Pontification: The Pope and Our Parsha

Pope Francis‘s tour of the United States is all over the news. Even if he does not have any true nation-state power, this Pope has proven that he has tremendous influence as a world leader. As the Pope he is the  head of state and government of the Vatican City, which is an internationally recognized nation-state with an army, but I doubt that the Swiss Guards pose and real threat to anyone. With so many people swooning over him, it seems that they think that he is much more than just another Bono. I was thinking about his beyond rock-star status when reading Ha’Azinu, this week’s Torah portion. There we read:

Is this how you repay the Lord, you disgraceful, unwise people?! Is God not your Father, your Master? God has made you and established you. ( Deuteronomy 32:6)

Moshe is warning the people to recognize that God is the true Master and alone is responsible for the people’s existence. On the idea that God established you Rashi comments:

After making you a special nation, God established you upon every kind of firm base and foundation: your priests are from among yourselves; your prophets are from among yourselves, and your kings are from among yourselves. Indeed, you are like a city from which all resources are drawn. — (Sifrei 32:6)

On one level is interesting to imagine the nation a self-sufficient city. On another level it is amazing to see that in the Midrash that Rashi quotes that the greatness of the Jewish people comes from our leadership coming from our own ranks. This idea itself points to Pope Francis’s success.  He is not a rock star because he is on stage or holding his office, rather his greatness comes from his ability to connect authentically with his nation and the world. Pope Francis’s authenticity flows from his being one of the people.

Indeed, if you were to see Pope Frances the blessing you would say is:

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the universe, Who has given of God’s glory to human beings.

As we learn in our Torah portion, the true glory comes from God. The true lesson in that the people who claim to represent God job is to truly represent their people and reflect that glory away from themselves, maybe even to God. If the Pope did not pursue this he would just be another guy with a Kippah going around New York City trying to do good and impress his mother.


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