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Shabbat Parashat Tazria Metzora 5772

Ein Ayah: The Attributes of a Leader

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:28)

Gemara:     We do not appoint a leader for a community without consulting with the community. We learn this from the pasuk: “Moshe said to Bnei Yisrael: ‘See that Hashem called in the name of Betzalel’” (Shemot 35:30). Hashem said to Moshe: “Moshe, is Betzalel fit in your eyes?” Moshe responded: “If he is fitting in Your eyes, then certainly he is in mine.” Hashem said: “Even so, go tell Bnei Yisrael.” Moshe went and said to Israel: “Is Betzalel fit in your eyes?” They said to him: “If he is fit in Hashem’s eyes and yours, then certainly he is in ours.”


Ein Ayah:    It is true that a leader’s main positive attributes should be in his internal characteristics, especially the purity of his heart and the sanctity of his actions. These characteristics are known truly only to Hashem, who evaluates one’s heart. However the leader also needs talents that are in realms that people can evaluate and appreciate so that his leadership will find favor in the eyes of those he leads. This is the idea of consulting with the people, for in addition to the ability to act as needed, he also needs skills that the people will recognize and through which he will connect himself to them.

The three types of worthwhile attributes for a leader are, in order of importance: internal sanctity, the intelligence to lead the people properly, and an ability to impress the masses, by means of such things as good looks and speaking ability. The internal sanctity is known to Hashem alone. The intelligence can be checked by people, but only those who are themselves very special in their abilities. A person’s appeal, which is the least important, is something on which anyone can comment.

It is important that the combination of the above traits is arranged in the proper order and balance. The most important is the leader’s righteousness, followed by his wisdom, and least of all, the external charms that allow him to lead the community toward lives of goodness.  When the order is switched, the leadership will be warped in its performance.

Hashem consulted with Moshe regarding what Moshe saw in Betzalel. Moshe responded that while he was impressed with Betzalel’s intelligence, the important thing to Moshe was that Hashem chose Betzalel for his internal sanctity, which was the most crucial determinant of his suitability. Moshe presented the matter to the nation for their feedback on his suitability from external perspectives. The people answered properly, that while they approved of what they could see from their perspective, the more important things to them were that which Hashem and Moshe were uniquely qualified to determine.

These proper reactions should be the model for all generations in choosing a leader: to choose based on sanctity, intelligence, and charm, in that order. While we are not able to clearly determine the sanctity that is in a person’s heart, we should at least first check based on his good reputation and the actions in which he was involved throughout his life. Afterward, we should check his intelligence. The external qualifications are also something that should not be ignored. Even a judge is praised for being tall and good looking in addition to G-d-fearing, wise and humble.

The fact that Hashem asked Moshe and Bnei Yisrael showed that lower level determinants are also factors even though there are more important factors that need to be considered first. The answers that Moshe and the people gave showed the complete acceptance they had of the proper hierarchy, putting the most important goals and needs of the nation first.

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