web analytics
October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



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.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat meet with security officials over Oct. 22 terror attack.
Netanyahu Convenes Top Brass in Jerusalem Over Terror Attack
Latest Judaism Stories
Daf-Yomi-logo

Law-Abiding Citizen
‘That Which Is Crooked Cannot Be Made Straight…’
(Yevamos 22a-b)

Weck-110411-Noah

The flood was not sent to destroy, but to restore the positive potential of the world.

Questions-Answers-logo

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

Why is there is no mention of dinosaurs, and other prehistoric animals, in the Torah?

Strict din demands perfection. There is no room for shortcomings and no place for excuses; you are responsible.

Surprisingly, my husband and one son arrived home over half-an-hour earlier than usual. I excitedly shared my perfect-timing story, but my better half one upped me easily.

Noach felt a tug, and then heard a rip. His jacket had been caught on the nail, and the beautiful suit had a tear.

Boundaries must be set in every home. Parents and children are not pals. They are not equals.

Noah and his wife could not fathom living together as husband and wife and continuing the human race

The Babel story is the 2nd in a 4-act drama that’s unmistakably a connecting thread of Bereishit

Our intentions are critical in raising children because they mimic everything we parents do & think

A humble person who achieves a position of prominence will utilize the standing to benefit others.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The creation of the world is described twice. Each description serves a unique purpose.

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

More Articles from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Sacks

The Babel story is the 2nd in a 4-act drama that’s unmistakably a connecting thread of Bereishit

Rabbi Sacks

The emphasis on choice, freedom and responsibility is a most distinctive features of Jewish thought.

Sukkot’s duality is that it’s the most universalistic and the most particularistic of all festivals

When we cry from the heart, someone listens; When we cry on Yom Kippur, God hears us.

Who am I? What are the most important things in my life? What do I want to be remembered for? If, as a purely hypothetical exercise, I were to imagine reading my own obituary, what would I want it to say? These are the questions Rosh Hashanah urges us to ask ourselves. As we pray […]

Simply, for Rambam the number 14 (2×7) was his favored organizing principle.

Torah isn’t a theological treatise or a metaphysical system but a series of stories linked over time

We believe that God created each of us, regardless of color, class, culture or creed, in His image.

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: