IF YOU LEAD, I WILL FOLLOW
Parshat Emor emphasizes careful regulations for the priests. To make sure that a sacrifice was acceptable, the priests had to be absolutely clean and "perfect," like their sacrifices.
And Adonai told Moses, say to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: None (among you) shall defile himself by any (dead) person who is your kin. Except for those relatives that are closest to him: mother, father, son, daughter, and brother, also for an unbetrothed sister, alone to him because she is not married, for her, he may defile himself. But he should not defile himself as a relative by marriage, and so profane himself.
Your Torah Navigator
1. Why does the Torah say that the priests should stay away from a dead person?
2. For whom does God give exceptions to the rule?
3. How might it have made the priests and their descendants feel if a priest was instructed to stay away from someone?
4. What does this rule imply about the qualities that a leader must have?
Leviticus Rabbah 26:7
Rabbi Joshua of Siknin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, "the text teaches us that the Holy One showed Moses every generation and its judges, every generation and its kings, every generation and its sages, every generation and its leaders, every generation and its lieutenants, every generation and its officers, every generation and its philanthropists, every generation and its robbers, every generation and its prophets."
Why was it necessary to show Moses every generation together with its leaders or a generation together with its philanthropists? Wasn't it enough just to see the leaders and the philanthropists?
But had Moses seen that Simchah Bunem of Prysucha, who in his later years was blind, was a leader of Israel, Moses would have been surprised and shocked. He would have cried out, "Is it possible (that a blind man could lead Israel)?"
But when Moses saw the generation, he understood that for Chasidim, like these, even Simchah Bunem was able to be a rabbi and a leader.
Your Leviticus Rabbah Navigator
1. How does this text compare to the text of Leviticus in terms of its requirements of a leader? The priests have to be perfect; does a leader?
2. What does this text say about what it takes to be a leader?
3. What does this text say about what it takes to be a follower?
4. How does this interpretation affect us in our own roles as leaders? As followers?
Leadership is important to us Jews. As leaders, we have the potential to do great good or great harm to others. Judaism responds to this terrific responsibility by teaching us, "Over these (people) does God weep daily: over the one who is able to study the Torah and does not; over the one who is unable to devote the time to Torah and study it; and over the public leader who is arrogant in his leadership." Let us remember to find humility in ourselves as leaders and in those with whom we work. As human beings, we will not be perfect, and as leaders we do not have to be.
Prepared by Rabbi Andrea Lerner, Midwest Director, Hillel's Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning and Campus Rabbi, University of Wisconsin.