By definition elections are a divisive time. People are asked to decide between options, inevitably choosing what they think is the best of alternatives, while negating others. Thus, one would naively think that once the polls are closed, and a clear winner has been decided, such divisiveness would be behind us for [hopefully] four years, opening a good chunk of time of more unity than disunity.
Yet, reality dictates otherwise.
This week, a rabbinic colleague sent me a video advertisement, calling for a mass “thanksgiving prayer”, thanking G-d for the [perceived positive] results, asking that I publicize it. I responded that while thanking G-d privately is always positive, all the more so when you THINK that it’s a good thing, publicly doing so would hurt the feelings of community members that voted for parties that didn’t come out on top.
But beyond it, I said, the advertisement started with the words “As the Jewish people in Israel VOTED FOR G-D AND HIS TORAH“…implying that those that voted for the losing parties voted AGAINST G-d and his Torah.
His reply astounded me: “Indeed! Those that voted for those parties voted against
G-d and his Torah”, he said in decisive, matter of fact tone.
My astonishment didn’t just stem from the fact that he said this about many thousands of G-d fearing religious Jews, calling into question their level of religiosity due to a political choice in the ballot box. Beyond it, it also bothered me that he believes strongly that their choice [unlike his own] didn’t emenate from the VERY SAME concern he has for the future of Israel, Torah and their mutual amalgamation as one.
But above all, it actually stunned me for another reason that I wanted to shout out in dismay: HOW DO YOU KNOW?!
How can one say for sure that the future will be positive for “G-d and his Torah” when the Government hasn’t yet governed for even one day? Has there not been endless historic examples of parties and governments that brought the opposite of good to the Jewish people despite their campaign promises? And more specifically, has our history not had examples of rabbis that erred in guessing the future, from those definitively telling their congregants and followers not to leave Europe on the eve of WW2, to “not one rocket will be fired from former Gush Katif into Israel” voting favorably to deport the Jews from Gaza?
R’ Soloveitchik famously stated [in his masterful “Kol Dodi Dofek”, delivered on the eighth Independence Day of Israel], that, unlike when deciding Jewish law, when it comes to reality and political decisions, one must constantly be attuned to the “voice of G-d” in history. Unlike the divine Torah that never changes, reality is constantly in flux, and not all that was true yesterday will continue tommorow.
I would humbly add that this must be the reason why Jewish tradition has always been to call a great rabbinic leader a Talmid Chacham/a wise STUDENT- as he is indeed wise, his wisdom dictates that he continues to be a Talmid/a student learning the new reality and deciding what is the best course of action.
If anything, this advertisement and rabbi should have said “I THINK THIS IS A GREAT THING”, calling for a gathering to pray for the hopeful future success of the new government, as opposed to already determining that it will be. Supplementing “I think” for “I know” is not just a world of a difference in terms, but rather good advise for when you may be wrong, let alone far less divisive.
We can hope & daven for a wonderful future, as well as thank G-d for positive events that have already occurred. But we should be extremely reluctant to thank G-d for what hasn’t yet happened, let alone DETERMINE THE FUTURE in an era void of prophecy.
As the Rambam codifies [Hilchot Melachim 12/2] regarding when and what will be in the times of Mashiach “One should not try to determine the appointed time for Mashiach’s coming. …. Rather, one should await and believe in the general conception of the matter”. In the words of the great R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky;’ “Those that say, don’t know”!