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A Word from Rabbi Schulman - 8/21/15

Though the next election for President of the United States is nearly 15 months away, the campaign for the Republican and Democratic nominations are well underway. To date, over 20 candidates have filed for the office, including current and former governors and senators; as well as a physician, a business executive, and Donald Trump.

How should we evaluate who is fit to hold the most powerful office in the world? What are the criteria of leadership we consider most important? This week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, contains a passage about the qualities of leadership that are desirable for a king of Israel. We can extract from these verses three questions that can be applied for identifying characteristics we consider most important for the next president:

You shall be free to set a king over yourself, one chosen by the Eternal your God. Be sure to set as king over yourself one of your own people; you shall not set a foreigner over you, one who is not your kinsman. Moreover, he shall not keep many horses or send people back to Egypt to add to his horses, since the Eternal has warned you, ‘You must not go back that way again. And he shall not have many wives, lest his heart goes astray, nor shall he amass silver and gold to excess. (Deuteronomy 17.15-17)

Question 1: Verses 15-17 describe negative qualities in a leader. If you were to name two or more qualities that are negative in a president, what would they be?

When he is seated on his royal throne, he shall have a copy of this Torah written for him on a scroll by the Levitical priests. Let it remain with him and let him read it all his life, so that he may learn to revere the Eternal his God, to observe faithfully every word of this Torah as well as these laws. (Deuteronomy 17.18-19)

Question 2: Verses 18-19 describe positive qualities in a leader. If you were to identify two or more qualities that are positive in a president, what would they be?

Thus he will not act haughtily toward his fellows or deviate from the Instruction to the right or to the left, to the end that he and his descendants may reign long in the midst of Israel. (Deuteronomy 17.20)

Question 3: Verse 20 describes how a leader should relate to those who are governed. What kind of relationship do you think the President should have with the American people?

I hope your responses to these 3 questions will aid you in evaluating not only the declared candidates for president but all who wish to be elected to public office.

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