On Prophecy and Democracy

My latest piece in Sh’ma: A Journal of Jewish Ideas

The prophets were not democrats. Addressing a gathering of citizens petitioning their elected leaders for the redress of grievances, I have sometimes felt as though I were channeling Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. or Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.  Especially if I was “in the zone,” the exact words would flow through me and I would feel a direct and deep connection with the people I was talking to, and, at the same time, I would be able to focus the right amount of anger at the people I was talking about. I suspect that when King and Heschel were “in the zone,” they felt that they were channeling Isaiah or Amos. It is anybody’s guess who Amos and Isaiah thought they were channeling. This, however, is not democracy. The use of words and rhetoric in a manner moving and poetic in order to focus the righteous rage of citizens on the sources of injustice is not democracy. It may, at times, be one aspect of a democratic culture.

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Best wishes to everyone for a sweet and just New Year.

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