The Limits of Democracy
Limits of Democracy
the fourth of the five books of Moses, chronicles the Jewish nation’s sojourn
in the desert.
is the relevance of retelling all these old stories? Is G-d merely chronicling Jewish history for us?
written in the Torah is relevant and meaningful for all time. This rule is quite
obvious with regard to some matters, for example, the commandment of Shabbos.
The idea of resting from acts relating to creating (for example, cooking, making
fire, etc.) and focusing on spiritual and personal growth is an accepted idea,
and one whose need is easy to grasp. Similarly, with all mitzvos, if we
investigate, we will find that although the technicalities of a mitzva might
seem strange at the outset, the reasons behind it, and the behavioral patterns
it is meant to encourage, all make a lot a sense.
example, in this week’s portion we have the commandment to redeem our first
born sons from the priest (a mitzva which is still practiced today). The reasons
behind this are quite logical. In Egypt, while we were achieving nationhood, G-d
unleashed a series of plagues on the Egyptian people. The final plague was the
killing of the first born Egyptian males. By our redeeming our own first born
males, we show that we remember our past, and that our Judaism is not existing
in a vacuum, but is the extension of a thirty three hundred year old tradition.
It also teaches us the important trait of gratitude. We are grateful that G-d
took us out of Egypt, en route to giving us the Torah.
Similarly, all the stories related in the Torah have important messages
to teach us.
story of Korach is particularly relevant to our day and age.
seemingly raised some very legitimate points. Korach felt it was not fair that
Moshe had placed himself as the head of the Jewish people. “Isn’t the entire
nation holy?” Korach asked Moshe. How do we reconcile the story of
Korach with our fundamental belief in democracy?
is a classic Jewish book called “The Way of
G-d”. This is a book written by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato around the
year 1735. This book chronicles the way and purpose of the world, and how we
interact with G-d in it. He writes that before anything else, there must be a
belief in G-d. Without that belief, everything else is relative. Any rule or way
of acting becomes secondary to personal bias unless there is an absolute arbiter
Jews, we must see our relationship with G-d in this light. Following Him blindly
is the lowest level of belief. We must strive to reach higher than that,
and use the written and oral law to analytically investigate our role as Jews.
And we must look at our history and proceed accordingly.
Korach forgot this important point. Moshe did not appoint himself as leader, G-d did. Korach was the first pluralistic Rabbi insofar as he did not wish to see things G-d’s way, but rather his way.
is an important tool and is used in the Torah (when determining law, the members
of the court would vote). However, when we are under the stewardship of
G-d, it is not always appropriate.
lesson to be learned from Korach is that although people may have a right to an
opinion, it does not mean their opinion is right. When we see many of the
opinions which come out of the Jewish sector from so called “Rabbis” and
“leaders”, this point is driven home.