Virtual Talmud

Both Rabbi Stern and Rabbi Grossman correctly point to the hypocrisy of those who claim moral authority acting in immoral ways. But the issue goes deeper than that when we come to the question of people in positions of political authority.

The charges against Israel’s President Moshe Katzav would be deeply disturbing under any circumstances, no matter who he was. That we’re talking about a political leader who is charged with the public trust makes them all the more distressing.

Power corrupts–we know that. It’s why Jewish tradition suggests avoiding picking leaders who have ambition to power, guiding us to choose instead those who serve reluctantly, who see their leadership as a burden and responsibility.

Of course it doesn’t work that way contemporary society. Usually, our political leaders are highly ambitious, motivated, and ego-driven people with a talent for self-promotion–important qualifications for getting elected, but not perhaps for holding office.

I think this is why we see so many examples of public officials betraying the trust their positions entail, whether we’re talking about a Tom DeLay, a Mark Foley, or a Moshe Katzav. In all these cases there’s a failure of humility–of recognizing that public service means just that.

It’s good that the Israeli police weren’t too intimidated to go after Katzav. Sometimes our leaders need to be reminded that they work for us and not the other way around.

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