Voting: a spiritual commitment

Things are often too stiff, sharply “clear-cut” by our differences in Israel and also the Palestinian Territories. Israel has a long tradition of democracy. The Jewish and the Christian traditions require to PRAY for the leaders of Israel (of any State or nation governors in the dispersion and the Christian countries). It means that the believers ask and beg God to give some insights, discernment, intelligence to those who lead Israel or any state. “Giving a voice” to some individual and their staff is a full part of a personal spiritual commitment. We do not vote “against”; we do not elect representatives because we are afraid of a situation. Instead, we have to choose the right person who will plant and manage, correct and move forward, anticipate the future and fight for more equality, ethics, societal dignity and real diversity expressed in a State’s unity. Of course, political commitments seem to be present everywhere. It is indeed a cultural tendency in the Middle-East.

A society/collectivity is responsible for its political and moral choices. We are together in this country of Modern State of Israel. It is a rather clear picture of blurred memories and fenced destinies that are complied to cope with so many colors and cultures.

There are times when a state and society do have the ad hoc political personnel. Sometimes, new ways are difficult to open up. Prophet Samuel could hardly think of David, a field-wandering shepherd. Who could imagine the life of King Solomon (rise and fall included)? What about Yehudit or Esther? Who spent some time in a pit, left away and sold by his brothers? Joseph acted with a true sense of insights and loving-kindness. All through the history of Israel since most ancient days of old, political events have been based on how the nation is or not able to meet with the Divine Mitzvot and rules proposed by the Talmud. The Church has developed and split by complying with the same attitudes.

In their history among the Nations, the Jews have developed remarkable capacities and competences in envisioning how to help and participate in the enhancement of the nations and States they were living for a short period or for many centuries. In the three past centuries this gave raise to some renown personalities in Europe and some other parts of the world.

Interestingly, the basements of the the Modern Hebrew State has its craddle in a very special area, namely “on a rope, the rope of Belorussia, Transcarpathia, Ukraine and the Baltic entities before World war I. Many came from a border line lining with the Habsburg Austrian-Hungarian empire and Romania. Most of the pioneers had been in close contact with the British and Commonwealth intercontinental culture and state philosophy. From Trumpeldor, Jabotinsky, Sharett, Ben Gurion, Weisman, the whole structure grew as shown in the Bible. Same cheating and same search for purity; same wandering around and wisdom then getting lost, alone, mistaken, helpless.

We need a political personnel who is capable to make sacrifices and work for the best of all inhabitants without exclusion. This statement has nothing to do with a political choice: it is at the heart of the Commandments. The major trend that may appear to be evident at the moment is that the whole of the country has lost their faith, morals, clutches to “dreams that must come true”. Many seem just “blasé”. The Avot (ancestors) had no time to be nonchalant, fed-up or uncaring. But they acted as tribal leaders and settlers. Kings David and Solomon had some specific views but got trapped by their own passions for idol-worshiping women or their appetites for power. Leaders must both be “appetizing” and people who carry out a task that is very close to some call. We see that with Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, some Scandinavian politicians. French Nicolas Sarkozy recently asserted that he was not the only possible candidate to be the French president and that, when his mandate will be over, he is convinced that other leaders may replace him.

When “Israel bocheret – ישראל בוחרת = Israel is voting, electing” the phrase includes many aspects that would be separated in a full secular society. Israel cannot be a full secular collectivity. Israel’s eperience and government relies upon spirituality, even if the inhabitants would prefer to remove, forget about this for a few hours or a few days. On the eve of the election, these are calling to God, those to Moshiach now and others would consider that all these hair locks, Stetsons, yarmulkes and streimels should better dance in Tel Aviv or work with the Chinese in the fields or be good moshavnikim/kibutznikim and not obsessed by Sacredness.

What to do? When Israel votes, it “grows in her youth = bachur = young man/בחור. “I have made you a chosen one among the nations (Shabbat 105a; cf. Gen. 17:5). A “young man is unmarried, under test, ripening, being selected in order to be tried and purified” (Ketubot 7b). Are we never mistaken? Who can pretend we are not mistaken. On the contrary, before reciting the Vidui – confession prayer, the Jews insist that “they and their fathers had being mistaken”. It is not much known. But it focuses on a move: there is a link between “being a chosen people whose call is to be tested in a spiritual way and en route to Good and Life and the act of proceeding to legal elections. In that sense, “beyt haBechirahבית הבחירה = the House of Election (= growth, election, ripening) was the name of the Temple of Jerusalem in Megillah I, 72d).

When “Israel bocheret/ votes” the society is committing herself with spiritual challenge in view to enhance the development of the society as a whole. This challenge defies the ordinary citizens and is barely present in the media. Still, there is a confrontation in which Israeli society faces the heart of the Mitzvot and the Commandment, at least we will have to respond for the choice we will all make. In that sense, Israel – whatever up-to-date tendencies of “rampant racism and exclusion of the Israeli Arabs”, appears as a very open and legal State. The society is tempted by mutual exclusion, a tendency that shows in numerous countries in the world. When Israel bocheret/Israel’s voting also complies somehow with the Ten Paroles that command to include all the inhabitants without exception.

In times of incredible hardships, Israeli society is like a rainbow of all divine rules and Talmudic regulations inherited from the Sinai and down through history. The State exposes herself to be eventually betrayed by some of her citizens, though it is not sure that the traitors are those that are depicted and shown with some strong spirit of discomfort. Everyone in this country may not be able to reach full consciousness of what it means to be a member of the State of Israel, to live on this soil, to be accepted. The country is far too new as a free State, with far too much newcomers from all over the world to be able to fix with accuracy the rules that in other countries would immediately be condemned.

Either the residents get involved and are responsible for their decisions that cannot be reduced to their own interests or they put themselves aside, apart from the collectivity. Some people and group would prefer in order to avoid any commitment. It may not always be a mark of courage.

This week’s reading portion is “Yitro”. He is the pagan, non-Jewish father-in-law of Moses, the humble servant of God. Moses was overworked: he had to discuss with the people in the desert, under the tents night and day. It must have been quite an experience. Yitro advises his son-in-law to appoint “anshey chayilאנשי חיל = men of value, moral credit and strong-minded”. This has nothing to do with racing to the top. It means that the appointed men had both insights and courage, moral views.

It makes sense that such important election will take place in difficult times but the day after 15th of Shvat and the New Year of the Trees. Again, Israel bocheret = Israel’s voting surpasses what may not be seen in our daily life and abroad. It is an act of confidence and piety that may allow the little tree to grow into a bigger and more open tree.

av Aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

February 10/January 28, 2009 – 16 deshvat 5769 – ט”ז דשבט תשס”ט


“Wrestling with the angel” allowed Jacob to reach his full “self”. He never knew with whom he wrestled. A man? an angel? God? or his own mirrored image in the dark? We are the same. Our spiritual and mental enemies are worse than any devil.”If Satan rise against himself and is devided he cannot stand, but has an end (Mk 3:26). Wrestling with the angel led to life. the sign: permanent wound, still a mark of courage and struggle for life.

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