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March 18, 2015 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Vayikra

This week’s portion, the first in Leviticus, focuses on various sacrifices, including the peace-offering (Lev. 3:1).  Rashbam* writes that because “the owner [of a sacrificed animal] and the officiant [that is, officiating priest] receieve portions from this sacrifice, its effect is peace and harmony.”  In other words, sharing brings peace.

The issue of sharing is actually relevant to this week’s headline news: the Israeli elections.  It seems to me that the Israeli political system promotes this value of sharing in a way that the American system miserably fails to do.

In the US, there are two political parties, each of which is so homogenous that a legislator must usually toe the party line nearly 100% of the time to get renominated.  Thus, power cannot be effectively shared.  If one party wins both the Presidency and Congress, they are virtually a dictatorship until the next Congressional election; President Bush could have probably nominated Osama bin Laden for a federal judgeship and gotten 51 votes for him.  On the other hand, if control is split (or if the minority party uses the filibuster to tie the Senate up in knots, as has occurred in recent years) the system virtually breaks down, as government routinely comes close to shutting down or even defaulting on its debts.

In Israel, by contrast, elections are decided based on proportional representation, which in turn leads to so many political parties that one party never has a majority.  To get power, the leaders of the dominant party (currently Likud) must share power with other parties.  Although negative campaigning occurs, each party’s leaders know every other party’s leaders may eventually be its colleagues in government.  Even Likud and Labor (now Zionist Camp), the two leading parties, have occasionally shared power in a national unity government.   In short, Israel’s system promotes the idea of sharing- and coalition governments are usually reasonably effective until they dissolve, it is also more effective in preventing gridlock than the American system!

*Or more precisely the Soncino Chumash paraphrasing him.

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