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Pirkei Avot 2:3 – Beware of Politics


Pirkei Avot 2:3

הֱווּ זְהִירִין בָּרָשׁוּת, שֶׁאֵין מְקָרְבִין לוֹ לָאָדָם אֶלָּא לְצֹרֶךְ עַצְמָן. נִרְאִין כְּאוֹהֲבִין בִּשְׁעַת הֲנָאָתָן, וְאֵין עוֹמְדִין לוֹ לָאָדָם בִּשְׁעַת דָּחְקוֹ:

Be careful [in your dealings] with the ruling authorities for they do not befriend a person except for their own needs; they seem like friends when it is to their own interest, but they do not stand by a man in the hour of his distress.

Bartenura on Pirkei Avot 2:3:1

“Be careful about the government”: You, who are involved with the needs of the community: even though you need to be acquainted with the authorities in order to supervise communal matters, “be careful, etc.”

There is nothing new under the sun to quote King Solomon. The verse does not mean that we should stay far away from politics. After all, if we want the 7 Noahide Commandments to be the leading yardstick in our society, we will have to see which party comes closest to it in elections. Even better, of course, is if we can be able to influence political parties to make their programmes more in line with the 7 Noahide Commandments.

In addition, when we see injustice or want to stand up for the less fortunate, we will often have to coordinate this with local authorities. We are just warned to be careful.

One need not avoid all positions of leadership, only those that are not for the sake of Heaven.[1]

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1] English Explanation of Pirkei Avot 2:3:2

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