Moses’ Leadership Characteristics, and Ours: Beha’alotekha

In this week’s Torah portion we learn of several of Moses’ leadership characteristics:

  1. Moses dutifully brings the Word of God to the people, and inspires them to fulfill it. This we see throughout the Torah, but we are told so specifically after God instructs Moses regarding the role of the Levites. Numbers 8:20). This
  2. Moses is not to proud to ask for advice and help. He asks his father-in-law to remain with the Israelites to help guide them when they leave Sinai to continue to the Land of Israel. (10:29-32)
  3. Moses intervenes with God when God is angry at the Israelites. His concern is for them, even when he himself his angry with them. (11:1-3)
  4. Moses takes very seriously the obligations of leadership, and the needs of the people. When the Israelites ask for meat, in addition to manna, he speaks honestly with God about his feeling that the task is to great for him. Leadership is a necessary burden, not an excuse for privilege.  (11:10-25). It is true that we are not told in this case that Moses intervenes with God on behalf of the people as he usually does, when God strikes the Israelites with a plague.
  5. Moses is more than happy to accept God’s solution that he share God’s Spirit that is upon him. ( 11:16-17, 24-25)
  6. Moses does not feel threatened by others, and encourages their leadership. Joshua says that  Moses must restrain Eldad and Medad from prophesying in the camp.  Moses respnds, “Are you wrought up on my account? Would that all of Adonai’s people were prophets, and that Adonai put Adonai’s spirit upon them!” (11:26-29)
  7. Moses is the humblest of all people, as we are told after Miriam and Aaron speak against him. Power and authority do not go to his head. (12:3)
  8. He doesn’t turn on those close to him, even if they have criticized him.  Miriam is punished with some form of skin disease, after she and Aaron speak against him.  Moses prays on her behalf.  His love and concern for his sister, and gratitude for ll that she has done for him and the people are much more important than any blow to his ego.  The midrash also suggest that Miriam may have spoken some justified criticism regarding how Moses treated his wife. (21:1-15)

We are again heading towards elections.  Who among those who would lead us demonstrate these characteristics?  Who among us will demand these qualities among those who would lead us?

Shabbat Shalom

About the Author
Rabbi Arik Ascherman is the founder and director of the Israeli human rights organization "Torat Tzedek-Torah of Justice." Previously, he led "Rabbis For Human Rights" for 21 years. Rabbi Ascherman is a sought after lecturer, has received numerous prizes for his human rights work and has been featured in several documentary films, including the 2010 "Israel vs Israel." He and "Torat Tzedek" received the Rabbi David J. Forman Memorial Fund's Human Rights Prize fore 5779. Rabbi Ascherman is recognized as a role model for faith based human rights activism.
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