web analytics
August 20, 2014 / 24 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Arbiter of Checks and Balances

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Rabbi Avi Weiss
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Built into an open democratic system of government is the idea that too much power should not be invested in any one individual. Such a policy leads to dictatorship. Hence the concept of checks and balances, in which individuals in government invested with power are checked and balanced out by other individuals.

Indeed the principal of checks and balances is basic to the American political system. This idea is also found in the wisdom of the Torah. Each individual in Torah leadership has unique tasks and, in the end, limits and checks the power of the other.

For example: the navi (prophet) serves as the bearer of ethical standards; the melech (king) heads the executive branch; the Sanhedrin is the judiciary. And, as our parshah points out, the kohen serves as the ritual model for the am (the people). When a leader assumes more than one of these roles it leads to devastation. This type of devastation actually occurred in the time of the Maccabees who became not only the executive heads of the people but also the ritual leadership.

The Torah takes the concept of checks and balances a step further. Built into the respective roles of Jewish leadership is the recognition that each of these powerful and important leaders is subservient to a higher power, to God. In the end, God is the ultimate check and balance.

The navi never speaks without the imprimatur of God. Unlike the Christian model where a man-god speaks in the first person, our navi speaks with the refrain, “Thus says the Lord.”

Similarly, the melech must carry a Torah with him at all times. He does this so that he constantly understands that he does not dictate the law; rather, the Torah dictates the law to him. Even the judiciary has its limits, for the highest court can only offer the law based on the foundations and principles set forth at Sinai by the Almighty.

It is not only the role definitions that convey limitation of power. Even the clothes worn remind the leaders of this message. Around the head of the priest is the tzitz (a plate of pure gold), upon which the words “Holy to the Lord” are stated (Exodus 28:36). In contrast to the ancient priests who so often abused their power, our kohen is reminded constantly that whatever his power, it emerges from the Almighty.

In this sense the priest in the Tabernacle is a fixing of the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There, in the beauty of Eden, they disobey God’s words. Here, in the mishkan, a kind of Garden of Eden within the larger world, the kohen is mandated to follow the word of God. It is not a coincidence that in Eden God made clothes for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). In the fixing story the priest also wears clothes (Exodus 28:4). Here, however, the priest, unlike Adam and Eve, follows the word of God.

In contemporary times, when politicians feel so entitled they often act as if they are superhuman, the roles and messages presented in the Torah teach us that in the end, each person, no matter her or his stature, is human and fallible. Only God is infallible and stands alone as the ultimate check and balance.

About the Author: Rabbi Avi Weiss is founder and president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.


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 “Arbiter of Checks and Balances”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Israelis taking cover in Nitzan under a barrage of mortar shells. The general consensus here is that this siruation must be stopped.
Live Updates: Barrages on Ashkelon and Ashdod (8:23am)
Latest Judaism Stories
Leff-081514

“When a mother plays with her child there is an acute awareness of the child. But even when the mother works at a job or is distracted by some other activity, there is a natural, latent awareness of her child’s existence.

Business-Halacha-logo

“Guess what?” Benzion exclaimed when he returned home. “I just won an identical Mishnah Berurah in the avos u’banim raffle.”

The-Shmuz

While it’s clear to you and to me that a 14,000-pound creature can easily break away from the light ropes holding it, the reality is that it cannot.

An Outcast
‘He Shall Dwell Outside His Tent’
(Moed Katan 7b)

Question: The Gemara in Berachot states that the sages authored our prayers. Does that mean we didn’t pray beforehand?

Menachem
Via Email

Based on the opinion of the Ramban, the Territorial School believes that leaving any territory of the Land of Israel in the possession of non-Jews is a violation of a biblical mandate.

“But they told me to come in today,” she said. They gave me this date months ago. It’s not my fault if it’s the wrong day.”

Tosafos there takes issue with Rashi’s view that the letters that are formed in the knots of the tefillin are considered part of the name of Hashem.

Blind obedience is not a virtue in Judaism. God wants us to understand the laws He has commanded us

What does Hashem want of us? That we should protect each other and the awesome heritage He gave us.

Israel is the only place where we have the potential to fulfill our mandate as the chosen people.

The innkeeper smiled and replied, “Why do you think we are dancing? We are dancing because G-d destroyed the Bais HaMikdash!”

One of the manifestations of the immature person is a sense of entitlement.

“Do I have to repay the loan?” he asked. “Does Yosef have to reimburse me? What if doesn’t have that sum, does he owe me in the future?”

More Articles from Rabbi Avi Weiss
Rabbi Avi Weiss

Israel is the only place where we have the potential to fulfill our mandate as the chosen people.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Rav Kook of blessed memory, who said that no matter where a Jew is born, he is born in Israel.

One must act as if everything depends on us and pray as if everything depends on God.

When taking any major step in life it is a good idea to carefully re-evaluate one’s past.

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

With a loud and strong voice we must say “no” to individuals who take the law into their own hands.

An opinion recorded in the Talmud states that prayers correspond to the daily sacrifices offered in the Temple that are mentioned in this week’s portion (Berachot 26b, Numbers 28:4). It’s been argued that this opinion may be the conceptual base for our standardized prayer. Since sacrifices had detailed structure, our prayers also have a set text. […]

Hate and Love; Opposite sides of the coin of motivation.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/arbiter-of-checks-and-balances/2014/02/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: