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Kinah 43-Sorcerers As Leaders

“Zion, pursue justice against those sorcerers who so falsely misled you and did not disclose your sins to you. Indeed, vile men have oppressed you and possessed you. You once were the abode of righteousness to all your neighbors.”


It was Jeremiah who described us this way: “Thus said God, Master of Legions, the Lord of Israel: ‘People will again say this thing in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I return their captivity: May God bless you, O Abode of Righteousness, O Holy Mountain’ (Jeremiah 31:22).”

Jeremiah’s words take us back to Moses’ blessing to the Tribe of Zebulun, “Of Zebulun he said: ‘Rejoice, O Zebulun, in your excursions, and Issachar in your tents. The tribes will assemble at the mount, there they shall slaughter offerings of righteousness’ (Deuteronomy 33:18-19).” Jeremiah’s, “Abode of Righteousness,” refers to Moses’ “offerings of righteousness, and his “Holy Mountain,” to Moses’ “assemble at the mount.”

Rashi explains Moses’ words as describing the Sanhedrin, represented by Issachar, which regulates the calendar and festivals, determining when the people should assemble at the Mount, the Temple, on the Three Pilgrimage Festivals, where and when they would offer thanksgiving to God bu bringing Offerings of Righteousness. Alternatively, other nations will come from all over the world to trade with Zebulun, and will say, “We’ve heard so much about Jerusalem and the Temple; once we’re here in Israel, let’s go and visit and see how these people serve their God.” The visitors will be so impressed by the righteous behavior of Israel, and their unity in serving God, that they will come close to God and bring offerings to celebrate the Righteousness of Israel.

Rashi’s explanation connects the leadership of the Sanhedrin and the righteousness of the people: A nation properly led will act with such righteousness that people will honor their behavior and appreciate it as a reflection of God. We can understand how Rabbi Yosef ben Chaim haKohen (16th Century), the composer of this elegy, connected leadership, as in, “who so falsely misled you,” with, Jeremiah’s, “abode of righteousness to all your neighbors.”

The Kinah continues, “You disobeyed the One Who guided you well,” as we saw earlier, our righteous behavior is credited to God, and when we disobey, we bring shame to His Holy Name. Moses refered ro the people acting in unity, “a single nation unified in serving One God,” being the trigger for the Sanctification of God’s Name. We can more fully appreciate that when we are not unified in oyr Service of God, we fail to reflect righteousness. It is our leaders who unify us in our service of God, and they are held responsible when there is disunity in our service.

My father zt”l often pointed out that the paradigmatic story of Sinat Chinam, mutual and baseless hatred between Jews, Kamtza and Bar Kamtza (Gittin 55b), mentions that the leaders of the community were at the infamous party, and refused to step in and make peace; the fault lay with the leaders.

Who were “those sorcerers who so falsely misled you and did not disclose your sins to you”? The composer refers to them when he writes, “You have been beaten and struck with no cure; you have been thrown into the mud of the streets! Behold! You are the laughingstock of your oppressors.” These words are taken from King David’s song “On the day that God delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul (Psalms 18:1):” “I pulverized them like dust in the face of the storm, like mud of the streets I poured them out (Verse 43).” King David describes Saul as a more formidable enemy than all others combined!

King Saul fought David, sought to destroy him to preserve his family’s royal status: A leader who is focused more on his position than on leading is described by King David as the worst enemy. It is interesting to note that King Saul’s final sin was to consult a sorcerress, as in, “those sorcerers who so falsely misled you.”

This Kinah is teaching us to search for leaders who will guide us in correcting our behavior, and will unify our service of God.

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