The history of the human race can mostly be summed up as follows: God creates the world and tells Man the rules. Man breaks the rules, then makes different rules that he thinks will work better or that otherwise suit his desires. Man fails every time.
We live in a generation that considers itself the most enlightened in history. This assertion goes largely unchallenged not because it is true, but because those who are most slighted by this sanctimonious claim – all previous generations – are no longer here to protest it.
While technology has advanced exponentially, it is difficult to argue that the moral state of the human race has advanced in kind, let alone reached historic heights. Consider the state of the world today:
South America is controlled by authoritarian governments and drug cartels. Those who oppose the ruling class tend to be assassinated.
North America is controlled by increasingly draconian governments who serve the interests of large corporations and foreign entities. Censorship and bullying is the norm. The fundamental freedoms citizens used to take for granted have been eroding for many years, and currently hang by a thread. Those who oppose the current ruling class are being branded "domestic terrorists" by the establishment, to justify war against them.
Western Europe is also controlled by increasingly draconian governments, though their citizens had fewer freedoms to begin with. When citizens make large protests, the government considers them the enemy, not a voice to be heard and respected. Those who oppose the ruling class are persecuted.
Eastern Europe is controlled by authoritarian governments and oligarchs. Those who oppose the ruling class tend to wind up in prison or suffer tragic accidents.
The Middle East is controlled by totalitarian governments and dictators.
Israel, which proclaims itself the only democracy in the Middle East, has followed the Western World as it generally does. Hence, its vague allegiance to "democracy" has also been replaced with a draconian government that serves the interests of large corporations and foreign entities. Citizens are pawns with the illusion of rights. More on this later.
Africa is controlled by dictators and powerful tribes.
Asia is controlled by authoritarian governments, totalitarian governments, and dictators. The Chinese totalitarian system seems to be the role model of Western governments.
The overwhelming majority of the human race lives in abject poverty, regular poverty, or is dangerously close. The governments of the world view their citizens as subjects to be exploited, pawns to be manipulated, threats to be eliminated, or nuisances to be controlled. World leaders view laws that restrict their authority not as sacred guideposts, but as obstacles to be wiggled around or removed.
This is the most enlightened generation? This is the result of thousands of years of "progress"?
Capitalism, socialism, communism, democracy, autocracy, and the rest seem very different on the surface, but they all have one thing in common: sooner or later the money and power will be in the hands of a privileged few. Everyone else will struggle to get by, and will live in fear of the establishment.
Even democracy – that great achievement of recent generations – is easy to subvert and corrupt, or simply to vote out of existence. Tyranny is inevitable in democracies as well; it merely takes longer to develop.
This week's parsha contains a high percentage of the laws God gave the Jewish regarding the societal structure. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss them in depth, but even a cursory reading of the parsha shows the great emphasis on protecting the weak from the strong, integrity of the justice system, and safeguards against corruption.
According to the Torah, leaders are not only equally accountable to the law, they are held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens. With greater power comes not just greater responsibility, but greater accountability. Only God created and – just as critically – enforces such truly just laws. Man-made systems pay lip service to this idea, even as those in power constantly remind us that they play by different rules, if any rules at all. Even in democracies, the ability of citizens to hold their leaders accountable for gross misdeeds is extremely limited at best.
According to the Torah, there is no such thing as the rich having any privileges over the poor. Wealth is a God-given blessing, and a responsibility to help those less fortunate in order to secure continued blessing. Wealth does not confer on people greater status, presumptions of wisdom, or power according the Torah. A wealthy businessman with a multi-million dollar court case must wait his turn if the pauper is there first. Judges are obligated by the Torah to fear no one, favor no one, and to adjudicate as if their own money and lives depend on getting it right, for in fact they do. While they are judging the people, God is judging the judges.
Indeed, fear of Heaven and dependence on God to be actively supervising society are built into our judicial system. A capital case can only be reopened to acquit one found guilty, but never the reverse. This is not because the Torah is against harsh punishment of criminals – just the opposite – but because we recognize that our powers to mete out punishment must be limited in certain ways, and that God is actively involved in the judicial process. We are constantly reminded that we are only servants of God, and our leaders are only custodians of the Torah, to safeguard us from tyranny.
It is no coincidence that man-made systems remove God for the purpose of engaging in tyranny, or co-opt a religious system to terrorize people in God's name. No man-made system limits the power of its leaders specifically in the name of God, relying on God to pick up where our ability to mete out justice must be constrained. Only in the Torah do we find that the sections describing positions of authority, such as kings, judges, and prophets, are devoted almost entirely to limiting the power of those in these positions.
Couldn't all of mankind use more of that right now? Why did we ever think we could do better?
Another unique feature of the Torah is that the laws are finite and inviolable. In fact, the prohibition of adding or removing a single commandment is one of the 613 commandments, and a supposed prophet who seeks to add or take away from the Torah is executed as an obvious fraud. Only God could create a system that would be suitable for all times, places, and circumstances. Only divine wisdom could create laws that are permanent and unalterable.
Many people wrongly believe that rabbis have the power to change the Torah, when in fact their role is to teach it, instruct us on how to behave in cases of doubt, and properly apply its inviolable laws to different situations. Our sages have the authority to enact laws only for the sake of safeguarding the Torah; they cannot change a single letter.
Man-made systems are malleable by definition. Whoever created the system has no innate superiority over those who come after him, who will be sure to add new laws and discard old laws as they see fit.
Those who enjoy power in these systems have little better to do with themselves than constantly create new laws, issue new decrees, create a jungle of laws that no one can keep up with, then selectively enforce them against those they wish to suppress. Whatever is a basic right today may very well be criminalized tomorrow. This happens in every man-made system, and it is reaching extreme levels all over the world in our time.
Moreover, man-made systems specialize in vague laws that can be broadly interpreted and selectively enforced for political reasons. Take, for example, laws against "incitement". What is incitement exactly? Whatever the people in charge want it to mean. The same is true for "endangering national security", "enemy of the people", "hate speech", "causing a public disturbance", "endangering public health", "spreading misinformation", and so much more.
Laws such as these are intentionally obscure to enable those in power to interpret them and apply them as they see fit. Corruption and double standards are inevitable. Anyone can be criminalized at any time.
God's system stands in direct opposition to this. The laws are not only finite, they are clearly and fully defined through tradition and the interpretive process that were given along with the Torah. While details of commandments are under dispute, there is a clear process for determining a prevailing opinion as well, and there are no vague laws for leaders to interpret to give advantages to some and persecute others. Even a king who wishes to punish someone for treason must submit to a rabbinical court.
In a Torah system, authorities must outright violate the Torah to engage in tyranny; there's no subterfuge. In man-made systems, they simply call it something else and make it legal.
As we near the end of days, God is making it clear for all to see that there are only two choices: Torah or tyranny. Every world power, representing every system of government, has normalized tyranny all together. There can no longer be any illusions that one system or another will give mankind the freedom it wants and deserves. They can only turn to God.
Many people wrongly believe that the Torah constrains a person, and they prefer to be "free". We are learning how right Chazal were when they taught that the only truly free person is one who lives according to the Torah. The only truly free system is one that is based on the Torah. Those who try to create a more "open" and free system inevitably descend into tyranny, and it doesn't take long.
Back to Israel. The great hope of the Jewish people after thousands of years of exile and persecution, the great modern Jewish experiment, has unequivocally failed. Far too many Jews foolishly believed that simply returning to our land was good enough. Israel would be a refuge from the ravages of exile, a guarantee that it would never happen again. Yet now it is happening in Israel itself. The government has turned against its own people and normalized tyranny. The masks are off, and there is nowhere left for them to run.
Even religious Jews believed that settling the land and building Torah-observant communities was good enough. As long as the government basically left them alone, they didn't need to concern themselves with the overall spiritual character of the country. Now they are learning that Torah needs to be the law of land, and they need to take responsibility to make Israel a truly Jewish state. They can't just be concerned about themselves and their own four cubits.
Israel's dysfunctional government, with its eclectic mix of right wing, left wing, religious, non-religious, anti-religious, and many additional factions has historically never agreed on anything. They hate each other. But right now, for the first time in history, they have all united around a single idea: medical tyranny is normal and moral.
People who do not constantly prove that they do not have the flu-like strain of the day should not be allowed in public. People who refuse to be injected with an experimental drug should be demonized and discriminated against. They should not be forced, of course; that's illegal. But "force" is another one of those words that can be defined and redefined to suit the whims of those in power. The definition is changing on a daily basis. Those clever, man-made laws to prevent tyranny ultimately enable it.
All incumbent political parties openly support this; there is not a single voice of outrage. They differ only in the degree of terror they wish to inflict on non-compliant citizens – all for the greater good, of course. It's always for the greater good.
This brings us to the final lesson from the Torah system. Only God can decide what is for the greater good. Only God can play God. The tyrants wish to own everything, know everything, control everything, decide who is essential, whose life has value, who should be allowed to participate in society, and to what extent, and turn every God-given human right into a privilege that must be constantly earned by conformity to their edicts.
They want to own the world and take God's place. But God owns the world, He controls everything, and He doesn't want to give up His business. The final war is between those who turn to God, and those who want to take God's place.
All the man-made systems have reached their natural end. All man-made roads lead to tyranny. All of humanity now faces a straightforward choice, regardless of where they live.
It is Torah, or it is tyranny.
Whose side are you on?