Ki-Tetzeh – Seperation Between Religion and State
The Judge will put him down and he will be beaten according to his evil. They should beat him forty times and not add. Devarim – 24 2.
These Perashiyot are a good place to discuss the connection between Judaism and Government and how separated they should be in order to have a healthy Democratic Government.
I recently read an interesting theory on the differences between the Kohanim and the Judges. Olam Hatanach on Divrey Hayamim 19 11 and Devarim 16 v-9 says that when Yehoshafat reformed the kingdom to be more Jewish he appointed the priest Amaryahu to be the Chief justice and a layman named Zevadyahu to be in charge of the kings affairs. From here they deduce that even under official religious reform their was separation of religion from state activities.
Is it possible that even under the far reaching reforms by Yehoshafat there was an ancient tradition that the Justice system does not decide on stately matters?
Although this explanation certainly gives us food for thought in our religiously challenging times it seems difficult to be the real explanation. Perhaps it is wishful thinking or even a projection of their own beliefs on the Tanach that the Torah has no voice in modern Israeli democracy.
“Civil” laws such as damages, murder, theft, real estate practices, tax law and much, much more are all addressed at length in Torah and Rabbinic literature. How is it possible that the king had officers in charge of these laws and that the “Rabbis” who were really learned Kohanim were in charge of informing people what color Nidah blood was permitted and what products you may build your Succah roof from.
It is ludicrous to believe that one court should be in charge of Zoning areas permitted for building Succot while the other told you what you can build them from.
A more likely explanation is that Yehoshafat appointed these people to judge tax laws and the like. Kings like to collect taxes even they are nice kings. They might have also been in charge of water projects, road building and the like. To praise a king for empowering himself to make laws does not seem a Torah thing to do. The Torah limits kings powers extensively. The prophets always criticized the kings from the moment before monarchy was permitted until the last one was dragged off to exile.
The Torah enlightens us on many subjects. We need to look seriously for guidance on these subjects and not project our desires into the Torah.