Robes, Roles, and Real Leadership

This week's Torah portion, T'tzaveh, contains specific instructions for creating ritual clothing for the high priest, Aaron, and his sons. The Torah gives extraordinary detail about the high priest's vestments: they are to be woven of gold, blue, purple and crimson yarn and fine linen, and adorned with gold chains and precious stones. The vestments were divinely inspired and handmade by community artisans.

Why such detailed instructions? One might view the high priest's vestments as an expression of all the divine and human expectations for the person holding the office. But what happens when such a leader does not meet our expectations?

The Torah provides an example in the fate of Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu. In a later portion, Shemini, they violate their holy oath and pay the price by being "consumed by fire." While their bodies are consumed, the Torah tells us that their clothing remains intact. This tells us that the priestly role is not expendable, but the person who occupies the role must meet the expectations that come with the position or face ruin.

It has been a week since the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Our prayers are with the grieving families and the survivors. It is impossible not to be moved by their voices as they cry out for change to those in positions of power.

Today, as in the days of the Israelites, we look to those in positions of leadership with the hope that they will meet our expectations. We wait expectantly to see whether the cry for change will lead to some form of action.

T'tzaveh means "you shall command" - a powerful demand. This Shabbat, let us all pray that our leaders hear our demands and do the hard work necessary to address the continued risk we face as parents, as children, and as Americans.

Shabbat Shalom.


Howard Sovronsky
President and CEO
Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford

Image caption: Aaron, High Priest of the Israelites, by Anton Kern (1710-1747) 


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