Jewish Freedom is like no other Freedom

Most Christians believe that the expulsion was the immediate consequence of disobedience and carnal knowledge, and that it stained all future descendants of Adam and Eve with the original sin, that can only be overcome through acceptance of Jesus as your Messiah and the waters of Baptism.

Jews, of course, have many interpretations. Some Rabbis believe that the reason for the expulsion was the disobedience of God's command not to eat from the tree of knowledge of right and wrong. Other Rabbis do not believe it was an expulsion but they believe it was the direct consequence of the action...if Adam and Eve were now aware of the difference between right and wrong, it was time that they assume the obligations and responsibilities that come with knowledge. No more free ride.

When God, in the text, proclaims that Eve will give birth with pain and Adam will have to toil his life from the land, Christians see it as a punishment - Jews don't. Knowledge brings freedom, but freedom brings responsibility. We are responsible for our own actions, and we need to think about their consequences before we act. This idea is weaved into many aspects of Judaism, from the need to ask forgiveness from those we offended and from those who were affected by our actions, to the very process of T'Shuvah that includes the need to change those behaviors that brough ill to others.

In communal life this idea takes a different dimension. The role of communal leaders is to conduct the business of an organization and of the community. To conduct those business implies to be responsible for their decisions - accountable to those who put their trust in them. That is why the business of an organization needs to be public record. Secrecy and misdirection is not only wrong - it is a violation of that trust.

As a Jew I consider the idea of accountability an integral part of leadership. Leaders must lead by being accountable and responsible for their actions, and the affairs of the community (or the organization) need to be open to scrutiny because they are public property. The buzzword these days is "transparency" but what it boils down to is that when we are entrusted with a position of power in the community we become trustees of that community and accountable to them.

One of the best descriptions of Democracy I ever read was given by a Uruguayan leader called Artigas. When Uruguay declared its independence both from Brazil and from Argentina, it was Artigas who led the country, and the words he said that day are engraved in the entrance to the Uruguayan Congress: "My authority comes from you, and ceases in your sovereign presence". That is as much true today as it was then - whether we talk about an organization, a community or a country. Just my two cents.


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