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Spara som favorit. Skickas inom vardagar. Sicker examines the fundamental norms of civic conduct considered essential to the emergence and moral viability of the good society envisioned in the source documents and traditions of Judaism.

The principles underlying the desired behavioral norms constitute the ethical underpinnings of the unique civilization envisioned by Mosaic teaching, a Judaic civilization characterized by instituted norms of civil conduct deemed necessary to ensure appropriate civil relations between persons, individually and collectively. The tensions in Judaic thought regarding the concept of democracy as a paradigm for Judaic government are examined, including the theological as well as moral implications of democracy that cast doubt on its appropriateness as a political ideal.

Sicker considers the role of popular consent as a legitimating factor in the Judaic polity, and the distinctively Judaic approach to the ordering of civil relations in society within the constitutional context of a nomocratic regime based on halakhah, Judaism's own dynamic system of canon law. The question of the relationship between Jews and Judaism, on the one hand, and democracy on the other, is of extraordinary complexity.

It requires examining both the Jewish religion, and above all its holy book, the Hebrew Bible, plus three thousand years of Jewish historical and political experience.


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Today, Jews everywhere are among democracy's strongest supporters and the Jewish state, modern Israel, is the only securely democratic regime in the entire Middle East. The Bible cannot exactly be called a handbook of modern political democracy, but it does often recommend an ethical approach of working toward the good or righteous with and through flawed human persons and institutions, and approach that has a certain affinity with modern democracy's need for sobriety, moderation, and prudence.

A survey of legal, homiletic and philosophical literature reveals the preservation of a shared Jewish political terminology, a distinctive Jewish political outlook, and a common approach to political institution-building. In short, it confirms the existence of a specifically Jewish political tradition, with all that the term implies in the way of a continuous dialogue regarding proper and common modes of political behavior, accepted institutional forms, and authentic political norms.

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There exists a sad irony in the fact that the very existence of a Jewish political tradition should have gone virtually unrecognized in our own time. It might have been expected that the Jewish national revival of the twentieth century would have generated attempts to enhance public awareness of the political tradition of which it forms a part.

In effect, the operational resurgence of the concept of a Jewish polity in the modern State of Israel has not been accompanied by an awareness of its historical parallels and roots. Concentrating their focus on what is novel in the present Jewish institutions in Israel and the diaspora, past and present; equally obscured is the evidence which indicates that contemporary Jewry functions -- for the most part unconsciously -- in the political arena in no small measure on the basis of certain fundamental beliefs and practices which are embedded in Jewish culture.

There has been very little regard for the fact that the present behavioral patterns of the Jewish political world, revolutionary though some of them might seem, are in essence extensions and modifications of a tradition which possesses deep roots in the entire course of Jewry's long and eventful history. Attempting to correct this situation has initiated a systematic effort to recover the several dimensions of the Jewish political tradition.


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  • No less compelling, however, is the contemporary communal importance of the Center's enterprise. As is often acknowledged, an increasing number of Jews find themselves expressing their Jewish identity principally or substantially through their identification with Jewish political issues -- support for Israel, the struggle for the emigration of Soviet Jewry, and the like. In this respect, they may be described as neo-Sadducees, Jews who find their principal means for expressing Jewishness through the public institutions and affairs of the Jewish people.

    For such people, linkage to the Jewish political tradition may constitute a primary medium of linking them to Jewish tradition in its entirety. Awareness of the tradition, and an understanding of its resonance, promises in effect to enhance and buttress Jewish self-consciousness in our times, and thereby to play a crucial role in contemporary Jewish life in both Israel and the diaspora. It is in the light of such considerations that it is appropriate to build a comprehensive and fully integrated program in the Jewish political tradition and its contemporary uses.

    Drawing upon the vast storehouse of accumulated Jewish historiography, and utilizing the methodologies more recently developed in the political and social sciences, such a program can arouse contemporary awareness of both the importance and relevance of the topic. This is a venture which must, of necessity, engage the attention of Jewish political and communal leaders, as well as academics.

    Such a program will not only fill a scholarly lacunai, but also should make a contribution to the continuing development of a tradition of enduring worth. Jewish political studies emphasizes the organization of the Jewish community as a polity -- a corporate entity whose structure, institutions and processes have reflected the continuing effort of the Jewish people to govern itself under a variety of conditions. As a field, it is designed to recover and enrich the political dimensions of Jewish life in all its manifestations. The subject matter of Jewish political studies falls into three major divisions: Jewish political institutions and behavior, Jewish political thought, and Jewish public affairs.

    At least nineteen areas of concern have been identified on the basis of these divisions as reflected in the literature currently available. They include:.

    Investigation - research into Jewish political theory and practice, past and present, and the development of Jewish attitudes towards the exercise of political prerogatives. Interpretation - the analysis of Jewish political behavior and its meaning in light of the constitutional bases and divisions of the Jewish polity. Policy Application - the utilization of scholarship in Jewish public affairs. Presentation - the dissemination of the fruits of ongoing research to a variety of audiences -- academic, professional, and general. Investigation Not the least of the achievements of the first two decades of systematic study of Jewish political life and thought has been the development of frameworks of analysis which have facilitated an informed understanding of major trends in Jewish political life.

    By positing the notion of a continuous tradition of Jewish political behavior, and by highlighting the importance of the covenant idea within that tradition, it has been possible to focus attention on the basic elements of the subject and, thereby, to fashion tools for its further study.

    During the past few years, an entire series of such studies have appeared: some in the form of the Center's working papers; others in scholarly journals; and in a growing number of books, including Kinship and Consent and The Jewish Polity. Elazar and Harold M. Waller between and , and in Mala Tabory and Charles S. Initiated by the Study of Jewish Community Organization, the precursor of the Jerusalem Center, in , this project has now encompassed every major community in the Jewish world, and thereby constitutes an invaluable map of the post World War II Jewish polity.

    It has led to the publication of several books, including Community and Polity, People and Polity, and Israel: Building a New Society; a series of country reports, monographs, and special issues of Tefutzot Israel, which, during its existence, was Israel's leading academic journal in this field. Among the products of this project is The Jewish Polity, the very first attempt to present a comprehensive picture of the political systems through which the Jewish polity has governed itself from biblical times until the present day.

    In its substance, that work aspires to conform to the strict standards of political and historical enquiry. Where it breaks new ground, however, is in its deliberate emphasis on the political facet of Jewish history, and in its emphasis on the re-interpretive implications of its approach. Thus, while it acknowledges it debt to previous Jewish historical scholarship, it is not bound by the historiographical categories usually dictated by the conventions of the field.

    Rather, it posits somewhat different points of reference. Most conspicuously is this so in the thorny matter of chronological divisions. The various conventional breakdowns are superseded by a more refined typology based on the rhythms of political life; apportioning Jewish history into 14 constitutional epochs, each of approximately three centuries duration, each of which can be seen to possess a distinct political character of its own. Each epoch in fact represents a particular Jewish constitutional response, or series of connected responses, to challenges from within the Jewish polity itself and from outside of it.

    What distinguishes each epoch from its predecessor and successor is the nature of its basic constitutional referents: the documents, customs, and practices that provided the organic or fundamental laws of the Jewish people of the time and served as the framework of its socio-political organization and development.

    The Political Culture of Judaism : Martin Sicker :

    The issue of constitutionalism and constitutional change is central to the study of Jewish political history in its entirety and provides a base for its periodization. Basically, this is because the Jewish constitution has differed from modern constitutions, most significantly because of its all-embracing character. It is not confined to the delineation of the political power of a secular society, but extends into virtually all phases of life.

    A study of constitutionalism in Jewish history, accordingly, must embrace far more than the record of specific fundamental political laws. A reconstruction of the political constitution of any particular period of Jewish history must come to terms with the entire range of communal living during that time, and thereby provide a framework that can encompass virtually all aspects of Jewish civilization. The Torah is, in this respect, both an exemplar and a touchstone. It is an organic and all-embracing law.

    For the vast majority of Jewish history and by the vast majority of the Jewish people, it has been perceived to be of Divine origin. On both counts, the Torah must be regarded as the basic and foremost constitutional document of Jewish history. All subsequent constitutional referents claim, explicitly or implicitly, to maintain the traditions embodied in the Torah: but all nevertheless do so in a manner which supplements and redirects the original in line with the pressures of contemporary conditions.

    Thus the Mishnah, Gemara, and the great halakhic codes represent such adjustments, from one epoch to another. Figure 1 lists the 14 constitutional epochs of Jewish history as delineated in accordance with the above criteria, the dates of each epoch, its principal constitutional referent s and dominant events of political significance. The Jewish Polity has already gone some way towards amplifying and refining this scheme by broadening the nature and range of subjects covered within each epoch.

    It includes:. Although there exists no compilation comparable to The Jewish Polity, that work clearly cannot claim to be more than a first step towards a complete study of the subject.

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    Principally, this is because of the paucity of historical attention to the subject hitherto. We had to begin our investigation from primary sources and scattered secondary works not designed for the purposes to which the study is directed. It is in that sense that the contribution of the work lies as much in its notation of scholarly lacunae of which there are many as in its summary of received historical wisdoms of which there are very few.

    It offers an agenda for investigation, not least by locating and identifying the most prominent gaps in our present knowledge. These initial efforts need to be supplemented with a number of urgently necessary projects:. The compilation of a comprehensive, annotated Bibliography of Jewish Political Studies designed to provide students of the field with a readily available index to all published studies on Jewish political behavior, institutions, and thought, in general, and epoch by constitutional epoch and arena by organizational arena.

    It is an indication of the under-developed state of the field that no such essential research aid yet exists. This, too, can be classified as a necessary tool for further investigation and a valuable stimulant to further enquiry. The Sourcebook should present documents illustrative of Jewish constitutional development from the entire body of recorded Jewish culture.

    The scan must, or necessity, be far-ranging. As has often been pointed out, the Jewish political tradition includes relatively few works which represent fully articulated, systematic statements of Jewish political thought. Even those that might thus be identified are too dispersed to merit their consideration as linearly progressive statements of political doctrine.

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    The Jewish 'style' in such matters is usually eclectic, and consists of refractory comments on matters of political import rather than reasonably architectured statements of political doctrine. Most important of all, the Jewish political tradition has usually been articulated in the institutional and behavioral dimensions of communal life, and it is to documents which illustrate those dimensions that attention must be called. Ultimately, therefore, the selection will not only include immediately appropriate citations from biblical and Mishnaic sources; it will also incorporate quotations from the vast literature of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud; the great halakhic codes; the entire tradition of rabbinic responsa; various communal and synodal takkanot ordinances ; modern rabbinic pronouncements; communal manifestoes; organizational directives; and -- in the case of the State of Israel -- governmental decrees.

    Even thus baldly to recite the potential source literature is to reveal the magnitude and importance of the undertaking. Few of these sources have been mined from a political perspective -- even though research has already dispelled all possible doubts that they might profitably be so mined. Simply rescuing such materials from the obscurity to which they have hitherto been condemned, and attaching to them discreet explanatory notes and short biographical profiles, will make an important contribution to Jewish scholarship.

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