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Shabbat Parashat Chukat 5777

Ein Ayah: What Spiritual Leaders Can Do While Lacking Strong Leadership

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 5:15)

Gemara: Those from the House of the Exilarch are held responsible for the whole world, as Rabbi Chanina learned: That which it says, “Hashem will come in judgment with the elders of His nation and its officers” (Yeshaya 3:14) is explained as follows. If the officers sinned, how did the elders sin? Rather, the blame of the elders is that they did not protest the actions of the officers.


Ein Ayah: It is most appropriate when the essential dominion is in the hands of the most ethical people in society. However, times come when mankind deteriorates due to bad moral choices, and they cannot be led in a manner that emanates solely from a pure source. This is because they need a certain energy of life which, on their low level, seems like strong life, to take care of their social needs. Quiet ethical life will not fulfill all the tendencies of society, which has already deteriorated to the point that it is too unsettled for such leadership. This will continue until the Days to Come, when Hashem will bring a spirit of purity, sanctity and tranquility. Until then, while the leadership will be somewhat influenced by divine morality, their spirit will be more in line with that of the populace and their shortcomings.

The influence of morality must be present, even if the leaders with power will be lacking it. There must be protests against the more extreme evil tendencies of the political leaders. These protests will nudge society upwards and prevent its slide into more dangerous depths. Even though the protests are not directly effective, when they are missing, it takes away from the positive glow of the world. That would allow deterioration to continue unchecked and hamper the hope of improvement in the next generations. Therefore, it is tragic when those who have the moral standing to protest, even while lacking the practical power, fail to do so.

That is why there were complaints about the elders who were connected to the House of the Exilarch. While not possessing the power to force others to act properly, because society is often too lowly to conform, this is not an excuse to be silent. One must stand up without compromises when there is a disgrace to the honor of proper values. When these moral leaders do their part, then Hashem, who knows all the thoughts of the present and the unfolding of the future, will enable moral improvements to occur when their time comes. In any case, though, the calling out of encouragement and voicing of protest against improper things must always be present according to the depths of truth of the Torah of truth.

Therefore, if the officers separate themselves from the elders and the elders lack the power to lead because people demand physically oriented leadership as opposed to pure-minded leadership, protesting improper behavior is still the “light of the world.” It puts checks on the actions of the evil in the present and creates a string of pleasantness to be emulated in the future, when things improve. Hashem will judge those elders who do not protest against the officers, as they could have painted a picture of goodness and moral rectitude. This is supposed to help hasten a time when the ultimate leader, Mashiach, will lead us in righteousness and spirituality (see Yeshaya 11).

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