The Characteristics of an Ideal Leader
By: Rav Mordechai Greenberg
In each of the past three parshiyot, the Torah emphasizes the central role of Betzalel. In Ki Tisa it says, "See, I have called by the name: Betzalel son of Uri, son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehuda." (Shemot 31:2) In Vayakhel, Moshe says to Bnei Yisrael, "See, Hashem has proclaimed by name, Betzalel son of Uri..." (35:30) In our Parsha, it says regarding the completion of the Mishkan, "Betzalel son of Uri son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehuda, did everything that Hashem commanded Moshe." (38:22)
From the repetition of the Torah, that Hashem turned to Moshe and that Moshe turned to Yisrael about the choice of Betzalel, Chazal learn about the necessary characteristics of a leader and about the manner of his appointment. In Brachot (55a), the Gemara states:
Rabbi Yitzchak says: A community leader should not be appointed over the congregation without consulting them, as it says, "Moshe said, 'See that Hashem has called the name of Betzalel.'"
Hashem asked Moshe: Moshe, do you consider Betzalel fitting?
Moshe replied: L-rd of the universe, if he is fitting in Your eyes, I certainly consider him so!
Hashem said: Even so, go ask Bnei Yisrael!
Moshe went and asked Bnei Yisrael: Do you consider Betzalel fitting? They replied: Moshe Rabeinu, if Hashem and you consider him fitting, certainly we do!
Rav Kook, z"tl, explains in his commentary on Agada that an ideal leader should possess three basic characteristics. The first is an inner quality of a pure heart, fine Midot and holiness. These characteristics are only known to Hashem, Who knows all thought and emotion. The second characteristic is that of leadership ability and deep wisdom, in order to lead a large and diversified population. These characteristics can be recognized by people, but only by great scholars and select individuals. The third criterion is that he possess attractive external qualities, such as oratory ability and a great deal of charisma, which can be judged even by the masses. All three qualities are necessary for a leader, but they must be present in the proper sense of priority. The most important characteristic is the inner quality. Next is the wisdom, and last is the external quality and charisma. When the order is reversed, and popularity among the people becomes the most important quality, then the leader has failed in his mission, and such a leader is unacceptable for Yisrael.
When Hashem asked Moshe, "Do you consider Betzalel fitting?," His intention was to show the importance of whether Moshe, as a leading Talmid Chacham, felt that Betzalel had the proper wisdom to be a leader. This is an important necessity, aside from the inner character that only G-d can discern. Moshe replied, "If he is fitting in Your eyes, I certainly consider him so!" In other words, the quality that I can perceive, wisdom, is only second in priority if You approve of his inner quality. Moshe then asked Bnei Yisrael if they approved of Betzalel's external qualities, and they properly responded that they recognized that most important is his inner quality, known to Hashem, followed by his wisdom, known to Moshe, and least important are the external leadership qualities that they perceive.
If we would choose leaders in this way, and not in the current way of "primaries," it is possible that we would merit a more successful leadership, which would be fitting for Yisrael in these times of the footsteps of Mashiach ("ikvita d'meshicha").
Shiur ID: 3713