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Today: 

Weekday Minyanim

Weekday Minyanim

Shaharit #1 6:45am
Shaharit #2 7:30am
Shaharit #3 8:15am
Minha/Arbit 6:30pm

Friday Minha

Friday Minha

Shir Ha’Shirim 5:45pm
Minha 6:00pm
Candle Lighting 6:02pm

Shabbat Shaharit

Shabbat Shaharit

First Minyan - Rabbi Setton - New Sanctuary 7:00am
Main Minyan - Rabbi Kassin - Main Sanctuary 8:15am
PAC Minyan - Max Sutton - Midrash 9:00am
HS/Post HS Minyan - Rabbi Dana - Social Center 9:15am
Rabbi Kassin’s Halacha Class - Library 11:15am
Rabbi Setton’s Class for PAC Minyan Kids 11:15am

Shabbat Minha

Pre-Minha Classes 4:45pm
Shabbat Minha - Main Sanctuary 5:40pm
Shabbat Ends 6:58pm

Am Yisrael: A Model Government

Leaving Egypt Moshe filled the role of king, judiciary and priesthood. Throughout their journey, fulfilling the instruction of God, Moshe created three separate roles, the king, the court, and the priesthood. It was now, in perashat sav, that Moshe put into place the instruction of God to divest of the priesthood and hand it over to Aharon and his sons. This was a revolutionary political structure, and was first invented by Benei Yisrael. All prior nations and empires were run by leaders who viewed themselves as having some divinity, deeply connected with religious worship and the priesthood. Even as late as Julius Caesar, nations viewed their rulers either as gods, like Caligula, or as the chief priests of their religion. The culture Benei Yisrael escaped from was an imperial cult, with a leader, Pharaoh, who viewed himself as a god. Since Pharaoh viewed himself as a god, all those who served him were his priests. That is why Yoseph is given the Egyptian title ab lePharaoh, the priest of Pharaoh. Additionally, Yoseph was given the daughter of the chief priest of their most sacred city On as a wife [1]. This was a might makes right, authority based, political system. Benei Yisrael was guided by God to break away from it and enter the desert, a place of no sovereignty, and establish a new form of government.

First, Moshe established a judiciary branch, later to be known as the Beit Din Hagadol, the supreme court of Israel. This branch of government was separate from the monarchy and had its own independent authority. The Beit Din Hagadol could summon a king to court [2], meaning the king did not have absolute authority; he was under the law, just like every other member of the nation. The Supreme Court had a system of checks and balances as well, as they were checked by the people. The Torah being morasha qehilat ya’aqob [3], the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob, and therefore we have the right to ensure its proper continuation. In certain circumstances, if the congregation finds that the Beit Din Hagadol has erred, and the people are correct, the Beit Din Hagadol will need to bring a special offering for erring in their legislation [4].

The third branch of this new political structure is the priesthood [5]. Moshe divested himself of the priesthood, the position of Kohen Gadol, and transferred that role to Aharon and his sons in perpetuity. This was the first separation of powers of its kind in history. God instructed Moshe saying: “And you, bring forth Aharon your brother and his sons with him from amongst Yisrael to serve Me: Aharon, Nadab, and Abihu, Elazar and Itamar, the sons of Aharon (Shemot 28:1).” Later Moshe was instructed to personally bathe [6], dress, and anoint Aharon and his sons in an elaborate public ceremony which included offering qorbanot, sprinkling of its blood onto Aharon, his sons, and their clothing, and partaking of the sacrificial meat. This was a momentous event, transforming the political structure of Israel forever. After the priesthood was transferred, Aharon and his sons would exclusively be priests, while Moshe would have the role of king. When the appointment of Aharon and his sons was later challenged by Qorah and his group, it was specifically Aharon who was instructed to offer incense to stop the plague (Bemidbar 17:11-16). This further established, along with Aharon’s sprouting staff [7], that Aharon and his sons have the exclusive responsibility of the priesthood.

This separation of the kingship from the priesthood continued, thereby restricting the king from ritual worship reserved for the priesthood. There were two kings in our history who trespassed this line of our leadership structure, and were heavily rebuked for this transgression: Shaul haMelekh and Uzziah haMelekh. When Uzziah entered the beit haMiqdash to offer incense, the kohen gadol and eighty kohanim rebuked him:

And Azariah the priest came after him, and with him were priests of the Lord, eighty mighty men. And they stood beside Uzziah the king and said to him, ‘It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn [incense]. Leave the Sanctuary, for you have trespassed, and it will not be glory for you from the Lord God.’ And Uzziah became furious, and in his hand was a censer to burn, and in his fury with the priests, the zaraath shone upon his forehead before the priests in the House of the Lord, over the altar of incense [8].

The priesthood and kingship must remain separate as Moshe has established it, without one branch trespassing into the realm of another. This separation of powers prevents corruption and allows for checks and balances. It is important to note that each institution funded itself. The members of the judiciary worked in a profession or a trade, the king levied taxes, and the Beit haMiqdash had its own set of taxes which included the half-sheqel, ma’aserot, terumot, and votive offerings. The payment to the priests was done directly, and not through the king. These measures truly kept the three branches of our national governmental structure separate and independent.

Delegation of power and responsibilities can sometimes be difficult. One may not want to relinquish their control either because they do not trust another person to do the job or because they desire the authority. Moshe set an example through his delegation. He fully entrusted each of the groups to their own jurisdiction. Once he gave over the responsibility, he dissolved himself of that authority. In each of our leadership circles we should share the responsibilities with others, and when we do so, allow the other person to fully take on the role they were given. This will allow for independence, free-thinking, creativity, and checks and balances.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Meyer Laniado

[1] See A.S. Yahuda pg. 18-20 “In a hierarchic state where Pharaoh was a god (neter), his vizier had naturally to occupy a priestly rank, and it was precisely his which was conferred on Joseph by the title father. This qualification was enhanced by Pharaoh giving him the daughter of the priest of On (Heliopolis) to wife (Gen. 41:45)…For to the Egyptians On was the holy city par excellence. It was regarded as the seat of the most powerful of the cosmic gods, namely of Atum, and it was occupied by a numerous and important body of priests.”

[2] Mishne Torah Hilkhot Sanhedrein 2:4 note the ‘sheme tabo mehen taqala’ may be a reference to a time when the the kings were brought to justice. This stopped after the incident with Yannai and Shimon ben Shetah (Sanhedrin 19a-b). Now, the law is that only a king of the lineage of David ie a constitutional monarch who sees himself under the law, can be brought before the beit din hagadol.

[3] Debarim 33:4 and Three ketarim Mishna Abot 4:12

[4] Mishne Torah Hilkhot Shegagot 12

[5] The first is the king, then the court, and now the priesthood.

[6] Immersion in the Miqve

[7] Bemidbar 17:23

[8] Dibre Hayamim 2 26:17-19