Parshas Tzav
Leviticus 6:1 - 8:36
Shabbos Parah {is a special Torah reading
that replaces the Maphtir Numbers 19:1-22 }

When Leadership Fails ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This Lesson for the Holy Days are derived from the weekly portion (parsha) of the Jewish Torah as specified for study by our sages.

The Denver news media has been reporting on a story of police in one of the metro cities using brutal force on one of its citizens. The incident has been played over and over on the local TV stations, discussed on radio, the internet and in newspapers. To the general public who read, listen and view this, it is a no-brainer. One of our citizens was unnecessarily beaten by the police, who are defenders of justice, who are hired to serve and protect. Citizens expect the local government to do something about this. To many citizens it appears like local officials are vacillating on this problem. Citizens want the local government to clearly state what the police did was wrong. They want justice for all. This is not an unreasonable desire. After all, everyone hopes that what goes on behind the closed doors of our government is lawful.

Now, as a side note. It is not our intention to make a spectacle of any police officer or any police force. Officers endanger their lives and often give their lives to protect us. For this we are very grateful. However, there is a correlation between those who are in powerful positions and this week's parsha that touches all of us.

These feelings extend to our schools. We want our children safe from violence. We want our children safe from drugs. We want our children safe from teachers who, G-d forbid, molest...

These feelings extend to the work place. We want our spouse to be safe from violence. We want our spouse to be safe from filthy communication. We want our spouse to be safe from sexual advances, G-d forbid. And we also want to be safe from these types of problems.

In our shuls, congregations, temples, places of prayer, study and day schools we want to feel like our leadership is moral, honest and righteous. WE WANT THE SECURITY OF WHAT HASHEM COMMANDED AHARON AND HIS SONS IN THIS WEEK'S PARSHA.

Parshas Tzav begins and continues on with Hashem telling Moshe to command Aharon and his sons to carefully observe eighteen mitzvahs, nine performative and nine prohibitive. While these eighteen mitzvahs are part of the total 613 mitzvahs of the Torah, some are incumbent only upon the Kohen Godal and some are incumbent only upon the Kohanim. Kal Yisroel CANNOT perform each of these mitzvahs. We are dependent upon the Kohen Godal and the Kohanim to perform them properly in behalf of Kal Yisroel. If they fail then we all as a nation of Jews each share in their failure. We cannot monitor their sacred job performances or lack thereof... G-d forbid. We are not allowed in the sacred places that Hashem has chosen for them to serve in. We, Kal Yisroel, are totally dependent on their religious integrity... on their righteousness...just as citizens are dependent upon the moral integrity of public servants.

This is a very vulnerable position for us who depend on them. For example, the Torah states,
"If either a vow or a voluntary offering are the sacrifices of his offerings, it shall be eaten on the day of his offering. And on the next day the remnant of it may {also} be eaten. Whatever flesh is left over from the offering shall be burned in fire, on the third day, If it will be eaten, of the flesh of the peace - offering on the third day, it will not be favorably accepted. {As to} whoever brings it, it will not be credited to him; it is an abomination and anyone who eats it shall bear {the burden of} its iniquity." Leviticus 7:16-18

This is an example of how a failure can affect each of us. We place our faith, our trust in those who are in positions of responsibility. If they fail to perform in accordance with their areas of responsibilities, then we can and do suffer for their failures, G-d forbid, even though we cannot monitor them, even though we have no way of insuring they are correctly discharging their responsibilities. Essentially, these areas are out of our control. We can do little about them.

What about the areas we do have influence on? What about the areas we can monitor? What are we doing?

There is a Jewish community that has grown accustomed to looking the other way when certain leaders fail. I discussed these failings with the leadership involved. They refused to do anything. Months later, several leaders offered weak-kneed apologies. What is a weak-kneed apology? It normally begins with the word "IF." Like, "If I have done anything to offend you... I'm sorry... If I made a mistake... I'm sorry... If I hurt you... I'm sorry!" The problem here is that SUCH AN ACTION FAILS TO OWN UP TO THE PARTICULAR FAILURE! Shuvah requires ownership. One must first acknowledge the error, then determine not to repeat it, and then make restitution!

Now the point is, if leadership fails what is the everyday Jew supposed to do? How does the non rabbinical Jew, the non halachic authority approach leadership failings... rabbinical failings...governmental failings? How does one deal with these types of problems?

Does one look the other way and pretend everything is all right? Does one withhold their objections because their employment is in jeopardy? Does one go into hiding? What does one do?

Mordechai the Jew answers that question for us in Sefer Esther. He drew attention to the problem. He took serious risks. "{When} Mordechai learned of all that had been done; Mordechai tore his clothes and donned sackcloth and ashes. He went out into the midst of the city, and cried a loud cry. He came until the front of the King's gate.." Esther 4:1,2

As we reflect this week on the serious tragedy that could have happened in the days of Mordechai and Queen Esther {thank G-d it didn't}... we also need to reflect on what we, the everyday Jews, need to do in facing situations that are wrong.

Other related subjects:

 If I Have Done Anything To Offend You

 Showtime Leadership

 But I Said I'm Sorry

Wishing you the best and a fralickah ha Purim...

Dr. Akiva G. Belk and all the staff of JewishPath

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