With the leadership contest of the Conservative Party having reached its final stage, it is now up to the members of the party to choose between the two candidates, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. For some members, the choice may well be an obvious one: voting for the candidate they prefer. For others, it may well boil down to which candidate they don’t want!
Such considerations are not new in leadership appointments. Look at what happens in this week’s parasha. G-d presents Moses with the tragic news that he will die and will not take the people into Israel. Moses’ immediate concern is who will be his successor? He asks G-d to designate a leader and goes on to specify the qualifications he would like to find in the appointee.
According to Rashi, the implicit meaning of Moses’ request is as follows:
“G-d, you know the minds of everyone; how one person is not the same as another. Appoint a leader over the people who will be able to deal with the different natures of all of your children.”
Isn’t Moses’ request rather out of place? Of course G-d knows – even better then Moses – what the needs of the people are!
The Rebbe of Kotzk explains that there is a subtext to Moses’ request.
In the previous chapters, we read of Pinchas’ courage in taking matters into his own hand. A plague had broken out and Pinchas’ swift action averted further disaster. He killed the perpetrators who flagrantly defiled the camp. G-d rewards Pinchas because “He was passionate for My sake…”
With G-d’s ringing endorsement of Pinchas, Moses is worried that this is the person G-d will have in mind to be his successor! The passionate idealist may have been the right person at the time of crisis but is he the right person to be the future leader of the Jewish people?
Moses therefore asks G-d to appoint a leader “who will be able to deal with the different natures of all of your children.” In other words: “G-d, please don’t appoint Pinchas!”
A true leader is not one who simply rises to a crisis, but one who can rise to all circumstances.