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The Torah And The Constitution

Norman Berdichevsky

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Why should American Jews have had such a long and prominent role in political affairs in the United States? The American system was adopted with enthusiasm and regarded by almost all Jewish immigrants as particularly congenial and better suited to traditional Jewish concepts of rule than any other existing form of government. The Constitution came to occupy a place in the hearts and minds of Americans in a way which recalled to Jews the role of the Torah (Hebrew for the first Five Books of the Old Testament. i.e. - The written Law).

The American Revolution which established the system of federal and state government in the United States promulgated a respect for equality of individual citizens before the law -- a cardinal point that rejects monarchy and above all places ultimate reliance on a fixed document -- the Constitution -- rather than a monarch held in great reverence. In this regard, the United States, a Republic from its inception, developed a written code which was the final arbiter of all problems and conflicts. It is the means to decide what is legal and what is illegal.

The designation in modern Hebrew for The United States is "Artzot haBrit" that literally means "The Lands of the Covenant." For Hebrew speakers, this name struck an immediate responsive chord that America was a country that placed the rule of law foremost above all persons and privileges. "Brit" means covenant and was also the term used for "circumcision", the act that made the covenant a visible sign in the flesh between God and the descendants of Abraham and Isaac. This covenant - The Torah, constituted the voluntary acceptance of a righteous moral code.

The Torah and the Constitution were elevated by Jews and Americans respectively as the final recourse and supreme arbiter of political disputes and moral conflicts. The "LAW" rather than any President or King was acknowledged as the source of power in the state. A King Ahab or a President Nixon were displaced not by armed insurrection or devious political maneuvering but by the sense of public outrage that they had abused the moral authority that had been entrusted to them. The Prophets had the Torah and the political opponents of the administration had the Constitution on their side. A King Solomon and a President Clinton even if not impeached or deposed, suffered the scorn and humiliation of having betrayed their sacred trust. Nowhere else but in ancient Israel and modern America is there a document that is so respected and carries such weight.

Read the entire article on the New English Review website (new window will open).

Posted: 22-Jul-07



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