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Home » Military, Miscellaneous, Pekudi, Politics

Pekudei: Was Iraq Freed?

Submitted by on November 4, 2005 – 2:13 amNo Comment | 2,737 views

This essay was written in 2005, when the US led effort to bring democracy to Iraq was still in its infancy.

Democracy in Iraq

The international media has subjected the US-led coalition that liberated Iraq and established a democratic government, to intense scrutiny and even criticism.

Many labeled the war itself an unprovoked invasion. The US administration in Iraq, established immediately after the cessation of active hostilities, was ridiculed by many as colonial-style governance. The later transition to an interim Iraqi government was also dismissed because of it’s perception in Iraq as a puppet regime.

Iraqi elections have also been labeled irrelevant because they lacked across-the-board support of the Iraqi people. The subversive elements are still active, goes the argument, and the insurgents, who rejected the elections, are still pursuing the war.

A Three-Step Strategy

The coalition has followed a strategy that has steadily brought Iraqi democracy closer to reality. This strategy is outlined by three progressive steps. First is, a US-appointed interim Government. Second is, democratic elections leading to a freely elected Iraqi government. was iraq freed - innerstreamThe final step is, demonstrating the factual benefits of democracy to convince the Iraqi citizenship that democracy works in its favor.

A similar three-step process was outlined in the Torah when G-d established the theocratic order for our ancestors. I hasten to point out that this essay does not attempt to compare Jewish theocracy to modern democracy, only to study the processes that establish them. (1)

Stage One

When our ancestors built the tabernacle G-d ordered a seven-day training period. During this week the tabernacle was only an interim dwelling, assembled in the morning and dismantled in the evening. Priests were trained to perform complex ritual ceremonies, oversee the myriads of daily activities, and establish a working infrastructure for the Levitic tribe. (2)

This training stage parallels the interim stage in Iraq that recently ended with elections. This was a trial stage, an opportunity for Iraqis to relearn the skills that might lead to democratic government. The interim government’s task included, among others, the construction of political and economic infrastructure, the establishment of appropriate ministries, and the assembling and training of an independent Iraqi army and police force.

Stage Two

The second stage occurred on the eighth day, when the tabernacle was established as a permanent fixture, to remain assembled for as long as the nation remained in camp. The Holy Ark received a permanent dwelling, G-d’s presence was manifest in the tabernacle and the priests smoothly assumed their new roles, conducting the service efficiently and facilitating the myriads of ritual tasks. (3)

This stage parallels the establishment of a permanent democratic government, legitimized by free and transparent elections. This Government has been granted permanent authority and its ministers have stepped into legitimate, previously defined, roles at the helm of their respective ministries.

Stage Three

This was, however, not the final stage. Though the tabernacle was fully erected and G-d’s presence permanent, the people had not yet fully accepted their new reality. G-d’s glory was in the tabernacle but not necessarily upon the people. The Torah therefore separately testifies that after the tabernacle’s establishment, the nation finally came to accept G-d’s presence. “And G-d’s glory rested upon the people.” (4)

I would argue that just as it was possible to celebrate the establishment of the tabernacle even before the people experienced its glory, so too is it possible to celebrate the establishment of democracy in Iraq even before its factual benefits have been demonstrated to the Iraqi people.  

We need not delay acknowledgement of the second stage till the third stage is achieved. It may still take time till all Iraqis are persuaded that democracy is truly in their favor. It may be a while till all Iraqis view themselves as citizens of a democratic Iraq. But this is no reason to dismiss their immense achievement in establishing a freely elected government.

Periodic Attacks

This thought can be taken one step further. Even after the Torah testifies that G-d’s glory descended upon the people, a certain amount of resentment and rebellion persisted. Subversive elements within the nation resisted Moses’ authority and carried on periodic attacks against G-d, as represented by Moses.

Korach led a spirited rebellion, the spies led a subversive campaign that later blossomed into an ill fated war, and the nation at large periodically rose in defiance of G-d. In the greater scheme of things, these incidents remained relatively minor. The majority of Jews accepted Moses and G-d, which was deemed a marked success. (5)

Forty Years

Furthermore, these periodic flare-ups continued throughout our ancestors’ forty-year trek across the desert. Yet, because the majority of Jews embraced G-d’s glory, the Torah deems the original descent of G-d’s glory upon the people an instant success. (5)

We may never achieve absolute acceptance of democracy in Iraq but subversive elements not withstanding, we have every reason to expect majority acceptance within a reasonable period of time. And in all likelihood, the world will not need to wait forty years to benefit from the fruits of the coalition’s labor.


  1. For a more detailed analysis of these three stages see Likutei Sichos vol. XXI p. 260 (R. Menachem M. Schneerson, Rebbe of Lubavitch 1902 – 1994)
  2. Leviticus 8, 33
  3. Leviticus 9, 1
  4. Leviticus 9, 23 and Exodus 40, 34
  5. See Deuteronomy chapters 11, 13, 16, 17 20, 21, and 25


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