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    Freedom for all – B’har

    One of the great sentences of the Torah comes in this week’s portion: Uk’ratem d’ror ba’aretz l’chol yosh’veha, “Proclaim freedom in the land to all its inhabitants” (Lev. 25:10).

    It says two things: there must be freedom, and it must be for everybody. Nothing is as important to a human being than freedom, and in the enjoyment of freedom no-one is more equal than anyone else. Without l’chol yosh’veha there is no d’ror.

    But freedom, like justice, peace and truth, is a precious jewel. Can the ordinary person be trusted to cherish, appreciate and guard it? The Talmud has a surprising answer: posh’ei yisra’el m’le’im mitzvot k’rimmon, “The transgressors of Israel are as full of mitzvot as a pomegranate” (Chagigah 27a).

    A highly positive view of human nature: even the supposed sinners are full of mitzvot; no-one is really such a transgressor!

    Judaism, perhaps against all logic and experience, believes you can trust people, you can have faith in people, people are fundamentally decent and dependable.

    Gideon Hausner, famous for his role in the Eichmann trial, said about democracy, “Democracy is predicated on the belief that there are latent extraordinary possibilities in ordinary human beings, and that the majority of ordinary people can be trusted to make the right decision to elect the right leaders”.

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