chapter  10
34 Pages

On Power and Authority: The Halakhic Stance of the Traditional Community and Its Contemporary Implications

WithMenachem Elon

On the face of it, a discussion of the Jewish political tradition should focus on such examples as the history of the kingdoms of David and Solomon, the Hasmonean period, or at least the days of the Nesiim (Patriarchs) in Israel, or the Roshei Golah (Exilarchs) in Babylonia. Indeed, one might ask, what does the Jewish community of the Middle Ages—a period when Israel had no King or Nasi, a period repudiated by the architects of modern Jewish attitudes—have to do with our political tradition? But the concept on which this perplexity is founded—a concept that is deeply rooted and commonly accepted by many—is both erroneous and misleading. On the contrary, Jewish internal rale, as embodied by the Kehillah, the characteristics of such Jewish autonomy, the problems encountered, and the tremendous creative vitality revealed in the establishment of the framework and content of this autonomy—all these are of special, far-reaching significance today.