Yitro, our tradition’s first management consultant, gives Moses some excellent advice in this week’s Torah reading. Seeing Moses wearing himself out attending to disputes between people, Yitro tells him to delegate. Not only that, he tells Moses what kind of people he should seek out as leaders:
Exodus 18:21. And you shall choose out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens;
As I read this verse, I reflected on how the two countries I care about most — America and Israel — have both been plagued with political leaders falling far short of those noble ideals. The sheer volume of scandals involving politicians in the last year is depressing. Just a small sample:
Ohio governor Bob Taft getting financial benefits, failing to report them, and then more or less shrugging it off as his approval ratings as governor fell to the lowest of all 50 states.
Ohio Congressman Bob Ney resigning after being convicted of conspiracy, taking money from Jack Abramoff.
Mark Foley, we don’t have to say more.
Elected officials illegally "laundering" money on behalf of Tom Noe.
And in Israel, President Moshe Katzav on leave facing rape charges; Omri Sharon, son of the former prime minister, resigned from the Knesset, sentenced to nine months in jail on corruption charges; Prime Minister Ehud Olmert under investigation for "financial irregularities" when he was finance minister; former Justice Minister Haim Ramon convicted of sexual harassment.
In Israel, the president, Moshe Katzav on leave facing rape charges; Omri Sharon, son of the former prime minister resigned from Knesset, sentenced to nine months in jail for corruption; Prime Minister Olmert under investigation for financial irregularities when he was Finance Minister.
If our elected leaders lived up to the traits Yitro suggested Moses should use in choosing leaders, none of this would have happened. Men of truth who hate unjust gain don’t get involved in financial scandals; men who fear God don’t get involved in sex scandals.
Something seems broken in the way leaders are chosen these days…there are honest, God fearing men who hate ill-gotten gains…but somehow we keep voting for the phonies.
Maybe too many honest God fearing people look at what goes on in politics and decide they want no part of it. Which is a pity — they are exactly who we need!
Maybe we should pick leaders the way the Amish do. Amish bishops are chosen by lottery. No one runs for office, no one campaigns. When selected, you can’t turn the job down, you are obligated to serve.
Probably wouldn’t be any worse than our current system!