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Parashat Devarim 5777: God and equality

In the Western world we believe in equality and we consider it one of the cornerstones of democracy. If different people have different value, then it would be ridiculous to think that in elections everyone’s vote counts the same. We would have to give a political scientist five more votes than a community rabbi, as he is more knowledgeable about the issues relevant to the elections. Maybe we would have to give to the owner of a software company many more votes that to the person that does the cleaning. And we don’t do this, because we believe that all human beings are equal. Are all people really equal? Aren’t their intelligence, reliability, morals and motivation different? There are those that invest a lot of effort to succeed in their profession and others are satisfied with the minimum. There are children that get great marks in school and others that hardly pass the year. There are heroes that risk their lives for others and criminals that don’t value human life. According to every objective measurement people are not equal; not in their physical appearance, not in their emotional personality, not in their intellectual capabilities. The only way that we can claim equality between people is if we establish a different perspective that from it we do the comparison. The one in that perspective has to be so superior to even the best of human beings that in comparison to Him, all human beings are relatively equal. In Israel’s Declaration of Independence “the rock of Israel” is mentioned; in the American Declaration of Independence they based much of its ideas in God existence and role as Creator. When we are compared to the infinite God, all-knowing, great and Creator of the world, the differences between people are nothing. In order to emphasize human equality, we need the divine reality; without it, the idea of equality is a nice illusion, but harder to defend rationally. When our Parashah commands us to make no difference in law between the rich and powerful, and the poor and humble, it is under this principle. Rashi explains that if a judge is in front of a trial for one little coin or a hundred coins, he shouldn’t give preference to the “bigger” trial, but treat them equally. He has to remember that relatively, for a poor person, a little coin has the same value that a hundred to a rich man. Of course the rich and poor are different, but God is the ultimate Judge and in His eyes these differences are insignificant. The whole democratic system is based on a spiritual truth: that in the eyes of God all human beings are equal and deserving of the same respect and justice. Because the Universe was created by Hashem, because every person is a unique reflection of His image, then each one of us can claim the same portion of the infinite value that in the end belongs only to God. We are all equal, the big and the small, not in merit of our abilities or our wisdom. Our equality is not a product of what we do, but of who we are. We are the sons and daughters of the living God.

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