Civic Engagement 2020

Every Voice, Every Vote:
The Reform Movement’s 2020 Civic Engagement Campaign

Democracy is strongest when everyone participates – and it suffers when citizens are shut out from the democratic process or choose not to engage. To realize the goal of building a more just and compassionate world, Every Voice, Every Vote empowers and encourages all U.S. citizens to exercise their right to vote. This non-partisan campaign ensures that Reform Jewish values are present in the public square during this urgent time in our nation’s history. More information can be found at www.rac.org/cec. Use this text study to explore how the process for selecting leaders for the community has changed over time.

Deuteronomy 17:14-15

(יד) כִּֽי־תָבֹ֣א אֶל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ נֹתֵ֣ן לָ֔ךְ וִֽירִשְׁתָּ֖הּ וְיָשַׁ֣בְתָּה בָּ֑הּ וְאָמַרְתָּ֗ אָשִׂ֤ימָה עָלַי֙ מֶ֔לֶךְ כְּכָל־הַגּוֹיִ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר סְבִיבֹתָֽי׃
(טו) שׂ֣וֹם תָּשִׂ֤ים עָלֶ֙יךָ֙ מֶ֔לֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִבְחַ֛ר יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ בּ֑וֹ מִקֶּ֣רֶב אַחֶ֗יךָ תָּשִׂ֤ים עָלֶ֙יךָ֙ מֶ֔לֶךְ לֹ֣א תוּכַ֗ל לָתֵ֤ת עָלֶ֙יךָ֙ אִ֣ישׁ נָכְרִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־אָחִ֖יךָ הֽוּא׃

(14) If, after you have entered the land that the Eternal your God has assigned to you, and taken possession of it and settled in it, you decide, “I will set a king over me, as do all the nations about me,”
(15) you shall be free to set a king over yourself, one chosen by the Eternal your God. Be sure to set as king over yourself one of your own people; you must not set a foreigner over you, one who is not your kinsman.

(טז) כָּעֵ֣ת ׀ מָחָ֡ר אֶשְׁלַח֩ אֵלֶ֨יךָ אִ֜ישׁ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ בִּנְיָמִ֗ן וּמְשַׁחְתּ֤וֹ לְנָגִיד֙ עַל־עַמִּ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְהוֹשִׁ֥יעַ אֶת־עַמִּ֖י מִיַּ֣ד פְּלִשְׁתִּ֑ים כִּ֤י רָאִ֙יתִי֙ אֶת־עַמִּ֔י כִּ֛י בָּ֥אָה צַעֲקָת֖וֹ אֵלָֽי׃
(יז) וּשְׁמוּאֵ֖ל רָאָ֣ה אֶת־שָׁא֑וּל וַיהוָ֣ה עָנָ֔הוּ הִנֵּ֤ה הָאִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָמַ֣רְתִּי אֵלֶ֔יךָ זֶ֖ה יַעְצֹ֥ר בְּעַמִּֽי׃

(16) “At this time tomorrow, I will send a man to you from the territory of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him ruler of My people Israel. He will deliver My people from the hands of the Philistines; for I have taken note of My people, their outcry has come to Me.”
(17) As soon as Samuel saw Saul, the Eternal declared to him, “This is the man that I told you would govern My people.”

Questions to Consider:

  1. Who is the first King?
  2. Who chooses the King?

(א) וַיָּבֹ֜אוּ כָּל־שִׁבְטֵ֧י יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֶל־דָּוִ֖ד חֶבְר֑וֹנָה וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ לֵאמֹ֔ר הִנְנ֛וּ עַצְמְךָ֥ וּֽבְשָׂרְךָ֖ אֲנָֽחְנוּ׃

(ב) גַּם־אֶתְמ֣וֹל גַּם־שִׁלְשׁ֗וֹם בִּהְי֨וֹת שָׁא֥וּל מֶ֙לֶךְ֙ עָלֵ֔ינוּ אַתָּ֗ה הייתה [הָיִ֛יתָ] מוציא [הַמּוֹצִ֥יא] והמבי [וְהַמֵּבִ֖יא] אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהוָ֜ה לְךָ֗ אַתָּ֨ה תִרְעֶ֤ה אֶת־עַמִּי֙ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְאַתָּ֛ה תִּהְיֶ֥ה לְנָגִ֖יד עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

(ג) וַ֠יָּבֹאוּ כָּל־זִקְנֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֤ל אֶל־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ חֶבְר֔וֹנָה וַיִּכְרֹ֣ת לָהֶם֩ הַמֶּ֨לֶךְ דָּוִ֥ד בְּרִ֛ית בְּחֶבְר֖וֹן לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וַיִּמְשְׁח֧וּ אֶת־דָּוִ֛ד לְמֶ֖לֶךְ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (פ)

(1) All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood.

(2) Long before now, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led Israel in war; and the Eternal said to you: You shall shepherd My people Israel; you shall be ruler of Israel.”

(3) All the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a pact with them in Hebron before the Eternal. And they anointed David king over Israel.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Who is the second King?
  2. Who chooses the second King?

(ל) כִּ֡י כַּאֲשֶׁר֩ נִשְׁבַּ֨עְתִּי לָ֜ךְ בַּיהוָ֨ה אֱלֹהֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר כִּֽי־שְׁלֹמֹ֤ה בְנֵךְ֙ יִמְלֹ֣ךְ אַחֲרַ֔י וְה֛וּא יֵשֵׁ֥ב עַל־כִּסְאִ֖י תַּחְתָּ֑י כִּ֛י כֵּ֥ן אֶעֱשֶׂ֖ה הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃...

(30) The oath I swore to you by the Eternal, the God of Israel, that your son Solomon should succeed me as king and that he should sit upon my throne in my stead, I will fulfill this very day!”...

(לה) וַעֲלִיתֶ֣ם אַחֲרָ֗יו וּבָא֙ וְיָשַׁ֣ב עַל־כִּסְאִ֔י וְה֥וּא יִמְלֹ֖ךְ תַּחְתָּ֑י וְאֹת֤וֹ צִוִּ֙יתִי֙ לִֽהְי֣וֹת נָגִ֔יד עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל וְעַל־יְהוּדָֽה׃

(לו) וַיַּ֨עַן בְּנָיָ֧הוּ בֶן־יְהֽוֹיָדָ֛ע אֶת־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ׀ אָמֵ֑ן כֵּ֚ן יֹאמַ֣ר יְהוָ֔ה אֱלֹהֵ֖י אֲדֹנִ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃

(לז) כַּאֲשֶׁ֨ר הָיָ֤ה יְהוָה֙ עִם־אֲדֹנִ֣י הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ כֵּ֖ן יהי [יִֽהְיֶ֣ה] עִם־שְׁלֹמֹ֑ה וִֽיגַדֵּל֙ אֶת־כִּסְא֔וֹ מִ֨כִּסֵּ֔א אֲדֹנִ֖י הַמֶּ֥לֶךְ דָּוִֽד׃

(לח) וַיֵּ֣רֶד צָד֣וֹק הַ֠כֹּהֵן וְנָתָ֨ן הַנָּבִ֜יא וּבְנָיָ֣הוּ בֶן־יְהוֹיָדָ֗ע וְהַכְּרֵתִי֙ וְהַפְּלֵתִ֔י וַיַּרְכִּ֙בוּ֙ אֶת־שְׁלֹמֹ֔ה עַל־פִּרְדַּ֖ת הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ דָּוִ֑ד וַיֹּלִ֥כוּ אֹת֖וֹ עַל־גִּחֽוֹן׃

(לט) וַיִּקַּח֩ צָד֨וֹק הַכֹּהֵ֜ן אֶת־קֶ֤רֶן הַשֶּׁ֙מֶן֙ מִן־הָאֹ֔הֶל וַיִּמְשַׁ֖ח אֶת־שְׁלֹמֹ֑ה וַֽיִּתְקְעוּ֙ בַּשּׁוֹפָ֔ר וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ כָּל־הָעָ֔ם יְחִ֖י הַמֶּ֥לֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹֽה׃

(35) Then march up after him, and let him come in and sit on my throne. For he shall succeed me as king; him I designate to be ruler of Israel and Judah.”

(36) Benaiah son of Jehoiada spoke up and said to the king, “Amen! And may the Eternal, the God of my lord the king, so ordain.

(37) As the Eternal was with my lord the king, so may He be with Solomon; and may He exalt his throne even higher than the throne of my lord King David.”

(38) Then the priest Zadok, and the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada went down with the Cherethites and the Pelethites. They had Solomon ride on King David’s mule and they led him to Gihon.

(39) The priest Zadok took the horn of oil from the Tent and anointed Solomon. They sounded the horn and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!”

Questions to Consider

  1. Who is the third King?
  2. Who chooses the third King?
  3. Who affirms the decision?

וּפַרְנָס טוֹב. רָעָב — דִּכְתִיב: ״כִּי קָרָא ה׳ לָרָעָב וְגוֹ׳״. שׂוֹבַע — דִּכְתִיב: ״וְקָרָאתִי אֶל הַדָּגָן וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֹתוֹ״. פַּרְנָס טוֹב — דִּכְתִיב: ״וַיֹּאמֶר ה׳ אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר. רְאֵה קָרָאתִי בְשֵׁם בְּצַלְאֵל וְגוֹ׳״. אָמַר רַבִּי יִצְחָק: אֵין מַעֲמִידִין פַּרְנָס עַל הַצִּבּוּר אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן נִמְלָכִים בַּצִּבּוּר, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״רְאוּ קָרָא ה׳ בְּשֵׁם בְּצַלְאֵל״, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמֹשֶׁה: מֹשֶׁה, הָגוּן עָלֶיךָ בְּצַלְאֵל? אָמַר לוֹ: רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, אִם לְפָנֶיךָ הָגוּן — לְפָנַי לֹא כׇּל שֶׁכֵּן! אָמַר לוֹ: אַף עַל פִּי כֵן, לֵךְ אֱמוֹר לָהֶם. הָלַךְ וְאָמַר לָהֶם לְיִשְׂרָאֵל: הָגוּן עֲלֵיכֶם בְּצַלְאֵל? אָמְרוּ לוֹ: אִם לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וּלְפָנֶיךָ הוּא הָגוּן, לְפָנֵינוּ לֹא כׇּל שֶׁכֵּן!

A good leader, as it is written - The Eternal spoke unto Moses, saying: See, I have called by name Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah” (Exodus 31:1–2). With regard to Bezalel’s appointment, Rabbi Yitzḥak said: One may only appoint a leader over a community if one consults with the community and they agree to the appointment, as it is stated: “And Moses said unto the children of Israel: See, the Eternal has called by name Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah” (Exodus 35:30). The Eternal said to Moses: Moses, is Bezalel a suitable appointment in your eyes? Moses said to God: Master of the universe, if he is a suitable appointment in Your eyes, then all the more so in my eyes. The Holy One, Blessed be God, said to him: Nevertheless, go and tell Israel and ask their opinion. Moses went and said to Israel: Is Bezalel suitable in your eyes? They said to him: If he is suitable in the eyes of the Holy One, Blessed be God, and in your eyes, all the more so he is suitable in our eyes.

Questions to Consider

  1. Who is the leader that is chosen?
  2. Who chooses this leader?
  3. Who affirms this decision?

  4. What does it mean that "and they agree to the appointment"?
  5. What do you make of this ancient system?
  6. In what ways do we see in all of the texts an evolution over time?
  7. What learning we can take with us today to inform our values and modern society? How Do you interpret this verse today?