If our last Torah portion, Terumah, was about the building (i.e., the Mishkan/Tabernacle) our Torah portion this week is all about its leaders and functionaries (i.e., the Kohanim/Priests). Once and again the Torah reminds us, and the Kohanim, what leadership is all about: being a leader means (or should mean) to serve and not to be served. Unfortunately, I believe, in our generation this notion has been disrupted and reversed: leaders want to be served but not to serve. Many of our leaders, especially in politics, but this is true in other areas as well, have forgotten what leadership is all about. Leaders talk about their rights, their privileges, their special status and they usually treat other people as if they were less important than themselves because of their high position.
In contrast, our Torah portion several times reminds us that the true goal of the Kohanim, and every leader as well, is to serve others and not to be served — that being a leader is more about responsibilities than privileges. Hashem says, “[so] that he serve Me [as a kohen].” (Ex. 28:3). Rashi, commenting on this verse adds, “The expression of kehunah means service, serjanterie in Old French”. Being a Kohen means to serve, to serve Hashem but also to serve the Jewish people. And this is why many of the Kohen’s garments should serve to remind him that he is serving, not himself, but the Israelites (see, Ex. 28:12, 28:30, 28:38).
When you are a leader it is easy to forget what your position is all about and that is why our Torah makes sure that with symbolic garments on the forehead, on the shoulders and in the heart the Kohen remembers that he is not there for others to serve him but he is there to serve Hashem and the Jewish people.
Let this be a reminder to all of us in a position of leadership what our position is all about.