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Right is Might

Parashat Vayeshev – Human Rights Shabbat  Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz 
Right is Might 
For all the timeless wisdom the Torah shares with us, I think the warning that the Torah gives us to beware of the idea that somehow ‘might makes right’ is one of the most powerful. In fact, one could argue that the entire Hebrew Bible (not just the Torah) resists this Machiavellian maxim. Kings are brought down low, the poor are risen up. Prophets speak truth to power and the foundational narratives of Genesis and Exodus tell us of how smallness – not power – makes great. It is not the firstborn, nor the great nations that impact the moral destiny of civilization. It is God’s covenant with our tiny nation that would echo across the ages. 
This resistance or perhaps even abhorrence of‘might is right’ extends into the rabbinic tradition as well. Many Talmudic cases of tort law protect the vulnerable: the slave, the labourer, the widow, the poor. And even our most boastful, tribal and nationalistic festival…