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Politics And Torah — Friends Or Enemies?


Many trees upstate were damaged by the hurricane that swept through the East Coast at the end of last summer, and I was involved in finding the safest equipment to clean up the mess. I love trees and found the chore of cutting them down very difficult, especially knowing that the stately 60 year old trees would be impossible to replace. Even though we planted new trees, I don’t know whether I will be there to enjoy these new saplings when they are 60 years old. I realize that the storm waters that destroyed the trees came at His will, and He could just as easily cause miraculous growth so that the new trees would be as stately as they ones they replaced. We know that all is in His hands, and even though we are required to put forth our efforts, the ultimate success is dependant on His will. However, there always seem to be those certain areas where we forget that the Almighty is really running the show.

The Orchos Tzaddikim (Ways of the Righteous) explains: When a man splits wood with an axe, although it is the axe that is actually splitting the wood, the power doesn’t come from the blade, rather from the man who wields it. The blade is merely the instrument of cutting. Furthermore, one whose livelihood and needs depend on somebody else should not put his trust in that person; he should only place his trust in Hashem.

Imagine there are a hundred blind men, who are walking, one behind the other. Each one has his hand on his friend’s shoulder and is being led by the man before him, until they reach the front of the line where there is one man who can see. Each man in the line is not really leading the man behind him, even though it may seem that way. In reality, the seeing man at the head of the line is the one who is really leading them all. If the seeing man would detach himself from the group, they would all stumble and fall.

The Orchos Tzadikkim concludes, “Let a man take this to heart and reflect that there is no leader but the Holy One Blessed be He, and we are all like blind men, each being assisted and aided by his neighbor, and each neighbor being powerless to assist if not for the first Supreme Leader, the Giver of all, all of Whose ways are just.”

In our daily lives, there are many people who seem to be directing our happiness, success and welfare, yet it is really Hashem alone who is orchestrating our destined level of success. The puppets that are our bosses or political leaders are really just as “blind” as we are; yet we endow them with so much power. We become frustrated with them, despite their powerlessness to dictate our financial and personal successes.

We spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing, worrying, and arguing about our leadership on a national level. Ultimately, no matter how much research, time and effort we put into casting our individual votes, we don’t pick our government leaders. We expend so much time and emotional energy on the campaign issues (or non-issues) and the election fodder, that we often forget that when all is said and done, the final false promise is made, and the last vote is counted, it is only our Father in Heaven who both counts the votes and ultimately decides who runs our country.

Our relationship with Hashem is characterized in many different ways. One of the most important ways is Hashem as our King. However, this relationship may be lacking because most of us have never experienced the awe and respect one would have for a human king. Not many decades ago, people spoke of the government and its representatives, particularly the president, with respect. In the current climate, there is no expectation of respect for our leadership in the press, media, or in the population at large. While many of our leaders may not seem to be deserving of our respect, it is however, likely that this attitude reflects an overall lack of respect for authority that is prevalent today.

When Paraoh sought an interpretation to his dreams, he summoned Yosef from prison. Despite the great urgency of the matter, Yosef first took a haircut and changed his clothing. Rashi explains that he did so because of kavod hamalchus, the importance of showing respect to the king. Even though the king was corrupt and had incarcerated him, Yosef knew how important it was to show him respect. Ultimately, no matter how many complaints we may have about our government, the freedom that we have today is unprecedented and deserves a show of gratitude. It is easy to criticize and look at all that is wrong, but most of us are too young to appreciate how horrible the alternative can be.

When one sees a king one makes the bracha, Baruch Attah… Melech ha’olom shenasan mik’vodo l’vosor vodom, Blessed are You, G-d, our Lord, King of the Universe, Who gave of His glory to flesh and blood. Leaders might be corrupt and immoral, but it is through the will of our Creator that these individuals were given the power to run our daily lives.

“Lev melachim vesarim be’yad Hashem, the hearts of kings and royalty is in the hands of Hashem.” We daven for the wellbeing of Eretz Yisroel and Jews worldwide. We are concerned when we see injustice in our country, and we receive constant reminders that anti-Semitic sentiment is alive and well. Iran’s nuclear ambition is in our thoughts constantly, and we feel that so much of this is out of our control. We see the lack of kedusha in our society and on our computer screens, and the decay of ethics and morality on our streets. Yet, there are more children studying Torah today, in freedom, than in any other time in history. The battle for the White House has been decided by our Creator, like all other elections. Yes, we most vote and do our hishtadlus (effort), but I would like to suggest that we redirect our time, money, and emotional and physical energy towards Torah and mitzvos and avoid the gossip and frenzy of presidential politics.

Vote and support the candidate that you feel is best. Just remember when you pull the lever in the voting booth that it is Hashem Who is truly really pulling the levers.

About the Author: Rabbi Gil Frieman is the pulpit Rabbi of Jewish Center Nachlat Zion, the home of Ohr Naava. He is certified as a shochet, sofer, and has given lectures in the United States, Canada, and throughout Eretz Yisroel. Rabbi Frieman is currently the American Director of seminaries Darchei Binah, Afikei Torah, and Chochmas Lev in Eretz Yisroel, and teaches in Nefesh High School, Camp Tubby during the summers, and lectures weekly at Ohr Naava. In addition, Rabbi Frieman teaches all tracks in Ateres Naava Seminary. He is a highly anticipated speaker on TorahAnytime.com where he speaks live most Wednesday nights at 9:00pm EST.

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