|VaYikra-The True Greatness of the Nasi|
|Written by Rabbi Joshua "The Hoffer" Hoffman|
In memory of Rav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, founder and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Torah Ore in Jerusalem, who passed away Tuesday night, and for the full and speedy recovery of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Rav Yosef Shalom ben Chaya Musha, and Rav Yaakov Yosef, son of Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Yaakov Chaim ben Margolis.
The Torah tells us that a Nasi must bring a sin offering for an unintentional sin that he committed (Vayikra 4:22). Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffmann, in his commentary to Vayikra, shows from various rabbinic sources that the Nasi referred to here is the king. The word used to describe the occurrence of the Nasi's sin, here, is 'asher,' which is usually translated as 'when.' While the Ibn Ezra and Rashbam understand it to mean 'if' in this context, the Seforno explains it to mean 'when,' so that the Torah is actually telling us that it is expected that the Nasi will sin. This, says the Seforno, is because power and wealth corrupt, as we read in parshas Ha'azinu (Devorim 32:15), " Yeshurun grew fat and kicked (rebelled)." One may ask, why is it that the nasi is almost expected to sin, and, moerover, given this expectation, why would anyone undertake that position, seeing that his spiritual welfare is at stake? These questions are raised, in a somewhat different form, by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin in his work Unlocking the Torah, to Vayikra, and the interested reader is referred there for his answers. I would like to suggest a different approach, which will also help us understand the role of the Nasi, or king, in general.
The gemara in Yoma (22b) tells us that a leader should not be appointed over the community unless he has a box of reptiles (sheratzim) in his background, meaning, that he has a black spot on his record. This, says the gemara, explains why the liaison between Dovid and Bathsheba occurred. This requirement is meant to prevent the leader from becoming too haughty in his rule over the people, since they can always point to his checkered past when he tries to use his powers improperly. Actually, the Torah tells us, in parshas Shoftim, that the king should always carry a sefer Torah with him, so that he will fear God, perform His mitzvos, and also to prevent him from becoming haughty over his brothers (Devorim 17:20). Perhaps, then, the reason that
the Nasi is bound to sin is, also, to prevent him from becoming haughty in his rule by having a black mark on his record. We still need to understand, however, why anyone would accept the position of Nasi, knowing that it will most likely bring him to sin, and, moreover, why does the Torah create such a position?
We have mentioned, in the past, Rav Kook's explanation of a mishneh in Bikkurim (1:7) regarding the reading requirement of the farmer who brings his Bikkurim, his first fruits, to the kohein in the Beis haMikdash, to recite the section in Ki Savo that recounts the history of Yisroel, culminating with the ripening of the first fruits in Eretz Yisroel. Originally, says the mishnah, whoever was able to read this parsha himself did so, and, for those who were not able to do so, for lack of knowledge of Hebrew, as the Rambam explains, someone read the section for him. However, as a result, the less learned people stopped bringing their Bikkurim, to avoid embarrassment. Therefore, the rabbis enacted that everyone must have the section read for them, even those who were sufficiently learned to recite it themselves. Rav Kook raises the point that this enactment actually detracted from the quality of the mitzvoh performance.of the more learned people. However, for the good of the wider community, they had to sacrifice something of their own spirituality, so that the less learned people would bring their Bikkurim. Perhaps, then, we can suggest that, in a similar way, a person who is qualified to be king should undertake that position even though he knows that it will very likely lead him to sin, in order to serve the spiritual needs of the Jewish people as a whole. My teacher, Rav Aharon Soloveichik, zt"l, demonstrated from a Talmudic passage (Nedorim 24a) that the main task of the king is to do acts of loving kindness for the people. Therefore, for a person who is of the spiritual caliber of becoming the king, the act of spiritual sacrifice involved in undertaking that position is the greatest act of loving kindness that he can do.