chapter
6 Pages

Introduction: The Edah as a Classic Republic

WithDaniel J. Elazar

In Mosaic times edah became the Hebrew equivalent of “commonwealth” or “republic,” with strong democratic overtones. The idea of the Jewish people as an edah has persisted ever since and the term has been used to describe Jewish body politic in every period to the present. The portability of the desert-born edah is as notable a characteristic as is its attachment to Zion. The Torah has persisted as the edah constitution albeit with changing interpretations. Jewish republicanism is rooted in a democratic foundation based on the equality of all Jews as citizens of the Jewish people. The Western world today takes the republican revolution for granted. Yet the republican revolution was one of the great revolutions of modernity. It is foundation of modern democratic government. The term edah, as an expression of widest form of Jewish political association, retained its original usage unimpaired until transformed in colloquial modern Hebrew usage, where it came to denote a country-of-origin group in Israel.