web analytics
July 22, 2014 / 24 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



The Counterpoint of Leadership

Rabbi Sacks

7) The key words for the priest were tahor, tamei, kodesh, and chol: pure, impure, sacred, and secular. The key words for the prophets were tzedek, mishpat, chesed, and rachamim: righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. It is not that the prophets were concerned with morality while the priests were not. Some of the key moral imperatives, such as “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” come from priestly sections of the Torah. It is rather that priests think in terms of a moral order embedded in the structure of reality, sometimes called a “sacred ontology.” (See Philip Rieff’s My Life Among the Deathworks, University of Virginia Press, 2006.) Prophets tended to think not of things or acts in themselves but in terms of relationships between persons or social classes.

8) The task of the priest is boundary maintenance. The key priestly verbs are lehavdil and lehorot, to distinguish one thing from another and apply the appropriate rules. Priests gave rulings while prophets gave warnings.

9) There is nothing personal about the role of a priest. If one – even a high priest – was unable to officiate at a given service, another could be substituted. Prophecy was essentially personal. The sages said that “no two prophets prophesied in the same style” (Sanhedrin 89a). Hosea was not Amos. Isaiah was not Jeremiah. Each prophet had a distinctive voice.

10) Priests constituted a religious establishment. The prophets, at least those whose messages have been eternalized in Tanach, were not an establishment but an anti-establishment, critical of the powers-that-be.

The roles of priest and prophet varied over time. The priests always officiated at the sacrificial service of the Temple. But they were also judges. The Torah says that if a case is too difficult to be dealt with by the local court, you should “go to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict” (Deuteronomy 17:9). Moses blesses the tribe of Levi, saying that “They will teach Your ordinances to Jacob and Your Torah to Israel” (Deuteronomy 33:10) – suggesting that they had a teaching role as well.

Malachi, a prophet of the Second Temple period, says: “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth” (Malachi 2:7). The priest was guardian of Israel’s sacred social order. Yet it is clear throughout Tanach that the priesthood was liable to corruption. There were times when priests took bribes, others when they compromised Israel’s faith and performed idolatrous practices. Sometimes they became involved in politics. Some held themselves as an elite apart from, and disdainful toward, the people as a whole.

At such times the prophet became the voice of God and the conscience of society, reminding the people of their spiritual and moral vocation; calling on them to return and repent; reminding the people of their duties to God and to their fellow humans; and warning of the consequences if they did not.

The priesthood became massively politicized and corrupted during the Hellenistic era, especially under the Seleucids in the second century BCE. Hellenized high priests like Jason and Menelaus introduced idolatrous practices, even at one stage a statue of Zeus, into the Temple. This provoked the internal revolt that led to the events we recall on the festival of Chanukah.

Yet despite the fact that the initiator of the revolt, Matityahu, was himself a righteous priest, corruption re-emerged under the Hasmonean kings. The Qumran sect known to us through the Dead Sea Scrolls was particularly critical of the priesthood in Jerusalem. It is striking that the sages traced their spiritual ancestry to the prophets, not the priests (Avot 1:1).

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
Golani 13
1 MIA as IDF Names 6 Additional Members of the Golani 13
Latest Judaism Stories
PTI-071814

Perhaps, just perhaps, we can relate to this: whenever we feel distant from Hashem, that is the Churban.

Parshat Matot

Over the next 2 weeks covering portion Matot and Maasei, Rabbi Fohrman will bring order to confusion.

Lessons-Emunah-logo

Our home is in the center of the Holy Land, surrounded by (what else?) green hills and valleys.

Business-Halacha-logo

“Sound fine,” said Mrs. Schwartz. “In the middle, paint their names, Shoshana and Yehonasan. He spells his name Yehonasan with a hei and is very particular about it!”

Question: I recently returned from a trip abroad and wanted to say HaGomel. When I mentioned this to the officers of my synagogue, however, they told me – as per the instructions of the synagogue’s rabbi – that I would have to wait until Shabbos to do so. I was not given any reason for this and did not wish to display my ignorance, so I quietly acquiesced. Can you please explain why I had to wait?

Name Withheld
(Via E-Mail)

We may not recognize the adverse affect of eating forbidden foods, but they leave an indelible imprint.

There are several rules that one must adhere to when making a neder.

Important message for Jews in the Diaspora: In times of need run to Israel rather than from Israel.

The negotiation between Moses and the tribes of Reuven and Gad is a model of conflict resolution.

Once again we find ourselves alone – a little lamb among wolves.

When we return to our routines, things don’t have to go back to exactly the way they were.

The Three Weeks determines the “who we are and how we live” as Jews.

Sometimes when Chazal say that two different people are really one, they do not mean it literally, but rather figuratively.

The midrash says that Pinchas, (this parsha), and Eliyahu, prophet of Kings, are one and the same.

More Articles from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Sacks

The negotiation between Moses and the tribes of Reuven and Gad is a model of conflict resolution.

Rabbi Sacks

God’s “name” is therefore His standing in the world. Do people acknowledge Him, respect Him, honor Him?

The very act of learning in rabbinic Judaism is conceived as active debate, a kind of gladiatorial contest of the mind.

In Judaism, to be without questions is a sign not of faith, but of lack of depth.

You perpetuate a transformative event by turning it into a ritual.

There is much in this episode that is hard to understand, much that has to do with the concept of holiness and the powerful energies it released that, like nuclear power today, could be deadly dangerous if not properly used. But there is also a more human story about two approaches to leadership that still resonates with us today.

Nasi is the generic word for a leader: a ruler, king, judge, elder, or prince. Usually it refers to the holder of political power.

The account of the construction of the Tabernacle in Vayakhel-Pekudei is built around the number seven.

    Latest Poll

    Israel's Iron Dome Anti-Missile System:





    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

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: