In this week’s presidential debate, we heard thoughts from President Obama and Governor Romney on the role of government in America. Whether we agree with one approach or the other, it’s worth noting that neither candidate’s perspective bears any resemblance to authority as the ancient author of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) experienced it.
Consider the following excerpt from chapter eight of Kohelet, which we will read on Shabbat morning, as is customary on Sukkot:
“Obey the king’s orders…leave his presence; do not tarry in a dangerous situation, for he can do anything he pleases; inasmuch as a king’s command is authoritative, and none can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ One who obeys orders will not suffer from the dangerous situation.” (Ecclesiastes 8:2-5)
Our tradition includes many similar examples of a desire to keep a healthy distance from a king’s arbitrary authority. But there have also been occasions when Jews took a king’s (or another authority figure’s) orders head-on, creating potentially dangerous situations. On Shabbat morning, we’ll explore some of those conflicting approaches to authority, looking atPirke Avot, Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg, American Jews in the Civil War era, and Prime Minister Netanyahu as just a small sample of our complicated history with authority.
Wishing you Shabbat Shalom and Moadim Lesimhah,
Rabbi David Wise