The equality of individuals is usually thought to be a modern concept, one which today defines a desirable society.However, the equality of the Jewish People was already fundamental to the belief system of the Sages of the Land of Israel.
King David, our Monarch himself taught the principle of Jewish equality in the context of the retrieval of the Ark of the Covenant. Michal who sees David loosing himself out of joy before the commoners as the Ark is returned chastises him:“How honored was the King of Israel today, who was exposed today in the presence of his servant’s maidservants, as one of the boors would be exposed (II Sam. 6:20). The Talmud of the Land of Israel glosses: “Today the esteem of my father’s house has become apparent.” Her father King Saul acted with the extreme majesty of a King and never revealed himself.
David responds to Michal: “And with the maidservants which you mentioned, with them I shall be honored” (II Sam. 6:22). The Talmud of the Land of Israel glosses: “For they are not (amahoth) maidservants but matrons (imahoth).”
David equates the maidservants with matrons, in other words, the commoner with the ranking and thereby plays down the difference between social status. In effect David opposes her father Saul’s brand of kingship one which does not espouse the Divine principle of the equality of the Jewish People. (Sanhedrin 2:4 12:a)The concept of Jewish Equality becomes prominent especially in religious contexts when a Jew stands before his Maker.
The Mishnah in Bikkurim (3:3) describing the procession that went up to the Temple Mount to bring the Bikkurim states: “The governors and chiefs and treasurers [of the temple] went out to meet them. According to the esteem of the entrants they would go forth.”The amount and types of officials that would go out to greet the people bringing the Bikkurim to the Temple Mount was commensurate with the esteem of the people making ascent.The “esteem” mentioned in this Mishnah, prima facie would appear to refer to the esteem of the individual, suggesting that Jews differ in esteem and intrinsic value. However, such a concept stood in opposition to the fundamental beliefs of the Sages of the Talmud of the Land of Israel. The Sages express their astonishment at this Mishnah by posing the following question: “Is there in fact small or great among Israel?”
The basic equality of the Jewish People is not just a social principle but a Divine proscription.
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