In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 5, 2006 / 7 Nissan, 5766

Judaism has never been scared of democracy

By Rabbi Berel Wein

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For nearly 2,000 years the original monotheistic faith has embraced and been bettered by it

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Having survived the Israeli elections with all of the uncertainty that all elections provide for the so-called winners and losers, perhaps it is time to take a cursory look at the democratic process of elections from a perspective of Jewish history.

At first glance Judaism does not seem to favor the electoral process for choosing its leaders. Moses was chosen by G-d to lead Israel, not by any sort of popular vote. The priesthood — the status of being kohanim was reserved for Aaron and his descendants, also by Godly fiat. Joshua was appointed by Moses, again under G-d's instruction, to succeed him as the leader of the people. The Judges however, were self-appointed but some of them such as Yiftach, Gideon, Avimelech and even Shimshon were popularly confirmed because of their exploits in defending Israel against its enemies.

The strongest objection to an empowered, dynastic monarchy was voiced by the great prophet Samuel. He objected to the manner in which the people demanded a king to rule over them "just as all of the other nations." Saul proved himself to be a failed and flawed monarch and only David proved to be the ideal king of Israel. Even his son, Solomon, at the end of his rule was no longer viewed favorably and the record of the kings of Israel and Judah, even those anointed by G-d's prophets, proved negative and spotty at best. The entire period of the Second Temple, with only rare exceptions, saw tyrannical rulers and corruption at the highest levels.

It was in the field of Torah education that democratic ideas and ideals took hold. A woodchopper such as the great sage Hillel could become the nassi — the head of the yeshiva and the Sanhedrin. Halachic (Jewish legal) decisions were made by majority vote. Raban Gamliel was temporarily deposed from the office of nassi — impeached if you will — because of his undemocratic behavior towards other scholars. Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya opened the study hall to the attendance of all and not just the elite or the aristocrats.

The heads of the main yeshivas (rabbinical academies) of Babylonia, during the period of the composition and editing of the Talmud, were chosen by popular opinion amongst the students and the other scholars. The yeshivas of France during the time of Rashi, the greatest of the biblical commentators, were noted for their openness and tolerance of differing views and styles.

Since in the European exile there really was no independent Jewish government (with the limited exception perhaps of the Council of the Four Lands in sixteenth, seventeenth and part of eighteenth century Eastern Europe) Jewish leaders were chosen and recognized by popular approval and approbation. Elections, often very divisive and contentious, were held to choose rabbis of the communities. Even the lay leaders of the communities were subject to popular approval and always faced the threat of recall from office if the populace was sufficiently disgruntled with its rule.

In the yeshivas, the students pretty much ruled the roost, deciding who should be the main scholars delivering the lectures and heading the institutions. The history of the yeshivas of Eastern Europe is marked with incidents of student revolts and the students always had the option of voting with their feet and leaving one institution to study somewhere else.

The Chasidic world was for its first century fiercely meritocratic. The opponents of Chasidus mocked the Chasidic world of the eighteenth century by saying "If one says he is a rebbe, then he is a rebbe!" However to a certain extent this was a form of a backhanded compliment for Chasidus opened the field of participation in the public arena of Judaism to millions who could not meet the elite standards of high Jewish scholarship. Only in the middle of the nineteenth century did Chasidus become overwhelmingly dynastic, though even then there was room allowed for new dynasties to be created and become popular.

In the twentieth century, Jewish life was governed almost completely by elections, different parties and non-stop campaigning — a situation that obviously pertains today in our State of Israel.

In all facets of the Jewish world, popular opinion held sway, for good or for better. Many of the great religious leaders of the Torah world were not people who held major public positions but were rather people who were "elected" to be followed by popular acclaim and recognition. Jewish life is therefore quite democratic, one could even say too democratic for it tends to be fractious and chaotic.

But as Winston Churchill once said: "Democracy is a terrible and inefficient way to govern. But it is far better than any other way that man has devised until now."

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JWR contributor Rabbi Berel Wein --- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com Comment by clicking here.

© 2006, Rabbi Berel Wein