A Nation Worthy of It’s Leaders
Adapted from Parasha U’Pishra by Rabbi Moshe Grylak
Does the desensitization of national leaders affect the day-to-day life of the individual civilian? Are civilians affected when leaders miss crucial facts about what is going on around them and consequently make mistaken assessments or even engage in faulty decision-making? Is the individual civilian included in the circle of responsibility for mistakes of this caliber, even if performed unintentionally?
The Torah touches upon this issue when discussing the atonement responsibilities of the “anointed kohen” (priest) in Leviticus 4:3. This man, a leader elevated above the rest of the nation, elected to bring offerings for the entire people, responsible for their atonement in the Mishkan and later in the Beis HaMikdash – sinned unintentionally. It didn’t matter whether the sin involved other people, was seen in public, or took place in the privacy of his own home. He had to seek his atonement before the eyes of the entire nation.
At the heart of the issue of public atonement is the value of public education. When the common civilian observes his nations leading man unabashedly confessing his sin in public in order to acknowledge his guilt and repent of it, the common civilian can not help but be more likely to do the same himself when the time comes. Imitating the leaders and members of the upper echelons of society is a practice common among all peoples and the Jewish People are no exception. The Torah capitalizes on this human tendency in order to forward the growth and refinement of our people.
But the connection between the nation and the sins of its kohen can not be summarized by this idea alone. The verse indicates a further nuance: “If the anointed kohen will sin, bringing guilt upon the people...” (ibid). How does his mistake bring guilt upon the people, hundreds of thousands of other men, women, and children he may never have even met?
The sins of the leader are categorized as a doorway for the sins of the nation. Corrupt leadership establishes certain norms bound to penetrate all layers of society and likely to increase the criminality of the nation as a whole.
A sinful leader says something about the nation he leads. Nations are generally worthy of their leaders, who in turn draw their strength and power from the leadership they are attributed. A direct, constant, spiritual relationship exists between civilians and their governing bodies. A nation maintaining high ethical standards will give rise to leaders maintaining high ethical standards.
These messages didn’t apply only to biblical times, but were intended to inform every subsequent generation. They still apply today. Who is leading you?