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Shabbat Parashat Vayikra 5782

Parashat Hashavua: The Leader Sinned

Harav Yosef Carmel

Asher nasi yecheta (should the nation’s top leader sin) and violate one of the mitzvot … unintentionally and be guilty …” (Vayikra 4:22). The Tosefta (Bava Kama 7:5) and Rashi expound upon the pasuk: “Ashrei (fortunate) is the generation whose nasi sins and brings a korban.”

In Tanach, nasi classically refers to the king, who is the person who is elevated above everyone, except Hashem. The very possibility to demand of a king to acknowledge his sin is a great novelty. All the more so, we would never expect that there would be someone with permission to rebuke the king or to demand of him to admit that he sinned.

Until around 200 years ago, anywhere in the world where a man of conscience would have the nerve to stand up with rebuke before whoever was the sovereign leader, he would immediately disappear from the face of the earth. (That is if he were lucky. He could live out his life under conditions of torture so that others could “hear and fear.”) Even in our days, there are places in the world where any criticism, even the most mild, about the king, will bring its speaker a very serious reaction, like in the past.

In contrast, according to Tanach and the words of Chazal and early commentators, one of a prophet’s responsibilities was to rebuke the king and demand of him to reset his course if he strayed from the path. True, doing so did not always bring a prophet a bed of roses, as the thorns often took the place of the roses. In the Kingdom of Israel (10 Tribes), prophets were persecuted for their criticisms of the king, such as Eliyahu in the days of Achav and Amos in the days of Yeravam II.

Even in the somewhat better Kingdom of Judea, prophets paid a steep price for their rebuke, sometimes even when the king was righteous. Let us recall the fate of Chanani, who rebuked the righteous Asa for relying on Aram. Asa put him in jail as a result, and some of his followers were killed (see Divrei Hayamim II, 16:7-10; see also Yirmiyahu 20:2; ibid. 29:26). So too, the prophet Zecharia, son of the saintly kohen gadol Yehoyada, who saved and raised King Yoash, was killed in the Beit Hamikdash, by order of that same Yoash, an overall good king (Divrei Hayamim II, 24:20-22). Even in the case where the prophet was a close relative of the king, immunity was not ensured. Amatzya threatened the life of Amotz (ibid. 25:15-16), even though Chazal tell us that the two were brothers.

We need to look within this context at the actions of David Hamelech. He received strong rebuke at the hand of the prophet Natan and fully accepted it. This was a unique quality of David, the teacher of repentance and of proper humility as a king.  

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Nir Rephael ben Rachel Bracha
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Iyar 10, 5771

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Sivan 17 / Av 20


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Tishrei 20 ,5781


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Rav Carmel's father

Iyar 8 ,5776


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bat RMoshe Zev a”h.

Tamuz 10 ,5774


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Av 4


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Adar 28, 5781

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Av 30, 5781


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Adar II 6


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Adar II 12


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