Thursday, July 10, 2008


Some rabbi in LA, to whom I was once quite close until he started going way overboard with his obsessive, right wing, chareidi, yeshivness (yes, we had a HUGE falling out after he became a real putz) used to like to say that of all the "ism" forms of government, such as Communism, Socialism, Fascism, Capitalism, etc, a Democracy, though still not a Torah approved or proper form of government, was the best "ism" of a bad lot (even though "democracy" doesn't end in "ism" and there is no such word as "democracism"). As a system of government, he'd say, it was the best choice and one in which many people, including, even especially, Jews, may flourish.

I beg to differ. Not about the flourishing part, though I do tend to disagree with this as well (considering my own financial situation and inability to get out of it no matter how hard I try). No, I disagree that a democracy is not a Torah way of life.

Let's use a statement from the Torah about public servants: "You shall appoint judges and officers in all your cities" (Deuteronomy 16:18). The verse doesn't say how, but what better way of appointing is there than voting for the candidate for judge or sheriff?

While there are certain instances where God himself DOES choose the candidate for overall leader of the Jewish people (Moses, Saul, David), it seems he leaves the appointments of lesser officials to the people. The Hebrew is "Shoftim V'Shotrim Titen LECHA" appoint judges and officers FOR YOURSELVES - YOU appoint them, not God.

As I understand it, during the period of judges (post Joshua and pre-monarchy), a judge was someone who proved himself an excellent candidate to lead the Jewish people, not someone, like today's many mental pygmies in the chareidi world, who declare themselves the "gedolei Yisrael." These were people who fought bravely for the Israelite nation, people to whom the nation turned for leadership and wisdom, not people who forced the nation to bend to their own wills whims (and idiotic chumrahs).

And when it came to the monarchy, before God chose Saul, and later David, it was the PEOPLE who CHOSE to have a monarchy (which really pissed off the Lord, by the way). The PEOPLE approached the judge in their time, Samuel, and stated they wanted a king to keep them on the straight and narrow after nearly four hundred years of ups and downs (Joshua to Saul), of leaving the path of Torah, getting in trouble, begging God to help, defeating their enemies, staying on the path of Torah for a while, then straying again and starting the cycle again and again. Certainly, God chose the candidate for king (and boy, sometimes that didn't work out too well either), but only at the behest of the nation. In other words, no one came and imposed himself upon the people as their king. The people chose to HAVE a king. That's pretty much a democracy.

After the +-450 year period of monarchs (much of which was a disaster for the Jews), after the return from Babylon (around 350 BCE), the Jews chose to chuck the monarch system. Again, democracy at work. At this point, the Tanaic period would begin, where a town or city would once again choose its rabbinic authority, and, presumably, its system of officials.

So, in just what way is democracy NOT for Jews?

Rabbi S, I'm sorry, but your statement has no basis in reality and is just plain dumb. But it's the type of thing a chareidi/yeshivish person would say to justify allowing the Halachic pygmies of the day to take control and hijack Orthodox Judaism.

1 comment:

Kylopod said...

You didn't happen to read my latest blog entry before writing this one, did you? If not, it's a weird coincidence.