Transparent Leadership

The metamorphosis of Aaron and his sons into priests was a process wholly transparent to the nation.


Provided by American Jewish World Service, pursuing global justice through grassroots change.

For as long as people have organized themselves into civil societies, corruption has placed its thumb on the scales of justice, diverted the flow of essential resources, and helped turn the wheels of power. But while corruption may have indiscriminately left its mark on every age, it is not so even-handed in its distribution today.

AJWS logoIn our world of deepening global inequalities, the poorest countries are those most devastated by corruption’s effects. It is not hard to understand why. Institutional corruption forces the impoverished to part with what little they have in order to access basic services like water, electricity, medical care, education, and police protection. Beside the economic burdens, corruption levies a perhaps even more damaging psychological toll, under which ordinary citizens come to feel powerless in the face of corruption’s constant, common debasements.

Testament to the timelessness of corruption’s havoc, the Torah repeatedly exhorts Israel’s leaders to resist venality. Parashat Tzav more subtly communicates this message through the exquisite choreography of the ritual consecrating Aaron and his sons as priests.

A Public Affair

The investiture ritual began as Moses assembled Israel at the Tabernacle entrance, where the entire nation, Rashi explains, was miraculously accommodated. Lest they risk their deaths, the priest-initiates were to remain “day and night” at the Tabernacle’s entrance for the duration of the seven-day investiture (Leviticus 8:35).

The metamorphosis of Aaron and his sons into kohanim, or priests, was thus a process wholly transparent to the nation. All of Israel watched as Moses bathed Aaron and his sons. They stood witness as Moses clothed the naked initiates in tunics and girded them with sashes; as he wrapped his nephews’ heads with turbans; as he bedecked his older brother with the urim v’tumim, the jeweled breastplate of the High Priest (Leviticus 8:6-34).

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Rachel Farbiarz is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law. Rachel worked as a clerk for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, after which she practiced law focusing on the civil rights and humane treatment of prisoners.

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