Israel Forever

For the week ending 1 February 2003 / 29 Shevat 5763

A Cover for Covet

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Now that the elections for the 16th Knesset are over and the major political parties are taking stock of what happened, it is safe to comment on the election campaign without being suspected of favoring any single party over others.

The amazing feature of this campaign was that despite the serious security and economic problems facing the nation, the major issue on the minds of most voters was the alleged corruption of candidates for office in the course of their party primary elections. The Mapai Party, predecessor of todays Labor, lost the monopoly of power it had enjoyed during the first three decades of the State because of the exposed corruption of some of its top people. The genie of corruption came out of its bottle once again and had a marked impact on the results of this weeks elections.

Political corruption is clearly as old as politics. It is an inherent disease of human society for which this weeks Torah chapter offers a cure with the opening words, And these are the laws you shall set before them. This chapter, Parshat Mishpatim, follows the one in which our ancestors heard the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. Where that Decalogue ends with the commandment You shall not covet... all that belongs to your neighbor, this weeks chapter begins by spelling out how one avoids coveting what is not his. If one is not aware of or not bound by the Divine laws regarding property, point out our commentaries, he is likely to think that he has a right to what belongs to another. He will then covet it and try to appropriate it.

The failure of man-made laws which people obey only out of fear of enforcement has been adequately demonstrated by the political scandals which recently came to light. Corruption and dishonesty in its various forms pollute human society throughout the world. But the Jewish People are supposed to be a light unto the nations, and the State they have been privileged to establish should set a standard of honesty for all mankind. Only by accepting the laws you shall set before them as G-d-given rules of conduct which must be obeyed because of more than fear of man will we guarantee that Israel will be a proper model for the world forever.

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