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The Task of Leadership

The Task of Leadership


For the Jewish people, past, present and future are inextricably bonded together. The Torah describes details of the service in the Temple which, although it was destroyed two thousand years ago, remains the inner reality of Jewish consciousness. The Temple is in the past, but it will also be in the future. Hence it teaches us about the present.

Part of the Temple service was the fact that every day the High Priest would enter the sacred hall of the Temple, where the lights of the golden Menorah burned. The Torah describes the special clothes he wore. From this we can learn something about the nature of Jewish leadership.

The High Priest was the spiritual representative of the entire Jewish people. On their behalf he entered the Temple, where the presence of G‑d was revealed. The Rabbis tell us that his clothes expressed his bond with all other Jews.

On each shoulder he wore an onyx stone, set in gold. On the stones were engraved the names of the Twelve Tribes, six on each stone. A golden chain, passing from each onyx stone on the shoulder, supported the "Breastplate of Judgment," worn on the chest of the High Priest. On the Breastplate were twelve different precious stones. Each jewel was engraved with the name of one of the Twelve Tribes.

This means that the High Priest carried with him the names of the Tribes, the totality of the Jewish people. When he entered the Temple this acted as a remembrance before G‑d, expressing the plea that G‑d should remember His people and look on them with favor.

Was this remembrance only on behalf of those righteous Jews who dedicatedly express the noble traditions of their people? No. The Sages explain that the garments of the High Priest linked him with everyone. Thus another garment he wore was a blue cloak. On its hem there were "pomegranates" made of coloured wool, within which were bells made of gold. When he walked, the bells could be heard, perhaps similar to the way we hear the bells on the crown of the Torah Scroll today.

The Talmud tells us that the "pomegranates" are a symbol for those people who imagine themselves to be completely remote from Judaism. They may think of themselves as in this way, but the Sages state that that "even the emptiest among you are as full of good deeds as a pomegranate is full of seeds". When the High Priest entered the Holy Sanctuary he carried with him these Jews as well, together with all others, evoking G‑d's blessing for them and arousing in all of them their sense of being joined with G‑d.

Through the generations this has been the function of Jewish leadership: to ask G‑d for blessing for the Jewish people, and to remind all of us that we have great spiritual power.1

This was the role of Mordechai, during the stirring times commemorated by Purim. Many Jews in the vast Persian empire were deeply assimilated. However, Mordechai was able to arouse them to face the threat posed by Haman and to stand up for being Jewish. They had the chance to escape by converting to Haman's religion, bowing to him and worshipping him. Mordechai, caring for every single Jew, was able to inspire them all. He made them recognize that, however remote they sometimes may feel, the true inner reality of each person is the portion of G‑d within. This recognition triggered the Divine response described in the Scroll of Esther, the miraculous turnabout in which the Jewish people were saved.

Based on the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Likkutei Sichot, vol. 21, p 188.
Dr. Tali Loewenthal is Lecturer in Jewish Spirituality at University College London, director of the Chabad Research Unit, author of Communicating the Infinite: The Emergence of the Habad School and a frequent contributor to the weekly Torah reading section.
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Douglas Trion, GA USA February 26, 2015

Leadership This was so well written and informative. Thank you for the teaching about leadership. May we learn that to be a leader we must take on the burden as well. Reply

Anonymous Gaborone, Botswana March 2, 2012

Rebuilding the temple Is there any particular reason or limitation why the temple has not been rebuilt since Israel was reformed? If the temple is so important & so much value is placed in it then why not engage in the glorious task of raising it as other generations have done before? Reply

Mr. Richard Raff March 7, 2010

New plans I do not know what the Temple meant to the Jewish people back then. But I do know what the Temple means to me now. We should think, it is time that we should submit new plans for the new Temple. Plans for a new hope. Reply

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