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.



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
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 Avi Weiss
Rabbi Avi Weiss

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

Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel

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.

Leaders must be careful to subdue their ego. The cause is larger than the personal concerns of one person.

The story of the spies, in this week’s Torah portion, is viewed as an episode revealing the Jews’ basic lack of faith in God.

Ultimately the Torah is a book that reflects a system of ethics that comes from God.

May we feel the pain of what is happening in Israel not merely as members of the Jewish nation but as members of our own family.

    Latest Poll

    Israel's Iron Dome Anti-Missile System:





    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: