Shabbat Parashat Chayei Sarah| 5767
Can the Members of a Political Party Be Selected to the Party Conference Without Elections - Based on Piskei Din Rabbani’im - vol. VII, pp. 324-331
Case: Political party “X” is governed by a ve’ida (party conference) that is convened periodically. The ve’ida ratifies the party’s chukka (constitution), to which all party members are bound. The party also has a merkaz (a smaller group of representatives) with defined authority and is run on a daily basis by an even smaller group, known as the va’ad hapo’el (the directorate). Under the previous chukka, members of the directorate were automatically made members of the ve’ida. The new chukka states that members of the ve’ida are elected by the party’s members and that the merkaz sets the process of the election and supervises it. The merkaz decided that the directorate should still not require election to the ve’ida, explaining that this helps ensure continuity in the party’s operations. Other party members disagree, stating that the merkaz does not have the authority to appoint representatives to the ve’ida, but only to supervise the elections.
Ruling: The written chukka of any group that is organized to work for their interests is binding on all, if it was written and ratified properly. No one has questioned the chukka’s validity in this case. Therefore, past practice and a practice’s value for the party are irrelevant if they are excluded from the new chukka, unless they help us interpret the chukka’s meaning. The Rashba was mentioned in the chukka of a city’s Jewish community as the arbiter in conflicts regarding the rules of the self-government. He writes (Shut IV, 308) that although he had opinions about the proper way to handle issues, his job was only to decide how to interpret and apply the chukka’swritten word.
The chukka does not explicitly rule out that the merkaz can appoint members of the directorate to the ve’ida. However, by spelling out a mechanism for the choice of members (election) and leaving out appointment by the merkaz, the plain language is equivalent to explicitly negating the latter possibility. One cannot claim that it was unnecessary to mention this special ability to appoint members of the directorate because of the old custom. After all, customs are not binding in this type of matter, as new chukkot supercede them. The merkaz itself seemed to recognize this fact and, therefore, they felt a need to vote on whether the practice should continue.
The merkaz was given the authority in this regard only to supervise the elections and set its rules and not to obviate the elections at its will. They cannot make a new rule not found in the chukka based on an old practice. We will also point out that it is likely that the merkaz’svote was flawed. This is because a significant percentage of its members are members of the directorate and they thus are directly interested parties in the vote’s outcome.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated
to the memory of R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shrugs Brachfeld o.b.m.
Hemdat Yamim is also dedicated by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of Max and Mary Sutker and Louis and Lillian Klein,z”l. May their memory be a blessing!