Many of us, myself included love politics. As a rabbi I have always been blessed to serve a “mixed” congregation, full of Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and Independents. It is a blessing to be in community with those we disagree with, as we both challenge and bolster one another’s perspectives.
Often politics is eschewed by rabbis because by its very nature it polarizes us. We often lose sight of the humanity of others, believing that “everyone’s entitled to MY opinion” or failing to believe that someone with diametrically opposed views is just as caring and compassionate a person as we are. Personally, I have experienced this on multiple fronts: in rabbinical school, where I was more conservative than the majority of my peers and in a previous synagogue where some felt I was a “bleeding heart liberal.” I take it in good stride, believing that if I displeasing people on multiple sides, I’m doing my job 😊.
Some are worried about the implications of this election regardless of the outcome. There is fear of a civil war or of the results not being accepted no matter what they are, undermining our country’s democratic foundation. As I hear these comments, I think what happened to “Mahloket L’Shem Shamayim,” arguing for the sake of heaven? What happened to the days when people vehemently disagreed and (as lawyers on opposing sides still sometimes do) shook hands and broke bread together? Has one’s political party really become his/her tribe or religion, a club for those who agree to be “in” and for those of opposing views being “out”? As one who strives to be an independent thinker and not succumb to peer pressure, I ask these questions frequently.
As we prepare to vote (or reflect on our previously casted vote) I want to share a poem and a prayer. May they give us personal insight and a feeling of being “at peace” regardless of the outcome of this coming election. The poem is by Israeli poet-laureate Yehuda Amichai and is titled The Place Where We Are Right:
The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the Spring.
The prayer is A Prayer for Voting
by Rabbi David Seidenberg:
Behold, I am intending
through my vote | through my prayer
to seek peace for this country,
as it is written (Jer. 29:7):
“Seek the peace of the city
where I cause you to roam
and pray for her to YHVH (Hashem/Adonai/God),
for in her peace you all will have peace.”
May it be Your will, YHVH, that votes
be counted faithfully
and may You count my vote
as if I had fulfilled this verse
with all my power.
May You give a listening heart
to whomever we elect
and may it be good in Your eyes
to raise for us a good government
to bring healing, justice and peace
to all living in this land
and to all the world, and upon Jerusalem,
a government that will honor the image of God
in all humanity and in Creation,
for rulership is Yours.
Just as I have participated in the election
so may I merit to do good works
and to repair the world through all my efforts,
and through the act of… [fill in your pledge]
which I pledge to do today
on behalf of all living creatures,
in remembrance of the covenant of Noah’s waters,
to protect and to not destroy
the earth and her plenitude.
Give to all the peoples of this country
the strength and will to pursue righteousness
and to seek peace as unified force
to uproot racism and violence
and to make healing, good life and peace flourish
here and throughout the world
and fulfill for us the verse (Ps. 90:17):
“May the pleasure of Adonai our God
be upon us, and establish
the work of our hands for us,
and make the work of our hands endure.”
I pray that regardless of whether your candidate(s) win that each of us acknowledge the common humanity of the other and build bridges so that we can together constructively make a difference in our community and in our country.