A Kingdom of Priests: By Rabbi Mordechai Rabinovitch
Illustration: Ahuvah Klein
“And you shall be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Shemot 19:6).
Rashi explains a “kingdom of priests” to mean a kingdom of noblemen and aristocrats, the term priest occurring elsewhere in Scripture in the sense of upper class (see II-Samuel 8:18). Ramban explains that by a “kingdom of priests” the Torah means to convey that the people of Israel will serve G-d and will be a nation of servants of G-d, holy by virtue of its dedication to the Holy One blessed is He.
According to both these explanations, the accolade “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” is directed internally. A fundamentally different approach is adopted by Rambam and Seforno.
Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam explains in the name of his father that in every community and society, the priest is a dignified leader who constitutes the role model for the rest of his people. It is through his teachings and his example that they live an upright life. In a similar manner, the Jewish people vis a vis the rest of the world fill the role of “priests” – the relationship of the rest of the world to the Jewish people is that of a community to its priest. By virtue of the Jewish people’s adherence to Torah, the rest of the world will want to emulate us, and follow in our way.
Seforno takes a similar route and writes that the Jewish people will lead all of mankind to recognize and worship G-d alone.
The prophet Isaiah (49:6) speaks of the people of Israel as a “light unto the nations“. The people of Israel and indeed, the State of Israel, bear a heavy responsibility in this regard. One of the dreams of Manhigut Yehudit is to make the world into the Kingdom of G-d. When the State of Israel will have a leader who draws his sustenance from Torah, instead of from Western civilization, the stage will finally be set for the fulfillment of the prophecy (Isaiah 2:3; Michah 4:2): Many nations will say “Let us ascend the mountain of G-d, the home of the G-d of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways, that we may walk in his paths, for from Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of G-d from Jerusalem“.