Israel Forever

For the week ending 30 August 2003 / 2 Elul 5763

Power Corrupts

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

"Power corrupts," it has been said, "and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Despite the obsession much of the modern world has with democracy as a form of government, it must be remembered that in Biblical times Eretz Yisrael was ruled by a king with absolute power. In this weeks Torah portion we learn how G-d, who invested this king with his authority, ensured that this absolute power would not corrupt at all.

The king who ruled the Jewish people was limited in regard to many of the traditional trappings of royalty women, treasure and horses. In addition, he was commanded to always carry with him a Sefer Torah to remind him of his responsibilities and to ensure that he would not become haughty and let his power corrupt him.

Although these were specifically rules for a king there is no doubt that even within our democratic system in modern Israel there is a constant danger that the power invested by the electorate in a parliament and government can also cause these bodies to lose contact with the people who elected them and create programs which are insensitive to their needs.

Even if the people in power are not obligated to carry around with them an actual Sefer Torah they must always carry in their hearts the Torah ideals of justice and charity. Only thus will they be certain that their power does not corrupt them and allows them to properly serve their country.

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