Judaism is a democratic religion

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 By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

SAN DIEGO– Judaism is a very democratic religion. Although Kohanim once had a special role in the Temple sacrificial rites, they never were the sole conduit to God. Then, as now, God was directly available to every Israelite. We learn this from the Biblical story of Eldad and Meidad. We learn in parashat B’ha-alot’cha, that God told Moses to gather seventy elders of Israel around the Mishkan. God rested God’s spirit upon them and they “spoke in ecstacy.” In other words, they became prophets.

Back in the Israelite camp, two men – Eldad and Meidad – who were not of the seventy, also felt the Spirit of God fill their hearts, and they, too, began to prophesize. Believing these men to be usurping the elders’ authority, an Israelite reported their alleged infraction to Moses. Moses’ second in command and one day successor, Joshua, was incensed at the audacity of Eldad and Meidad. Who were they to speak on behalf of God. He told Moses to stop them. Moses refused. He instead said to Joshua, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put His spirit upon them!” (Num. 11:29)

Moses was not angry with Eldad and Meidad. Instead he rejoiced in their willingness to receive the Spirit of God. In doing so Moses taught the Israelites a valuable lesson: the ability to experience God’s love and commanding Presence is not the province of a limited few. God is receptive and available to all who seek God.

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Rabbi Rosenthal is spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Diego.  He may be contacted at [email protected]

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