God’s will was communicated to the High Priest through the Urim and Thummim, the earliest recorded “voting device” and, generally in the Bible, leadership was not achieved by democratic decision, nor did God choose leaders without flaws.
That said, the Bible does give us guidance about qualities in leaders, helping us to decide how to use our votes.
Jethro advises Moses: “Provide from the entire people able people who fear God, trustworthy and hating bribes…to be their rulers” (Exodus 18), and Moses tells Israel: “Take from every tribe men of wisdom, understanding and knowledge, and… make them rulers over you” (Deut 1:13).
The preference for anti-corruption candidates seems reasonable, but is it good for fear to play a key role in a leader’s personality – whether fearful or fearsome? Politicians are often accused of using fear as a distraction mechanism.
In these examples we appear to see God, through the prophets, employing a similar tactic.
Hosea provides a picture of inappropriate government: “They have set up kings, but not from Me, made princes, and I knew it not; of their silver and gold have they made idols” and warns of the consequences.
This suggests flawed leaders will inevitably come to the fore, and that only sound knowledge can check this.
We also see the inevitability of corruption, which happens when people lose faith in leadership structures. Even when God played a hands-on role, good and bad leaders came to the fore.
Today, we must distinguish between candidates, who, although made in the image of God, will inevitably be flawed. The Bible says active participation is an antidote to this inevitability: “When the wicked rise, people hide themselves away”.
It is our mission to challenge this mentality and install the best leaders.
Sylvia Rothschild has been a community rabbi in south London for 30 years