Opening: The Priests & The Scholars
The Kohens and Levites were more than just stewards of the Temple. They were scholars and educators. In our parsha, we see that they are commanded to teach their young (source 1). In the Haftorah, we see that they were responsible for teaching Torah to the entire nation (source 2). Maimonides extends this position to all people. Every person can be a Levite, by dedicating himself to spirituality (source 3).
Part 1: Wandering Judges?
Maimonides describes the members of the High Court as the greatest minds of the generation (source 5). Yet, the Midrash states in the name of Elijah the Prophet that the members of the High Court should have wandered from town to town to teach Torah (source 4).
The Rebbe asks the obvious question: Why were the members of the High Court expected to do ‘menial jobs’?
Part 2: Full Responsibility
The key to the answer lies in the story of Pilegesh B’givah, where a horrific crime resulted in civil war and the death of seventy thousand Jews (source 6). It was in regard to this story that Elijah says his statement about the High Court (source 7).
As the Rebbe explains, the first and foremost task of a Jewish scholar and leader is to teach and raise up the people. The result of their failure is inestimable, and the blame lies squarely on them. That is why the Talmud says that a High Court that employs the death penalty is called “destructive” (source 8). They reached that point because of their own failure to educate the nation.
Part 3: Gird Yourself
The Rebbe: A person’s first responsibility is to teach others.