The start of the 2016 presidential election begins this Monday. The first state to cast its vote in the primaries, Iowa, will get the ball rolling. Watching the many sagas in this election process got me thinking: what is a correct way to live? Is it complete openness to whichever direction the electorate swings? Or are there inherent values that are in place, that supersede any election cycle?

 I'm sure you face similar questions daily, albeit perhaps in a different format. We might see our child doing something of which we don't approve. "Should I admonish my child for doing something that I think is wrong?", we ask ourselves, "or should I be open minded and let him or her spread their wings and be free"?

 The democratic value system we have in place in this wonderful country of ours is one of the greatest successes of a political system in history. We've sent young soldiers overseas in harm's way time and again in order to defend the values that we hold so dear. These values have led to the only time in history that a country has possessed the most powerful military on earth, yet has not used it to subjugate and conquer every country it could get its hands on.

 We're used to hearing these being lauded as "Democratic values", "Democratic" being Greek for "people rule". Many countries pride themselves on being Democratic. But just what is the core of these values? Is the only bedrock of this system tolerance? The ability to tolerate pretty much anything and anyone, no matter what they might do or how different from us they might seem? Or is there something else at play?

 We've seen democracy take societies down unpleasant paths. Adolf Hitler was democratically elected, fair and square in 1933. As was Hamas in Gaza in 2007. Even today in Western countries, there are numerous parties and factions that are permanently banned from elections. So what exactly is the bedrock of a free society? Are there any boundaries to tolerance?

 In this week's Torah portion we read the Ten Commandments - those ten basic divine principles that are the core of the other 603 commandments, and have guided Jewish life for 3,000 years. These laws, among which are the prohibitions of murder and theft, are not up for discussion. They are permanent and non-negotiable. And thank God for that.

 Yet that very same Torah has another interesting rule: the majority wins. In legal disputes and many other areas, the idea of taking a vote and following the majority goes way back in Jewish tradition. So what is the bedrock of a free, moral society? Non-negotiable rules, or majority-wins voting and tolerance?

 The way I see it, both are true. If we have a proper frame of mind, it goes hand in hand. When we truly care for others, and we see them doing something wrong, it is the positive feelings we have towards them that lead us to correct them. If we truly care for the other, they will easily sense that we are acting out of our care for them, even if we are telling them to correct something. The people who are most prone to correct a child are his or her parents, because they truly care. If, however, our motive is self-righteousness and just looking for an excuse to put someone else down, then any counsel we might have is usually out of place.

 The Ten Commandments are written in the singular form. In Hebrew there are different words for speaking to an individual or to a group. The Ten Commandments, although spoken to three million people, were said in the singular, as if to one individual.

 Why? Because the Torah belongs to each and every Jew, period. It is not the property of one to tell the other how to act. This is why we do find that according to the Torah's viewpoint, there are things which are non-negotiable, no matter which way the electorate swings. But they never should be used as excuses to harm someone or put them down in any way.

 Tolerance and respect are tremendously important in Judaism. Appreciating every individual is the first step in being a good Jew, without which all else pales. Does that mean never telling someone to improve? Letting a child follow every whim? Not necessarily. But it always should be done in a loving, respectful way. Every single human being is God's child and deserves to be treated as such.

Rabbi Avrohom