web analytics
March 2, 2015 / 11 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


The Counterpoint of Leadership

Rabbi Sacks

One of the most important Jewish contributions to our understanding of leadership is its early insistence of what, in the eighteenth century, Montesquieu called “the separation of powers.” Neither authority nor power was to be located in a single individual or office. Instead, leadership was divided between different kinds of roles.

One of the most important of these divisions – anticipating by millennia the “separation of church and state” – was between the king, the head of state, on the one hand, and the high priest, the most senior religious officer, on the other.

This was revolutionary. The kings of Mesopotamian city-states and the Pharaohs of Egypt were considered demigods, or chief intermediary with the gods. They officiated at supreme religious festivals. They were regarded as the representatives of heaven on earth.

In Judaism, by stark contrast, monarchy had little or no religious function (other than the recital by the king of the book of the covenant every seven years in the ritual known as hakhel). Indeed the chief objection to the Hasmonean kings on the part of the sages was that they broke this ancient rule, some of them declaring themselves high priests also. The Talmud, in Kiddushin 66a, records the objection: “Let the crown of kingship be sufficient for you. Leave the crown of priesthood to the sons of Aaron.” The effect of this principle was to secularize power. (In Judaism power, except that exercised by God, is not holy.)

No less fundamental was the division of religious leadership itself into two distinct functions: that of the prophet and the priest. That is dramatized in this week’s parshah, focusing as it does on the role of the priest to the exclusion of that of the prophet. Tetzaveh is the first parshah since the beginning of the book of Exodus in which Moses’ name is missing. It is supremely the priestly, as opposed to prophetic, parshah.

Priests and prophets were very different in their roles, despite the fact that some prophets, most famously Ezekiel, were priests also. Here are the differences:

1) The role of priest was dynastic, that of prophet was charismatic. Priests were the sons of Aaron. They were born into the role. Parenthood had no part in the role of the prophet. Moses’s own children were not prophets.

2) The priest wore robes of office. There was no official uniform for a prophet.

3) The priesthood was exclusively male; not so prophecy. The Talmud lists seven women prophets: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther.

4) The role of the priest did not change over time. There was a precise annual timetable of sacrifices that did not vary from year to year. The prophet, by contrast, could not know what his mission would be until God revealed it to him. Prophecy was never a matter of routine.

5) As a result, prophet and priest had different senses of time. Time for the priest was what it was for Plato: the “moving image of eternity,” a matter of everlasting recurrence and return. The prophet lived in historical time. His today was not the same as yesterday, and tomorrow would be different again. One way of putting this is that the priest heard the word of God for all time. The prophet heard the word of God for this time.

6) The priest was holy, and therefore set apart from the people. He had to eat his food in a state of purity, and had to avoid contact with the dead. The prophet, by contrast, often lived among the people and spoke a language they understood. Prophets could come from any social class.

About the Author: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.”


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Counterpoint of Leadership”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Americans have a more favorable view of Netanyahu than they do of Obama.
Americans’ Favorable View of Netanyahu at Record High, Says Gallup Poll
Latest Judaism Stories
Esther Denouncing Haman

Purim is the battleground of extremes, Amalek and Yisrael, with Zoroastrian Persia in between.

Niehaus-022715

One should not give the money before Purim morning or after sunset.

Mendlowitz-022715-Basket

The mishloach manos of times gone by were sometimes simple and sometimes elaborate, but the main focus was on the preparation of the delicious food they contained.

Winiarz-022715-Kids

Does Hashem ever go away and not pay attention to us?

In other words, the Torah is an expression of the Way that we must follow in order to live a divine-like life and to bond in the highest way possible with God or Being Itself.

The Chasam Sofer answers that one of only prohibited from wearing a garment that contains shatnez if he does so while wearing the garment for pleasure purposes.

The avodah (service) of the kohen gadol is vital and highly sensitive; the world’s very existence depends on it.

Moreover, even if the perpetrator of the capital offense is never actually executed, such as when the fatal act was unintentional, Kam Lei applies and the judge cannot award damages.

Forever After?
‘Obligated for Challahh and Not Terumah’
(Kesubos 25a)

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

“We really appreciate your efforts in straightening the shul,” said Mr. Reiss. “How is it going?”

This was a spontaneous act of rest after the miracle of vanquishing their respective foes. The following year they celebrated on the same days as a minhag.

The way we must to relate to our young adult children is to communicate with genuine loving-kindness

Jewish prayer is a convergence of 2 modes of biblical spirituality, exemplified by Moses and Aaron

In holy places it’s important to maintain a level of silence permitting people to dialogue with God

More Articles from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Sacks

Jewish prayer is a convergence of 2 modes of biblical spirituality, exemplified by Moses and Aaron

Rabbi Sacks

With the synagogue, “Judaism created one of the greatest revolutions in the history of religion”

By wisdom, we come to understand G-d via creation; By Torah we understand G-d through His revelation

Torah opposes slavery; G-d desires the free worship of free human beings, yet slavery’s permitted-?!

Pharaoh perverted symbols of life (the Nile and midwives) into agents of death.

The 5th cup is supported by a 5th expression of Deliverance: “And I will bring you to the land…”

The first recorded instance of civil disobedience is the story of Shifra and Puah, defying Pharaoh

Truthfulness is a fundamental value in Jewish yet truth isn’t its highest value. Peace is. Why so?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/the-counterpoint-of-leadership/2014/02/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: