The Cycle of Democracy

In the Parasha this week, Eikev, Moshe continues to address the Israelites. He reminds them to follow the laws that Hashem has given them. He reminds the Israelites that they will be entering the land of Israel; they will have everything they need. Moshe warns them not to get too arrogant and think that the things they received will be entirely on their efforts. They must remember to bless Hashem because all of their blessings come from him.

Moshe knew that their struggles were not over. He also knew that the Israelites would experience great success. The real test would be how they handle the good times that would come.

History is filled with many nations that reached greatness, and yet declined and disappeared, only to be mentioned in history books. Over time people tend to take for granted all of the things that they hold dear: freedom, equality, etc. As Rabbi Sacks writes "Societies succumb to external pressures when they have long been weakened by internal decay." (Politics of Memory)

According to Alexander Tyler, (Tytler, in original Scottish), nations follow a Cycle of Democracy. Then it goes in this sequence:

Bondage->Spriritual->Faith->Courage->Liberty->Abundance->Selfishness->Complacency->Apathy->Dependence

The great thing about Moshe is that he taught the Israelites (and us today) how we could avoid the cycle of democracy. Several times Moshe uses the word remember (ז.כ.ר). For example:

וְזָכַרְתָּ֣ אֶת־כָּל־הַדֶּ֗רֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֨ר הֹלִֽיכֲךָ֜ יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ זֶ֛ה אַרְבָּעִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר לְמַ֨עַן עַנֹּֽתְךָ֜ לְנַסֹּֽתְךָ֗ לָדַ֜עַת אֶת־אֲשֶׁ֧ר בִּֽלְבָבְךָ֛ הֲתִשְׁמֹ֥ר מצותו [מִצְוֺתָ֖יו] אִם־לֹֽא׃ (Deuteronomy 8:2).

"Remember the long way that the LORD your God has made you travel in the wilderness these past forty years, that He might test you by hardships to learn what was in your hearts: whether you would keep His commandments or not."

Moshe reminds us to remember all of the things that Hashem has done for us. Only then can we continue to receive the blessings that Hashem has in store for us.

I see many parallels to what is going on in today in the U.S. and throughout the world. Where are the leaders who are willing to stand for truth and convictions in a world of untruth and apathy?

"The abundance generated by free enterprise and limited government was one of America’s biggest blessings, but also one of our biggest challenges. One of the few standing economies after WWII was America’s. Our products flowed to nearly all foreign markets creating the wealthiest society in the world’s history. It takes incredible discipline to remember where our blessings come from with abundance heaped upon further abundance. Over time, people forget the principles that created the liberty and the fruit of that liberty. Seeing the inequalities in the blessing of individual citizens, an envy of our fellow Americans germinates. The fruit of this unholy thinking is a desire to take our brothers and sisters abundance and give to those less abounding. Government would have to intervene and right this wrong according to the envious." Orrin Woodward

Moshe's words were as true then as they are today. We must remember!

"Civilisation hangs suspended, from generation to generation, by the gossamer strand of memory. If only one cohort of mothers and fathers fails to convey to its children what it has learned from its parents, then the great chain of learning and wisdom snaps. If the guardians of human knowledge stumble only one time, in their fall collapses the whole edifice of knowledge and understanding." - Jacob Neusner, Conservative, American, and Jewish (Lafayette, LA: Huntington House, 1993), 35.

Where are we today and how do we change?

Additional Readings:

The Hebrew Bible

Educational Philosophy:Collected Writings by Samson Raphael Hirsch

Reforming American Education by Mortimer Adler

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon