FIRST THINGS FIRST
by Michael Wyschogrod – May 2010
Israel is a Jewish state but has not succeeded in defining just what that means in a national constitution. Although the 1948 Declaration of Independence called for the enactment of a constitution within months of the state’s inception, nothing has been achieved beyond a fragmentary “Basic Law.” Israel finds itself in the uncomfortable position of fighting for its status as a Jewish state without a clear vision of what that entails.
There appears to be an unbridgeable gap between three millennia of Jewish religious thought and the exigencies of modern governance. Yet Judaism’s defining concept, the covenant, is inherently political, and a proper understanding of biblical and rabbinic theology might identify a solution to Israel’s constitutional vacuum.
To discuss theological criteria for the constitution of a secular republic runs against the grain of modern political thought, even though constitutional restrictions…
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