Thursday, February 23, 2006

Respect for leaders

"You shall not curse a judge, and you shall not curse a leader among your people." -Exodus 22:27, from this weeks parsha Mishpatim.

I read this as a strong warning about appropriate conduct and demenor for those of us who express political views. Whether it is George W. Bush or Ariel Sharon or Ehud Olmert, the natural way to interpret this passage is that we should treat them with respect and assume they are /trying to do the right thing even if we think they are wrong.

And that is hard. I've expressed negative views toward George W. Bush many times, most recently

Nobody ever said the Torah isn't supposed to challenge us. Every verse potentially carries a lesson in midot. I have to remind myself that even though I think President Bush is wrong on 99% of domestic issues and about 90% of international issues, and has done a terrible job even on the things for which he may have had the right idea (Iraq, for example), he really has at heart what he believes are the interests of the United States. (Say, who put that prayer for the government in the siddur, anyway?)

It was largely for this reason that I avoided all the anti-disengagement activity. I did not want to be associated with people who compare Sharon to Hitler. This is not consistent with the idea behind this verse! As religious Jews we are held to a higher standard.

And this goes for Jewish religious leaders as well. I have no clue as to why some rabbis condemn Rabbi Slifkin. I would never choose for my own rav someone who had a problem with the content of Rabbi Slifkin's writings. But I'm sure they have their reasoning and have the interests of Am Yisrael at heart. Of course, I think they are 100% wrong and that these acts have damaged Orthodox Judaism pretty seriously. But not only do I not curse them, I still give them respect for the Torah that they know, even if they do not know science at all.

Besides, there is the really really tiny almost inconsequential nearly impossible chance I might be mistaken on something and the people I criticize might actually be right! Chas v'shalom!!! Hmmmm....low probability, so I probably don't need to worry about it. ;-)


Blogger Rabbi Ariel Sokolovsky said...

1st of all thank you for clarifying for me that President Bush is apparently Jewish as you include cursing him in the prohibition of cursing a "nassi be amecha"-"leader from amongst your nation" :-)
If you read the Tanach you'll see that wicked kings of Israel were cursed by the prophets who apparently
saw the prohibition exclude those "who behave not in the ways of your people"
A Jewish leader who orders police and the army to throw Jews out of their homes and transfers those homes to our foes thus excludes himself from the definition of "nasi be amecha"-"leader among your people" .
Thus using derogatory terms for such leader cannot be seen as unjustified in light of the Torah and halacha.
If this is expedient or wise thing to do is a separate issue.

11:13 PM  

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