Shofitm – Slimy Politicians

Deciding to punish people whose actions are questionable but not necessarily against the Torah, perhaps criticizing government misdoing, may not be done through royal edicts to punish the outspoken. Such punishments are in the hands of the Sanhedrin.

He believes that it is not a mitzvah to have a king.

In our Perasha the king is not commanded to rule the people at all. (Devarim 17,14-20) After coronation he may not waste his time appointing ministers, repressing revolutions, redecorating the Royal Residence, acquire wealth, have a collection of horses or generally be involved with things you would expect from a powerful monarch.

These rules certainly apply more for our politicians who are not divinely selected and whose activities are by definition usually against the Torah.

When appointed to such a high office one must sit down and write a Sefer Torah. This Royal job turns the king into a royal scribe. Writing a Sefer Torah takes no less than seven months of full time work about eight hours a day. After he completes this task he is supposed to study its contents every day. The expressed reason for this is that he should not have a high heart and should not diverge right or left from the Torah. This way his position will be preserved.

Abarbanel feels that it is not a Mitzvah to appoint a king since this is clearly done by G-d. He says that it is not even a Mitzvah to ask G-d to give us one.

He says that almost from the beginning royalty was bad for Israel. It was most of the kings who led the Jewish people to worship idolatry. Shaul slaughtered the Priestly city of Nov, Achav and Issabelle murdered most of the prophets, and the list of Royal misdoings can go on an on.

The best leadership which the Jewish people experienced was that of the Shoftim. Even the worst of these was filled the spirit of G-d.

Abarbanel further states that it is perfectly fine to elect officials for limited amount of time. While in office they will do good with the knowledge that the next guy in office will investigate their criminal activities. Politicians will then be forced to pay for these affairs. Imagine a government where the deposed had to cover the deficit which they caused.

The late fifteenth century was only the very beginning of democracies. Abarbanel did not consider political parties which recycle criminal politicians and encourage them to cover up their criminal activities.

If Abarbanel was around today what would he say about modern democratic politics?

Modern politics, by nature, breed lies and corruption of all sorts. After being elected politicians must do many contradictory jobs at the same time. They must serve the good of the whole population, the wealthy leaders who paid for their campaign, and the ordinary people who voted for them. These three usually have contradictory needs. The politician who juggles these three is at least a three faced liar.

If he succeeds at satisfying two of these groups the opposition (which has nothing better to do) will expose his current and previous questionable affairs. This encourages everyone to hate him.

If he manages to satisfy all three groups he has certainly milked the public coffers and caused huge debt. This too riles up the opposition to expose the current leaderships faults. If the opposition wins then it is their turn to live such a slimy life.

Perhaps we can pray with more kavanah – Hashiva Shoftenu – Please G-d return our Judges.