I am not ambivalent. I don't think anyone is, or can be. My orientation to this intense political drama is not resultant from a lack of thought or opinions. I, just like you, have opinions. Some of them are even strong opinions.
Why don't I care who you vote for? It's an Avoda. Every day I am attempting to live a dialectic - a bifurcation of sorts. Of course, there is the famous and well explored dialectic of separating between a person and their thoughts/actions. This distinction was crystallized by Bruria, the wife of Rebbe Meir who admonished her husband that Hashem does not want to see the demise of sinners, but of sins. We could all stand to do some more work in this arena.
But even invoking the "sin vs sinner" conversation is a branding of sorts that I'd like to avoid. It's a "looking down from my pedestal" approach. And in the heat of our current political brouhaha, I think you'd agree that it is unhelpful.
Instead, the dialectic I wish to explore is a little more nuanced, and less understood. It's the point of conflict between Torah and Tefillah.
Chazal (מסכת מגילה) tell us that a person may not approach Hashem with the claim: "You had mercy and commanded us to send away the mother bird, so too You should have mercy on us." The Talmud challenges: "Why not?!" Ostensibly, it's a good Tefilah. The Talmud answers: "One is explaining Hashem's laws as mercy, and they are simply decrees."
The Rishonim are intensely bothered by this answer. Especially considering that a considerable portion of Rabbinic writing is an attempt to understand Hashem's rationale behind the mitzvos. Indeed, Targum Yonasan, Rambam and Ramban all write that the Mitzvah of Sending Away the Mother bird is to express and/or educate mercy! The Ramban resolves the discrepancy by explaining that we do not follow the opinion of the Talmud in Megillah, and that suggesting explanations for the Mitzvos of Hashem is perfectly allowed!
The Mei HaShiloach (פרשת אמור), however, attempts to resolve the conundrum by making a fascinating and instructive observation: There is a stark difference between Torah and Tefillah. The job of a Jew in the Beis HaMedrash is to make every attempt to understand the reasons and rationales for Hashem's Mitzvos. We are invited, or even obligated, to use every shred of intellect to plum the depths of Ratzon Hashem and extract meaning, learning, and significance. The purpose of our God given intellect is to amass information and filter it through the prism of our unique perspectives. With enough time, thought, intellectual honesty, conversation and rigor, eventually we arrive at a well thought out conclusion.
But this is not true in Shul. When we approach Hashem in Tefillah, we need to resign our desire to explain and understand. Standing before the Master of All Worlds, it is not the height of audacity to claim "I know why You told me to do this mitzvah?" In the presence of Hashem, I am not a lawyer. I am not a chavrusa. I have no right to speak. This is why we begin our Shmonah Esrei with ה׳ שפתי תפתח - "Hashem open my lips..." If You don't, I cannot even start.
Essentially, the Avoda of Tefillah is to turn to Hashem and say: "I don't know why the world is the way it is. I don't know why You want it this way. But I know that without You nothing is possible." It's the epitome of humility. To know that everything I have worked and struggled to understand and develop, is barely a detail of a detail in the Infinity of the Mind of God. And yet, He gives me the opportunity to speak to Him. That's pretty cool. And it's something I should appreciate and learn from.
The Beis Yaakov (ריש פ׳ בראשית) explains that this perspective is ingrained in our weekly observance of Shabbos. It's a day that we remove our own creative capacity and focus on the reality the Hashem can - and does - run the world without us.
It is this dialectic, this dichotomy that I think is most instructive and constructive in the heat of our politically changed world. Put simply: If man plans and God laughs, then to be Godly is to laugh at our own plans as well.
Most laughable, of course, is the insanity of trying to sum up the entirety of another person based on a single variable.
We need to be able to balance our best intellectual rigor with the ability to laugh at ourselves. Of course, we need to be able to develop deep thoughts and profound opinions, but then we check them in at sunset on Friday afternoon. And every time we enter into a Shul or open a siddur.
In the intimate world of Tefillah and Shabbos, Hashem can bring health, happiness, redemption, security, success and prosperity in a myriad of ways, both red and blue. The inability to concede to that point is heresy.
Does that mean that I can't daven for the success of my candidate? Of course not! A Jew can ask Hashem for anything. But here's my personal attempt at formulating and articulating a Tefillah with humility:
Master of the Universe, our world is confusing, and many things seem to be at stake. From all that I have learned and understood, I think that the greatest Kiddush Hashem would be if candidate (X) wins the election. Please help that be so.
But You know everything. And I am limited and susceptible to all sorts of influences.
I might well be completely misreading and misunderstanding the world before my eyes. So, Master of the Universe, please help me. Help me to understand what You want from me, what You want from us. Help me to be a source of Bracha and Simcha in the world. Help me to listen with an open mind and open heart to those who agree and disagree with me. Help me to control my frustrations, and help me to avoid labeling people accordingly to an arbitrary and blunt binary. Help me to see the beauty and nuance of everyone I encounter, and help me to learn from them. Please help me to see Your Great Hand as You direct history towards the Geulah speedily in our days.
Ribono Shel Olam, as the people of the USA prepare to vote, please help me to vote for Torah and Mitzvos and Klal Yisrael and the Safety and Security of the State of Israel. Please help me to vote for Chessed and Charity and Kindness and Ahavas Chinam. Avinu Malkeinu, please help me to vote for You. And please keeping voting for me.
10/20/2022 06:31:02 am
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