Thursday, August 07, 2008

Occasional Vort VII

by Netanel Livni

Isaiah prophesied (3:14):
ה' במשפט יבוא, עם זקני עמו ושריו - “The Lord will enter into judgment with the elders of His people, and the princes thereof”

The gemara asks (Shabbat 55a): “The princes sinned but what was the sin of the elders?” Click here to read moreThe gemara answers that the elders will be judged for not rebuking the princes.

There are people in the world who believe that spiritual leadership should be completely separated from political leadership. They point to many examples throughout history where the mixture of political power and spiritual leadership led to corruption and human suffering. To some extent, such people have a point. There are kings and there are priests. There are lay leaders and there are rabbis. Each plays their important role. And lest we forget, the Ramban famously writes that the Hasmonean dynasty ultimately failed because they (as priests) seized political power which was not rightfully theirs.

However, taken to an extreme, a separation of spiritual and political leadership could be equally dangerous. A spiritual leadership which is not the moral watchdog of the politicians; which does not demand justice, propriety, and spiritual awareness from its political leaders is itself corrupt. Spiritual leadership must be constantly aware of the larger picture. It must project a vision that guides the political state and its leaders towards divinity.

How this applies to our current exile, the readers can decide for themselves.

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