Prophets and Priests

“Prophets and priests were different kinds of people who served God in different ways. What was appropriate for one was inappropriate, even forbidden, to the other. Judaism is a religion of distinctions and differences. Only thus do we bring order to the world. Judaism radically distinguishes between priestly and prophetic sensibilities. Each has its place in the religious life… But they are different…For the priest, the key words of the religious life are kadosh, holy, and tahor, pure. To be a Jew is to be set apart: That is what the word kadosh, holy, actually means. This in turn has to do with the special closeness the Jewish people have to God… The prophets are quite different. They use different words. They think in different ways…The prophets are intensely concerned with social morality. They regard injustice, corruption, the neglect of the poor and the oppression of the weak as national catastrophes. They are not indifferent to the relationship between the people and God – far from it. They constantly castigate idolatry. But they see this in moral terms. It is an act of betrayal, disloyalty, faithlessness. Also, they are concerned less with outward ritual than with inner remorse. “Rend your heart and not your garments.” They are not opposed to ritual and sacrifice, but they are outraged when it is used as an attempt, as it were, to bribe God to avert His eyes from evil and injustice…The prophet speaks not in the language of holy and profane, pure and defiled, commandment and sin, but in terms of the great covenantal virtues: tzedek, righteousness, mishpat, justice, chessed, love, and rachamim, compassion.”

Ceremony & Celebration, pp. 49-55