12 May 2017

Haftara for Emor 5777: Trustees | WITH AUDIO READING

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Please click HERE to listen to this weeks audio recording read by Jenny Kraiem-Ghatan. Jenny moved from Brooklyn to London in 2012. She established her interior architecture + design studio, JKG Interiors working in both residential and commercial sectors. She lives with her husband and two children. She is also a member of the S&P Sephardi Community.

Haftara for Emor 5777: Trustees

Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life’.

 — Golda Meir

Ezekiel 44:15-31


The kohanim (priests) of the line of Tsadok are given exclusive rights to serve in the future Bet HaMikdash (Holy Temple). This is due to their faithfulness in their role and covenant with God unlike the other priestly families who all broke trust and covenant: ‘They shall not approach Me to serve Me as priests, to come near any of My sacred offerings… They shall bear their shame for the abominations that they committed. I will make them watchmen of the Temple, to perform all its chores, everything that needs to be done in it. But the levitical priests descended from Tsadok, who maintained the service of My Sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray…They alone may enter My Sanctuary and they alone shall approach My table to minister to Me; and they shall keep My charge’ (44:13-16).

The precepts that are unique to the Kohanim are reiterated here in the haftara, including their appropriate haircuts, clothing, decorum and marital bonds.

The kohanim are entrusted with teaching and preserving the Law. They are not to come in contact with death except for their seven closest relations[1]. They are awarded special gifts from the people’s offerings to God. 


Over the last ten years we have seen trust develop between individuals in ways that we have not seen since before the Industrial Revolution. When the majority of people lived in small neighbourhoods and villages, trust was built through reliability and reputation. If I wanted to borrow money from my neighbour, my trustworthiness would depend on whether I paid it back on time and in full. If I did not, the entire village would hear and it would diminish, if not ruin, my trustworthiness.

When industry grew and people began moving into big cities, corporations and large institutions became central to our lives. We placed our trust in these entities as we once did with individual people. That trust has weakened in recent years.

Due to the financial crisis and political surprises, people’s trust in large institutions like banks, corporations and governments has waned (the news and journalists not withstanding) while trust between individuals has grown again. The core contributing factor to this shift in trust is due to the re-empowerment of the individual in providing the same services as big business through the internet.

Companies like Uber, Air BnB and eBay offer alternatives to the large central corporations by providing platforms for transportation, hospitality and commerce, to be conducted between private individuals. The central job of the company is to ensure a system of trust in order to maintain its efficiency and productivity.

Baroness Onora O’Neill[2] identifies in her book, A Question of Trust, three cardinal attributes that, when present, signal trustworthiness and allow for people to trust. They are: reliability, competence and honesty. When we can depend on someone, know that they are fit for the job and that they will not deceive us, we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable and have faith in them. If they are lacking in any of these three attributes, we are hesitant to do so.

These recent peer to peer centred companies facilitate systems that maintain high levels of trustworthiness. With Uber, for example, both drivers and passengers are rated. Those with low ratings are excluded and unable to participate in the system. Reliability is further ensured through solid and efficient customer service and these elements in turn, establish that honesty is maintained. We therefore trust our Uber driver to get us where we need to go in a manner that suits and benefits us. But does this trust carry over to other spheres? Would we trust that same driver to babysit our children? Clearly the three criteria are specific to certain areas of competence and reliability.

In most cases of trust these attributes are guaranteed with certain supports in place; reliability, competence and honesty can be enabled. The less knowledge I have of these elements being present in a person for a particular task, the more vulnerable I must be in my trust.

What then do I look for, if the ensuring aspects of the three cardinal attributes of trustworthiness are lacking? I look at the person. I get to know someone and try and sense if he is the kind of person who would jilt or deceive me or if he is a person of integrity, honesty and reliability. The greatest level of confidence we can place in anyone, is trust in a close relationship. For that, we must trust their entire person. This, of course, is the highest and rarest form of trust. We must know that they are reliable in their commitment to the love and friendship, competent in the art of relationship itself and truthful about their own lives and reality. In all other areas of trust that we have mentioned, the ensuring factors are ironically based on selfish foundations. People do not want to harm themselves or their ability to earn money, so they will act in ways that do not harm that possibility. They essentially protect themselves.

In the trust of relationships we expose ourselves and rely on our integrity in order to form effective, personal bonds. Each person then becomes a trustee of the relationship: they each hold the relationship in trust.

The book of Vayikra speaks of the kohanim — the ‘priests’ of Israel, who were in effect the trustees of the nation. The kohanim were entrusted to teach the people and hold in repository their cultural and intellectual treasures. They dedicated their lives to this endeavour and to the service of God on behalf of the people. This meant that their commitments were to the nation and the covenant between Israel and God. They therefore, could not follow the life patterns of the average citizen. As trustees, they were held to a more meticulous life that focused on the entity that they held in trust.

At that time God separated the tribe of Levi to carry the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, to stand before the presence  of God, to attend to Him and to give blessing in His name…Therefore Levi did not have an inheritable portion  along with his brothers; God is his inheritance, as God your Lord promised him. (Deut., 10:9-10)[3]

When this trust was breached its consequences were serious and far-reaching. But so were the consequences of it being upheld, as our haftara expresses.

But the levitical priests descended from Tsadok, who maintained the service of My Sanctuary when the  people of Israel went astray from Me—they shall approach Me to minister to Me; they shall stand before Me to offer Me fat and blood—declares the Lord GOD. They alone may enter My Sanctuary and they alone shall approach My table to minister to Me; and they shall keep My charge.

Early on, it was Tsadok himself who held the trust of God and King over his brethren. At a time when he could have protected himself and sought his own aggrandisement he chose his loyalty and integrity and stood by King David when a likely usurpation to his throne was brewing by none other than his own son Adoniya.

Adoniya, [the king’s son] went down today and sacrificed oxen and fatlings and sheep in abundance, and invited all the king’s sons and army commanders and Evyatar the priest — now here, they are eating and drinking before him, and they said: May King Adoniyyahu live! But as for me, myself your servant and Tsadok the priest and Benayahu son of Yehoyada and Shelomo your servant he did not invite.”

They were not invited because they did not participate in the coup. Tsadok and his descendants were steadfast in their trustworthiness and loyalty throughout the generations, and for this consistent display of integrity they are installed as the exclusive priests of the future Temple. Tsadok trusted in God and God trusted Tsadok[4].

In our lives we can offer cheap trust or robust, deep and reliable trust. We can be found trustworthy because many external factors ensure that we will maintain it, but when those factors fail so does the trust. Real, steadfast trustworthiness comes only from within. It is cultivated through building a consistent, whole and reliable identity that grows around commitment to real relationships and to truth.

Our trustworthiness is discovered by others through simple and consistent, everyday tests: a brief exchange of words, a few questions, a conversation, a deed or action. We observe and revise these performances as we assess the most precious element of our lives — those with whom we share this world.

To build integrity it requires that one loves oneself. Without that love, the work required to develop integrity is beyond our abilities. When we truly care about ourselves, and we deem ourselves worthy, we cultivate the best in our souls that can then be shared with others faithfully.

The greatest gift we give to anyone is ourselves. When we are unreliable, deceptive and frightening, our identity becomes dangerous and cannot be shared because it cannot be trusted. When however we work hard at being faithful, truthful and adept at relationships, we merit having one of the greatest accolades one could ever attain. We can be trusted.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Joseph Dweck


[1] Father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, wife.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onora_O%27Neill

[3] This is reiterated in the haftara 44:28.

[4] Ironically, his name is even sung every time a British monarch is crowned, thanks to George Frideric Handel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zadok_the_Priest

Parasha Perspectives

VIII  Emor

39a              The ordinary kohen  (21:1-9)
Cannot be defiled with dead bodies. Limits on marriage
39b              Increased restrictions for Kohen Gadol  (21:10-15)
More restrictive: no defilement at all, must marry virgin
39c               Physical blemishes in a kohen  (21:16-24)
Kohanim with physical defects cannot officiate, can eat
40                               Eating kodesh  (22:1-16)
Regulations for kohanim and their families for eating
from the korbanot
41a              Quality and method of offerings  (22:17-25)
Unblemished animals can be offered, others can be
used elsewhere.
41b              Restrictions on offerings  (22:26-33)
Chillul and Kiddush Hashem (22:32)
42                Intro. to holy occasions. 7th day is Shabbat (23:1-3)
43                Pesach*:  15/1 (15th day, 1st mth.). Chag HaMatzot. Chnw (Called holy, no work). Eat Matza  (23:4-8)
44a              The Omer:  16/1  Bring first omer of harvest
for an offering  (23:9-14)
44b              Shavuot*:  50 days later. Special offerings,
Chnw, harvest law  (23:15-22)
45a              Rosh HaShana*:  1/7  Zichron Teruah. Chnw
                    (23:23-25)      [Note: *= not mentioned by that name]
45b              Yom Kippur:   10/7  Yom HaKippurim. Chnw.
Afflict you souls…  (23:26-32)
46                Sukkot:  15/7  Chag HaSukkot. Chnw. Four
species, live in Sukkot  (23:33-44)
47                Menorah    Must be continual – tamid  (24:1-4)
48a              The Showbread  (24:5-9)
Twelve loaves in two rows on ‘pure’ table in
Mishkan. Add levona (24:7) Renew every Shabbat.
Brit Olam (24:8). Eaten by kohanim in Mishkan.
48b              Son of an Egyptian man  (24:10-12)
The son of an Israelite woman and Egyptian man
had a fight with an Israelite man.
The son of the Israelite woman (Shelomit Bat Divri
                    -Dan tribe) blasphemed and cursed God
49                The punishment for blasphemy and other
punishments  (24:13-23)
God commanded the punishment of stoning and
taught the general rule (24:13-16)
Murder → death. Damage or kill an animal or
maim a person → pay (24:17-23)

Taken from, ‘Torah for Everyone’ by Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum, Dean of LSJS