Keeping Leadership in Proportion
Based on Parasha U’Pishra by Rabbi Moshe Grylak
Translated by Braha Bender
The societal importance of korbanos, temple offerings, brought in its wake the societal importance of the kohen gadol, the temple high priest. His role was to serve the nation by helping to atone for their sins before the Almighty, but elevated social status was an inevitable by-product of such an important job.
History has shown that honoured members of society usually find themselves slipping into delusions of grandeur. They begin to feel themselves to be above the rest of the people, deserving of privileges and rights above and beyond those of the common man.
More than almost anyone else in the Jewish People, the kohen gadol was in danger of falling into these faulty attitudes. To avoid this, the Torah provided a unique exercise in humility that the kohen gadol practised daily: a personal korban.
Every morning and evening, the kohen gadol was obligated to offer a small quantity of flour scalded on a pan with oil. The kohen gadol’s twice-daily korban mirrored the twice-daily korban offered for the entire nation, called the korban tamid, the continual offering. The personal offering of the kohen gadol mirrored the korban tamid in function as well. It atoned for sin and expressed his relationship with God on an ongoing basis.
Why did the kohen gadol need to bring his own korban rather than participating in the national korban brought every day at almost the same time? In case he began to think himself above the rest of the nation, his individual korban brought the message home: he was not above anyone else.
The proportions of his importance were kept in perspective. The spiritual worth of the kohen gadol was no different than the spiritual worth of the people he served. All are equal in the eyes of the Almighty. The kohen gadol needed a daily korban just as much as the rest of the nation.
And, just to bring the message home even more, the kohen gadol’s offering was identical in substance to offerings brought by the poor. Some offerings were more elaborate, involving live animals and birds. Others were less expensive, including this one. All the poor man had to bring was a little flour and oil to achieve the spiritual renewal he was seeking. That was all the kohen gadol was allowed to bring for himself as well:
“This is the offering of Aharon and his sons which each shall offer to Hashem... a tenth-ephah of fine flour as a continual meal-offering; half of it in the morning and half of it in the afternoon... Every meal-offering of a kohen is to be entirely [caused to go up in smoke]; it shall not be eaten.” (Leviticus 6:13-16)
The poor man, whose means could not compete with the offerings of the wealthy, would not be ashamed by their meagre flour-and-oil offering since the same was given by the kohen gadol himself every day. The message was the same for poor man, wealthy man, and kohen gadol alike. No matter how honoured or slighted you are by society, every Jew is beloved to the Almighty.