Thank the Torah for Your Freedom

In ways that were astonishingly new and counter-intuitive, in ways that served the purposes of no known interest group, the political philosophy of the Torah may be seen to rise like a phoenix out of the intellectual landscape of the ancient Near East. Throughout the ancient world the truth was self-evident: all men were not created equal. It is in the five books of the Torah that we find the birthplace of egalitarian thought. When seen against the backdrop of ancient norms, the social blueprint espoused by the Torah represents a series of quantum leaps in a sophisticated and interconnected matrix of theology, politics and economics.

To appreciate the claim that the Torah represents the dawn of egalitarian thought, let us set the claim in historical perspective. It is only in the European revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries that we find the rejection of the privileges of rank and nobility, that resulted in the delegitimation of entrenched caste, feudal, and slave systems. Greece and Rome had known their respective reformers, yet nowhere in the classical world do we find a struggle to do away with class distinctions. Nor do we find this articulated as a desideratum by any of the ancient authors in their ideal systems.

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