What Does the Torah Say about Refusing to Concede? A lot.

November 18, 2020

By Rabbi Dov Linzer for The Jewish Forward

As of this writing, President Donald Trump has yet to concede the Presidential election, despite having decisively lost the Electoral College as well as the popular vote. Instead of conceding, the president has filed numerous lawsuits in battleground states while vociferously alleging widespread voter fraud on Twitter, claims that, with a tiny number of exceptions, have no merit.

What does the Torah have to say about President Trump’s refusal to concede? A lot, it turns out. In a section of Deuteronomy called Shoftim (literally “Judges”), the Torah deals with systems of political leadership, law, and authority, and it tackles the same kind of situation we are living through now.

The Torah describes a time in the future when people would choose their political leader, something the Torah is actually quite ambivalent about in its discussions about what a king will mean for society. Power corrupts, the Torah tells us amidst worries that the king could become the power that guides people’s lives instead of the words of God and the Torah.

The Torah’s solution to these potential pitfalls is to mandate that the king write a Torah scroll for himself and keep this scroll beside him while reading from it constantly. The message from these instructions is clear: Although the King has enormous power, he, too, is subject to the law.

Through daily intimate contact with the words of Torah, the king is meant to internalize that he exists within the system, not outside of it.

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