brackman is co-founder and executive director of Youth Directions , a non-profit organization that helps youth find and succeed at their unique positive purpose in life



פרסום ראשון: 01.15.12, 13:56
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