Bamidbar: Confusion Instead Of Flags

“In the footsteps of the Messiah, impudence will increase… Youths will shame their elders, the elderly will rise for youths. Sons will denigrate their fathers, daughters will attack their mothers and mothers-in-law. A man’s household will be his enemies. The face of the generation will be like the face of a dog, and a son will have no shame before his father…” This mishna at the end of Tractate Sotah depicts the sad state of affairs which will characterize the beginning of the redemption process – the period of “Atchalta De’Geula”. What is happening here? On the surface we see that there will be an increase of “chutzpah” and lack of respect by the young for the old. But these are only symptoms. What caused them?The common denominator of the above phenomena is that they are all deviations from the natural order. G-d created this world with a very specific order. According to this natural order, youngsters are supposed to honor their elders and sons are supposed to respect their fathers. But the sages tell us that during the period which marks the beginning of the redemption, this basic societal order will break down. (We must stress that all of the curses mentioned in the mishna only come about if the redemption is forced to come Bi-Eta, “in its time”.)

The sages describe a society in which any fool or child sees himself as a “big shot”, whose opinion is at least as important as that of his elders. The natural order which G-d set down in this world is distorted. And the result is chaos. Everyone – young and old, wise and foolish, moral and immoral, have an equal voice (“one person one vote”).

We, in these times, have grown accustomed to such a situation. But we must realize that all this results from a particular ideology. This ideology has several names: “freedom of expression”, “equality”, and of course – “democracy”. In the West and unfortunately in Israel as well, democracy is heralded as the supreme value. Some even give it the status of a “religion”.

It is interesting that we still hear political scientists teach that “democracy is the least evil of all forms of government”, and Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government ever devised… except for all the others”. How can they say this, yet at the same time worship democracy to the point where anyone who questions it is tossed out of their camp like a leper?

We see from this that the goyim are capable of taking a concept which they themselves acknowledge as only the “lesser of evils”, and raising it to the status of the supreme good which guides their entire lives. How? Because in their lower spiritual state, they do not even attempt to strive to live according to an absolute truth. They only seek to minimize the damages. But can Jews possibly accept this? We were given a very clear and lofty destiny. We were given Torah truth, which is the absolute good. We are not in need of something which is the “lesser of all evils”, nor are we permitted to suffice with such a thing. For in our possession is Torah, the ultimate good.

This concept finds full expression vis a’ vis the flags in Parshat BaMidbar. The flags represent a perfect social order for Am Yisrael, where each and every Jew is designated a specific place which befits him. “Every man to his camp, every man to his flag” our parasha begins, with Moshe and Aharon leading the way. Each of the children of Israel, 600,000 strong, stand in their designated stations. There is no ambitious “social climbing”. (And when someone like Korach tried it, we know what became of him). Every man, every family, every tribe knows his appropriate place and role in this impeccable social order.

In recent generations, democracy has achieved growing global popularity. After suffering from wicked monarchies and tyrannies, the world, as expected, bought into it in a big way. There is nothing wrong with that. But for us, it isn’t the proper way. We see the following in parshat Dvarim (1:22): “And you came near unto me all of you…” and Rashi says: “in confusion. And further on it states (Dvarim 5:20), ‘and you come near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes and your elders..’ That drawing near was proper; the young honored the elders and sent them before them, and the elders honored the heads by letting them go before them. But here: ‘and you came near unto me all of you’ – in confusion, the young pushing the elders and the elders pushing the heads.” Is not this description similar to that at the end of Tractate Sota? Does it not remind us a little of today?

We must at least be made aware of the fact that democracy is not holy or “kadosh”, and in a situation where anyone can become a king, or “vote”, so to speak, it becomes impossible to establish the ideal Torah society we should be striving for; a society based on absolute truth. Thus, we must rend our garments in mourning when we hear religious leaders sanctifying democracy as an ideal system.

Only an utter fool would say that the Torah was given on Sinai as G-d’s truth, and then subsequently say that one may vote on whether one must follow that truth. Democracy was given to societies and countries LACKING truth. For them, all factions of falsehood are equal; certainly, no one falsehood is preferable over another. For us, however, Moses is truth and his Torah is truth and we certainly should not transform the Kingdom of G-d into the anarchy of man.

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