Could a religious man be an anarchist?

Because by praying you becoming a slave to whatever you pray to.

But anarchism (except of some small branches) do not support master-slave relationships.

Could some people elaborate on that from a Jewish point of view (Torah point of view). If there was ever an anarchist there and why it's not allowed.

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    It would violate the Noahide law of establishing a justice system, I would imagine.
    – Baby Seal
    Jan 16, 2014 at 8:19
  • @BabySeal Thanks. So, there was no example of an successful anarchist Jew in Torah etc.?
    – Derfder
    Jan 16, 2014 at 8:20
  • 1
  • No it doesn't. I have a friend that will rant and wave about anarchocapitalism and he follows halacha to the dot.
    – rosenjcb
    Jan 19, 2014 at 1:48

4 Answers 4


Avot 3:2:

רבי חנינא סגן הכהנים אומר, הוי מתפלל בשלומה של מלכותז, שאלמלא מוראה, איש את רעהו חיים בלעו

Rabbi Chanina, deputy to the kohanim, would say: Pray for the integrity of the government; for were it not for the fear of its authority, a man would swallow his neighbor alive. (Translation: chabad.org)

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    Not to mention the conclusion to the book of Judges: "in those days there was no king in Israel; each man did what was right in his eyes." And Abraham's retort to the king of the Philistines, the way Sforno translates it: "as there was no fear of the authorities here, they would kill me [to obtain] my wife."
    – Shalom
    Jan 16, 2014 at 9:27
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    @Shalom, sounds like a period of anarchy right there (to some definition of the term anyway).
    – Yishai
    Jan 16, 2014 at 14:55
  • @Yishai There was a period of anarchy, but it was not a good thing, and is not something a religious person should strive for.
    – avi
    Jan 18, 2014 at 18:25
  • @Avi, I never meant to suggest otherwise.
    – Yishai
    Jan 21, 2014 at 14:33

The Torah commands the establishment of courts, (Deut 16:18-20, 17:8-13), as well as a monarchy, (Deut 17:14-20).

Also, the Book of Judges makes the Torah's stance on anarchy pretty clear. Written by Samuel, it illustrates what happened when there was no king in ancient Israel and everyone did as they pleased. Chapters 18 and 19 show instances of infighting for the sake of blatant and unchecked idol worship, and the brutal rape and murder of a woman that leads to a civil war and the near genocide of the Tribe of Benjamin. Samuel's repeated and pointed remarks throughout these tragic events, always about the lack of a king (17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25) speak to his views on the importance of a monarch. It feels appropriate that he was the last of the sporadic Judges who anointed our first formal kings.

A system of Law and centralized leadership seems to be in Gd's mind vital for the functioning of society, as evidenced in his Torah.

  • Anarchy != Anarchism. No anarchist believes in anarchy. Most believe in some form of government. Many modern anarchists would be happier with the more limited governance of the Temple periods than with the modern state system. Jan 21, 2014 at 5:34

It is not so pashut that the Torah or Tanach thinks appointing a King is a good thing. And, it does seem accurate that Don Yitzkak Abarbanel thought either we should not, or at least that we don't have to. I am not conversant enough in Hebrew to read the linked article about Don Yitzkhak's views, but R'Yehuda Nachshoni (trans., Shmuel Himelstein, Studies in the Weekly Parashah) writes:

"Abarbanel... Holds that Shmuel's opposition [to appointing a king] was the correct course to be followed, and there is no obligation to appoint a king. Abarbanel answers all the attempts to show the contrary, and also shows how the words of Chazal can be in keeping with his view." (p. 1294; on Parasha Shoftim).

R'Nachshoni's writing on this topic presents a lot of the arguments, and Don Yitzkhak's responses. It is under the heading "The Regime of the King and the Regime of the People" in the Art Scroll edition.

The OP's statement that "Because by praying you becoming a slave to whatever you pray to. But anarchism (except of some small branches) do not support master-slave relationships." is also not, I think, a valid objection. The central aspect of anarchism is lack of a coercive relationsip among humans. I don't think most anarchic schools of thought would call a "voluntary" decision to submit yourself to HaShem as a master-slave relationship.

The question of whether the mitzvah to set up courts is necessarily violated by anarchy is a more difficult question. But, one can again imagine an anarchist allowing voluntary submission to beis din.

Anarchy doesn't actually mean everyone just do what they want. This is a major misunderstanding. What it really means is lack of coercion and lack of hierarchy. Most anarchists imagine a world of voluntary association and mutual aid, and that seems to me to be very consistent with the Jewish worldview.

Rabbi J. Sacks has an essay in his haggadah called "Building a Society of Freedom." Judaism, R' Sacks argues, holds dearly the idea that we are all equal; we all have tzelem Elokim (I'm not sure R'Sacks explicitly makes that connection, but it seem obvious). He approvingly quotes Paul Johnson: "The Jews had this gift. To them we owe the idea of equality before the law, both divine and human."

But, he also argues that freedom is another central aspect of Judaism. We see this in Shabbos, Shmitta, and Yovel, where we see freedom in time; we also see it in the Torah's general concern for the poor. "A society in which the few have wealth" (and, I would add, in which the few have power) "and many are on the verge of starvation is not free by the standards of the Hebrew Bible."

I'm not saying that any of this proves that it is halachically acceptable to be an anarchist. Certainly the existing schools of anarchic thought -- and, more importantly, the society that has grown up around them -- may not fit in a Torah lifestyle. But, I think that one could imagine an anarchy that would be consistent with Torah. And, it very well may be that that is the preferred system.


I do understand accepet the answers and comments above, but I think that there is a place for other viewpoint. look at Shmuel speach to Israel when they ask for a king

יב וַתִּרְאוּ, כִּי-נָחָשׁ מֶלֶךְ בְּנֵי-עַמּוֹן בָּא עֲלֵיכֶם, וַתֹּאמְרוּ לִי, לֹא כִּי-מֶלֶךְ יִמְלֹךְ עָלֵינוּ: וַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, מַלְכְּכֶם. יג וְעַתָּה, הִנֵּה הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר בְּחַרְתֶּם--אֲשֶׁר שְׁאֶלְתֶּם; וְהִנֵּה נָתַן יְהוָה עֲלֵיכֶם, מֶלֶךְ. יד אִם-תִּירְאוּ אֶת-יְהוָה, וַעֲבַדְתֶּם אֹתוֹ וּשְׁמַעְתֶּם בְּקוֹלוֹ, וְלֹא תַמְרוּ, אֶת-פִּי יְהוָה--וִהְיִתֶם גַּם-אַתֶּם, וְגַם-הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר מָלַךְ עֲלֵיכֶם, אַחַר, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם. טו וְאִם-לֹא תִשְׁמְעוּ בְּקוֹל יְהוָה, וּמְרִיתֶם אֶת-פִּי יְהוָה--וְהָיְתָה יַד-יְהוָה בָּכֶם, וּבַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם. טז גַּם-עַתָּה הִתְיַצְּבוּ וּרְאוּ, אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה, אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה, עֹשֶׂה לְעֵינֵיכֶם. יז הֲלוֹא קְצִיר-חִטִּים, הַיּוֹם--אֶקְרָא אֶל-יְהוָה, וְיִתֵּן קֹלוֹת וּמָטָר; וּדְעוּ וּרְאוּ, כִּי-רָעַתְכֶם רַבָּה אֲשֶׁר עֲשִׂיתֶם בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה, לִשְׁאוֹל לָכֶם, מֶלֶךְ.

It means that not only that Shmuel thinks so, but also G-D who makes a Nes for Shmuel to prove his point, and they prefer the situation where "Ish Hayashr Beynav Yaase"

From historic view point - how many of our kings were rightous, and how may were sinful? Also you can look at this article about the "anarchist" viewpoint of Don Ytskhak Abrabanel

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    I don't think that article is an accurate representation of the Arbabenel's option. Anyway, the Possuk argues for G-d being the King, something the OP specifically rejects as being part of the anarchist view.
    – Yishai
    Jan 17, 2014 at 16:56
  • @Yishai but it does mean that g-d prefer the situation before - which is the ending of the previos book (אין מלך בישראל...איש הישר בעיניו יעשה)
    – Alaychem
    Jan 18, 2014 at 20:54
  • Chazal don't have such nice things to say about the state of affairs in that verse... I assume the Jewish point of view would take them into account. Jan 21, 2014 at 5:27
  • @Alaychem, The verse clearly says that whether or not you have a king, the main thing is you have to follow G-d. The OP excludes prayer from anarchism. On the question of King or not, Abarbanel's opinion is basically that the ideal is a Judicial Theocracy. That is also not Anarchism (nor separation church and state advocated in the article).
    – Yishai
    Jan 21, 2014 at 14:37

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