Arnold D. Samlan
Jewish Educational Leader, South Florida

Do You Want a King, Prophet or Priest?

Here in the United States, we are in the midst of what could be the most unusual (to use a polite word) presidential campaign in memory. Candidates who have never held elective or public service office became (or still are) serious contenders, while a good number of career public servants and leaders have fallen by the wayside (remember George Pataki? Lincoln Chafee? Martin O’Malley?)

We are now left with a number of candidates, at least some of whom could not possibly do the job. A few have proven to be remarkable characters, showing great values and thoughts. But that doesn’t make them presidential material.

Back in biblical times (as in the U.S. Constitution) there were concepts of separation of powers and of checks and balances. There was the melech,  a king, who led the government and often led the nation in war. He was the epitome of the executive branch, as we call it here.

The kohen was the “priest”. As a group, the kohanim were the ritual leaders of ancient Israel.

Then there were the nevi’im, the prophets. They were the spiritual idea people. They didn’t govern, nor were they supposed to. (Neither were the kohanim, although one group, the leaders of the Maccabean revolt, did. But that’s another story.)

These people – king, priest, prophet – kept each other honest, or at least tried to. Even the great King David needed a good talking to by the prophets of his time as he abused his power on occasion.


Point is, a number of the American presidential candidates are in prophetic mode. They have expressed bold ideas and put forth statements based in values. Whether we like those values or not, by doing so, they have changed the conversation and process. But, these candidates, while they may be the modern-day Isaiah or Micah types, haven’t shown a side that demonstrates their ability to manage and leverage power. In other words, the prophetic voices in the race are just not passing the test of being king material.

So, my thanks to those who have been prophetic voices and have challenged the ways we think and the way the United States government does business. Accept a country’s appreciation for being change agents. Even the more “establishment” candidates are now touting some of your ideas; some even claiming the new thinking as their own.

But we Americans have a president to pick now. And as much as I love prophecy and ideas (after all, I am a rabbi), I and the rest of the U.S. need to now get to the business of electing someone to be president.

About the Author
Rabbi Arnie Samlan, Chief Jewish Education Officer of the Jewish Federation Broward County, Florida, Is a rabbi and Jewish educator whose work has impacted Jewish learners, community leaders and professionals across North America. All blog posts are his personal opinions and are not meant to reflect viewpoints of the Jewish Federation.
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