The leader sets the tone

ByRABBI STEVEN PRUZANSKY
March 28, 2017 14:59

Art by Pepe Fainberg

Art by Pepe Fainberg. (photo credit:PEPE FAINBERG)

IS SIN inevitable? We like to think not. The Torah details the atonement procedures for a variety of sinners by routinely introducing the sin with the word “if.” “If the priest sins… if the entire assembly sins… if the individual sins…” (Lev. 4:3, 13, 27). Only in reference to the ruler or king does the Torah insist on the inevitability of sin, as in “When the ruler sins” (ibid 4:22). Why must the ruler sin? The sin of leadership is predictable. The historian Lord Acton famously opined, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” A person entrusted with power and authority often internalizes a sense of his own greatness and invincibility, which is always unwarranted. Errors are covered up, often mutate into sins and can even lead to the leader’s adopting Louis XIV’s conclusion that “I am the state.” Sin therefore becomes unavoidable. Undoubtedly, the Torah employed the word “when” as a cautionary note to the prospective leader, so that he should be immensely careful not to stumble, and also so that he should develop a little humility.

Nonetheless, all leaders sin, and recent (as well as ancient) examples of leaders who succumb to the most widespread vices are so numerous as to be commonplace.

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