Parshat Vayikra

March 18th 2016


With the airwaves and social media full of commentary on the primaries and presidential election, it might be fruitful to take a look back and examine how our ancestors viewed their leaders, and what was expected from them.

Early on in the opening chapters of Vayikra there is a discussion of sacrifices on the altar of the Mishkan. The more serious the offence and the wealthier the offender, the more significant was the offering which might be a sheep or goat, or flour. However, there is a curious verse that points to a guilty chieftain (Lev. 4:22) who is required to present an unblemished bull to expiate his sin. The verse opens, “When a chieftain commits a sin…”, leading commentators to observe that even in Moses’ time there were issues with leaders not being perfectly upright or as honest. It wasn’t a case of “if”, it was a case of “when” their pride and haughtiness around their position would cause them to sin, and in doing so bring sin into the community they were assigned to protect. For them, nothing less than a perfect bull would be suitable for a sacrifice as a way gain forgiveness for themselves and for the people they served.

Too often in our current political discourse we hear from politicians, who either have or want our vote, language that disclaims any sense of humility before the enormity of the requirements of their office, or acknowledges the impact of their decisions on the daily life of their constituents. There is, sadly, mostly denial of any ill effects their decisions have had, and contempt towards those who would raise objections.

Our political arena can bring out both the best and worst of a candidate. As you continue to deliberate on your choice of leaders, consider well their impact on your life and the lives in your community.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Noah