Judaism: Parshat Mishpatim: Should Majority Always Rule?
Levi ChazenLevi Chazen is the Director of the English Division of Yeshivat HaRa´ayon HaYehudi in Jerusalem. He has been working tirelessly over the years in the yeshiva´s many charitable projects in Jerusalem and nationally.
Our parsha (this week's Torah reading) teaches us: "Do not follow the majority to do evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice." Rashi comments: "If you are being asked your opinion in a legal matter, do not incline your answer to a particular side whose decision perverts justice, just to be with the majority. Rather, decide the matter as truth requires and let the collar hang around the neck of the majority."
The rabbis comment: "Do not say: 'What does it matter if I decide honestly, since they are the majority and I am alone and they will not heed me anyway?' Rather, do your part and let the collar hang around the neck of the majority."
We learn from this lesson that even though the majority rules on a certain decision, it doesn't always mean that they have the correct view. It could be that the majority have it totally wrong. The majority are not always correct. In Judaism, democracy is not a goal unto itself, but rather, a means of governing. In fact, there are many cases in history that the majority ruled on a particular topic and brought destruction to the people.
Take the case of the spies, whom Moses sent to spy out the land. Ten out of the twelve spies came back with a false report, stating the impossibility of conquering the Land of Israel. Although they were surely the great majority, they were wrong. They were put to death, and they caused the destruction of that entire generation.
Likewise, we find in the generation of King Hezekiah, who was confronted by the mighty king of Assyria. At that time a poll was conducted: Should the Jewish people "make peace" with Assyria and give up the right to Jerusalem? Or should they stand and fight? The majority were with the "peace camp", believing there was a "peace partner" on the Assyrian side, while the minority, together with the prophet Isaiah, wanted to hold out. King Hezekiah was concerned that maybe they might be right, being that they were the majority. Isaiah told them: Do not be frightened. Being that they are going against what G-d wanted, what He commanded - their vote does not even count!
We see from here that there is no valid vote by those who go against the word of the L-rd. They are called the "majority of fools" whose votes do not even count.
Today the "peace camp", both in Israel and throughout the world, wants us to believe that they are the majority, and as such we have to follow their way and concede land to the Arabs. This view certainly goes against all that the Torah stands for, so therefore, their view is null and void and must be stripped from the protocol. They don't have a voice - for they are certainly a majority of fools.