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Democratic Methods Judaism

Beyond Idolatry

The goal of the Torah is to eliminate all forms of idolatry on the one hand, and to promote the universal recognition of ethical monotheism on the other.

According to Judaism, idolatry is the beginning and cause of every evil, be it the slaughtering of children, as in worship of Moloch, or the slaughtering of “infidels” in the worship of Allah.

The First Commandment of the Torah logically entails the Second, the elimination of all forms of idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of any created thing, including the products of the human intellect, be it a philosophic or scientific theory, a political or religious ideology, or a particular form of government.

Let us equate idolatry with “reification,” which may be defined as the postulation of any physical or mental existent, process, or law as autonomous or self-sustaining. Reification thus applies to any philosophic or scientific monism, dualism, or pluralism that attempts to explain the totality or any part of existence in terms of one or more independent or self-subsisting entities. The Torah thus rejects the exaltation of any humanly constructed system of governance.

The latter aspect of idolatry obviously includes not only Fascism and Nazism—hence all forms of Statism—but also Democracy, be it liberal or socialist democracy. Both forms of democracy involves popular sovereignty, whereas the Torah posits the sovereignty of God.

To be more precise, Democracy derives its two cardinal principles, freedom and equality, from the worship of man—a worship called “humanism.” Humanism ultimately leads to two extremes: Statism via socialism, and individualism, via capitalism. Although apologists have tried to identify the Torah alternatively with socialism and capitalism, neither is sanctioned by the Torah, since both are forms of idolatry. The same may be said of libertarianism and egalitarianism.

Not that freedom and equality find no home in the Torah, but both principles are derived from the Torah’s conception of man’s creation in the image of God—the only solid and rational foundation of human dignity. For it is only by virtue of man’s creation in the image of God that freedom and equality have ethical and rational constraints. Hence, only a democracy based on man’s creation in the image of God can be free of idolatry.

This is not the case of the modern State of Israel. That this State is based on idolatry as may be seen in its so-called Declaration of Independence. The very first sentence of that document tacitly denies the Law-Giving at Mount Sinai by saying that the Jews became a people in the Land of Israel where, we are told, they created values of eternal significance.

Moreover, this idolatry was carried over into a fundamental law of the State of Israel, Thus: “No act of legislation shall diminish the rights of the State, or impose upon it any obligation, unless explicitly stated.” (Law and Administration Ordinance, 1948, Section 42, Explanatory Note.)

The sovereignty of the State is clear, and this is the basic reason why the State, in utter disregard of the Torah, expelled 10,000 Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria.

In view of the preceding considerations, the present writer has attempted to develop a Jewish Philosophy of Democracy consistent with the Torah. An outline is contained in my book The Myth of Israeli Democracy: Toward a Truly Jewish Israel.

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