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    Are leaders born or made? – Emor

    rabbis-e1322137764155-150x106There are two main currents of Jewish leadership, the kohen and the rabbi.

    Modern Jewry has confused them by turning the rabbi from a sage and scholar into a priestly officiant and ritualist.

    Historically there was a distinction. The kohen conducted the ritual in the sanctuary whilst the rabbi was the teacher and judge.

    In between them was a third category, the prophet. Some prophets were also kohanim: some were also teachers.

    The kohen was hereditary, since his responsibilities required lifelong training and internalisation. The rabbi did not depend on who his father was but on his own choice and capacity.

    Interestingly, both were only a success if the people approved of them. The community was told to sanctify the kohen (Lev. 21:7). Though his birthright brought him the priestly title, his reputation needed popular endorsement.

    There is a discussion in the Talmud (Yoma 19a) about whether the kohanim are “our” or God’s agents. Ideally they should be both.

    Concerning the rabbi, it says in Pir’kei Avot 1:6, aseh l’cha rav, “Make a rabbi for yourself”, which can be translated, “Make the scholar into a rabbi”, i.e. into your personal or community authority.

    A person who has knowledge but lacks public support is chamor nosei s’farim, “a donkey carrying books”.

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