Moses' life is drawing to a close. The devoted leader is concerned about his successor in whose hands the future of Israel is to be entrusted. Moses' successor, of course, was not Joshua alone, but all those who affect Israel's fate, all who presume to lead Moses' people, through all generations. In his prayer Moses expresses the qualifications of Israel's leader in simple yet all-inclusive terms. (See Numbers 27:15-23)

Moses prays that G‑d appoint a man for the congregation who will "go forth before them." It is a platitude to describe a leader as one who inspires others to follow, that Israel's leaders are to show them the paths of righteousness. Moses is not satisfied however with superficial leadership. He demands of his successor the traits that enabled him to mold a mass into a nation, a slave-mob into servants of G‑d. He pointedly doesn't mention eloquence and fiery sermons as prerequisites of the leader.

Moses doesn't mention eloquence and fiery sermons as prerequisites of the leaderThe man who occupies Moses' position must "go before the people," he must set a personal example to be emulated. He must personify Jewish living through his conduct, and by going first he will inspire others to follow. As Rashi says, he will not send his people off to battle while he remains behind. The cynical "do as I say, not as I do" is repudiated, forbidden in the lexicon (spoken and implied) of those who stand at the head of the people of the Torah. The man who will be followed is not the one who speaks best (perhaps Moses was tongue-tied to show that he swayed Israel through his deeds, not his speech), but the one who lives by the ideals he preaches, who teaches by doing and not by talking.