Two South Florida officials were arrested and led away in handcuffs on the same day last week. Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Marono were taken from their respective city hall offices. They were charged with corruption in two separate cases. It is alleged that both Pizzi and Marono took thousands of dollars in bribes. FBI agents say they’ve recorded many of the incriminating conversations. Both men were released on bail and are awaiting trial.
South Florida seems to be a particular magnet for this type of activity. The problem, however, is far from regional. Abuse of power by officeholders is endemic and widespread.
There are politicians of every level, from locals to heads of state, who succumb to a smorgasbord of transgressions. There are cases that involve misuse of funds, stealing, payoffs and graft. There are cases of misfeasance, nonfeasance and malfeasance. There are cases of “sexting,” harassment and involvement in a litany of inappropriate behavior. The scandals are plentiful, the details salacious.
How is it possible that those who are in the public eye would act in such a manner? Don’t they think of the possibility of getting caught? Why do they act with blatant disregard of the dictates of normal society? Why do they believe they are above it all?
The answer is sobering. Power and influence are quite heady. Its draw can be intoxicating. Those who succumb can become “drunk” with power.
Freudian psychology calls the dilemma the conflict between the id and the superego. Jewish tradition calls it the fight between the yetzer hara and the yetzer tov.
Jewish law has the ultimate antidote for the problem. The king in ancient Israel was given an excellent tool for managing his role as monarch. Instead of being presented with a royal scepter, he was mandated to carry something of much greater worth.
The king was required to always have a Torah scroll by his side. He was to read and study, reflect and learn. It was the ultimate insurance against an inflated sense unbridled entitlement.
The passage in Devarim states: “And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes to do them; that his heart be not lifted above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment.”
Flesh is weak. The pull of temptation is strong. It is good to understand that, ultimately, we all have to answer to a higher authority.
About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.
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