Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Steinsaltz Contends that without the belief in souls, there ain’t no such thing as Democracy!

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2009 at 10:54 am

I just came across an old interview of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz done by the Jewish Review a few years ago.  He sees that democracy is based on religious principles:

Democracy is based, strangely enough, on a religious principle. Democracy would be totally irrational unless we held firm to the belief that we have souls and that these souls are all equal to one another. This is because, as was written in Orwell’s 1984, one can’t rationally make the statement that all men are equal, and this is simply because it is obviously untrue. People are not equal from any point of view. Therefore, to create a society based on the notion that the vote of a wise and learned person has the same value as the vote of somebody who is unlearned and doesn’t know what he is talking about; you must posit that they have equal souls. This is also true with respect to the rights of man as well. Why should a person who is the highest intellectual be regarded as equal to somebody who is ignorant or who is a criminal with respect, for example, to the right to be saved by a given medical procedure? So you see, this principle, this belief that people have souls and that souls are of inestimable, equal value, is the source of every social structure we hold dear.

The rest of the interview is well worth reading, and it’s not that long.  For over forty years Rabbi Steinsaltz has been translating and punctuating the Babylonian Talmud into Hebrew.  It is a daunting enterprise that is on the cusp of completion.  This monumental achievement will be marked by an international day of learning, a celebration of Torah reaching all four corners of the earth. I am proud to be involved in designing the curriculum for what promises to be a profound celebration.

  1. Adin Steinsaltz has been a hero of mine for many years. I am wondering what is going on with the New Sanhedrin (which in my opinion has become needlessly political too soon) but I have always found his works to be connected deeply to the wellsprings of Judaism and at the same time very modern. It would be nice if once complete his full Talmud is reprinted in a series. BTW, I just found the blog and think you’ve got a great perspective on things. Keep it up.

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