You don’t have to have a politically wired brain to interpret the signals when a politician is up for election. Ideals and principles invariably get scrapped in favor of more important goals: popularity and electability. “Um, after thinking about it, I have changed my mind regarding this issue . . .”

Tell me about it.

A president who is up for reelection is usually different than a lame-duck president. The first is a person whose principles are enslaved to his ambitions; the second is often one whose ambition is directed by his principles.

Unless, of course, he is worried about his legacy, in which case his rock-solid principles are blown up by dynamite.

Why didn’t Moses tell the Jews the whole story—how, after the war, his time would be up? Thank G‑d, however, there are the few leaders who enter the universe of leadership only for the sake of the people—not in the interest of creating a “legacy,” nor for the all-important goal of “I love seeing my picture in magazines.”

Moses was the paradigm of this line of leadership.

Towards the end of the Book of Numbers we read:

G‑d said to Moses, “Take revenge on behalf of the children of Israel against the Midianites, after which you shall be gathered to your people [a euphemism which means to pass away].” 1

In other words, G‑d commanded Moses to wage battle against the Midianites, after which he would pass away. Quite simple. But when it came time for Moses to forward the commandment to the Jewish people, the instruction went through some editing:

And Moses spoke to the people, saying: “Arm from yourselves men for an army, to go against Midian and to carry out G‑d’s vengeance2 on Midian . . .” 3

Hey, what happened to part two? Why didn’t Moses tell the Jews the whole story—how, after the war, his time would be up?

The biblical commentator Kli Yakar shares a fascinating explanation:

Had Moses told the Jews the whole story, the Jews would not have gone out to battle, knowing that as long as the battle isn’t fought, their leader would not die. They would fight destiny.

Moses knew this, so he omitted the second half of G‑d’s instruction.

Now, had Moses passed on the instruction verbatim, could he have been faulted? Perhaps the Jews would not have gone to war. But he wouldn’t have done anything wrong; he was just passing on the orders—and he would stay alive (to further his “legacy”)!

It was about doing the right thingBut Moses knew that G‑d wanted the war to be fought ASAP. So he willingly put into motion the process that would inevitably lead to his demise, for the sake of satisfying his Creator’s wishes.

It wasn’t about retaining the seat. It was about doing the right thing.

Thank you, Moses. It’s nice to know that there is another side to leadership.