Arnold D. Samlan
Jewish Educational Leader, South Florida

American Elections, Flawed Leaders and King David

Sex scandals. Abuse of power. Arranged “hits”. Family conflicts. Challenges to the country’s security. Endless battles with foreign forces. Clashes between religious forces and the state.

Think we’re talking about the American political scene and campaigns?  Guess again.

These issues are representative of the rulership of King David, who is described as the forerunner of the Messiah in Judaism! What brought it to mind is my recent reading of a fascinating and somewhat controversial book by Geraldine Brooks, The Secret Chord, a work of historical fiction based on the life of King David.

Interesting how, in an election year that is presenting candidates (at many levels) with significant character and ethical flaws, so few people have bothered to look back to the Tanakh to see what it has to say about leaders with flaws. And it does say a lot.

My takeaways from the Biblical texts (and I’d like to know yours) are:

  • The characteristics of a person that bring him/her to a position of power are also the same character traits that can easily get him/her into trouble
  • Leaders aren’t perfect. They are flawed. Because they are human
  • One, or even a series of, mistakes and errors of judgement do not necessarily disqualify a person from ruling a country.
  • Failure to acknowledge mistakes and errors, and continuing to deny any wrongs, might disqualify that person
  • Good leaders take critics, especially critics with a solid moral compass, seriously
  • If you look for perfection in who you elect to lead, you’re going to be disappointed consistently
  • Even the person whose name is associated with the coming of a messianic era, was deeply flawed, yet also a great man

I wish for my fellow Americans the wisdom to choose the best possible leader and pray for her/his strength to unite a divided country.

About the Author
Rabbi Arnie Samlan, Chief Jewish Education Officer of the Jewish Federation Broward County, Florida, Is a rabbi and Jewish educator whose work has impacted Jewish learners, community leaders and professionals across North America. All blog posts are his personal opinions and are not meant to reflect viewpoints of the Jewish Federation.
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