FROM THE RABBI’S DESK – “VAYIKRA
Two interesting passages from the haftarah of this past week and the Torah reading this week speak to the abuse of power and the need for a leader to recognize his/her limitations in exercising that power. At the end of the haftarah for Parshat Hachodesh, the Nasi, or leader of the people, is admonished by Ezekiel not to expropriate land belonging to the masses. In our Torah reading this week, the Nasi is to bring a sin-offering for the commission of a transgression. Rashi comments, quoting our sages, â€˜Happy is the generation whose prince publicly confesses a sin in error, for how much more he would do so in case of a deliberate sin. (translation provided in the Hertz translation).
We are living unfortunately in a day and age when leaders refuse to apologize for inappropriate actions, and whose spokesmen engage in “spin” to validate that which is invalid. Accountability is discounted by these individual leaders and their assistants, creating a vacuum of trust. Cynicism in the “system” replaces confidence. Diffidence and disillusionment become the pervading forces that diminish the sacred trust between leader and constituent. As a result, society suffers.
It is interesting to note that to the contrary, the leader of Israel is highly accountable for actions he has committed. If the leader becomes aware that an error has been committed, then that leader has a responsibility to demonstrate to the community at large that no one is above the law. Thus, the leader has to bring certain offerings in order to have his act exculpated.
Obviously, times have changed in the sense that at present the leader cannot bring offerings to the Temple, but the message is universal and eternal. A leader must lead by example in terms of humility, and with an acute awareness that what he does in the public or private realm can indeed influence others negatively or positively.