Jewish political theology: The doctrine of Da'at Torah as a case study

Benjamin Brown*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


A number of political theologies have emerged within modern Judaism, primarily as a reaction to the rise of Zionism but also, and to a lesser degree, to that of socialism, pacifism, and other ideological movements. Among the characteristics they shared are a father - i.e., an individual who fleshed out their tenets in more or less systematic fashion - and an attempt to deal with the nature and governance of a future Jewish state. The majority of these theologies failed to achieve significant influence in the wider public arena. Notably, however, there is one modern Jewish political theology that evolved by means of a different process, one that was gradual and decidedly unsystematic. It also lacks a single founder or figurehead, even though, like its counterparts, it developed and sought to remain within a particular social faction where it has long exercised significant influence and continues to do so to this day. I am referring to the doctrine of Da'at Torah (literally the Torah view, the opinion of the Torah, the knowledge of the Torah, or the Torah mind), which arose in the first half of the twentieth century in Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) circles. It can be summarized in a single sentence: The great religious authorities hold the power to issue rulings not only in their specific areas of expertise but in all areas of life, including the political realm.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)255-289
Number of pages35
JournalHarvard Theological Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2014


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