August 15, 2022 |

My Weekly Drash (a mini D'var Torah) - Vayikra

In the midst of a lengthy discourse on guilt sacrifices in Parshah Vayikra is a section that begins, "In case it is a chieftain who incurs guilt..." (Lev. 4:22). Individuals have to atone for themselves. Priests have to atone for both their own personal wrongdoing and on behalf of the community. Now comes a section about secular leaders, who are treated as individuals. They must make public ritual sacrifices to attest to their errors and to make expiation. One need only pick up the newspaper to see secular leaders (of all parties and all nations) going out of their way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions when things go wrong. The Talmud quotes Yohannan ben Zakkai: "Fortunate is the generation whose leader recognizes having sinned and brings an offering of purification." Why? Because our leaders are role models. When they deny responsibility, they encourage others to act the same way. When they demonstrate that the rules apply to them too, and atone when they do wrong, they set an example for the rest of us as to how one can return to the right path.


Daniel M. Kimmel

Joined: October 2, 2007

Daniel M. Kimmel is a Boston area film critic, lecturer and author. He does these weekly mini-lessons for the Mishkan Tefila Brotherhood's newsletter. You are free to use them for similar purposes.

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