I don’t know if it is any different where you live, but over here the airwaves are crammed with the dizzying spin of candidates flattering themselves as though they will somehow miraculously protect our nation from our enemies, from ourselves, and unify the country. In the next breath they gleefully point out just how horrible their opponent would be if elected.
What has happened to politics these days? And more concerning, why do we put up with it and even join in the unproductive squabbling? It feels like we have all joined some kind of communal reality show in which we are given free rein to let out our despair, hopelessness and angry cynicism at the world, at one another, and everything else that upsets us.
It is almost as though these political “parties” deflect our attention away from addressing our real needs. Politicians don’t even bother anymore to offer an honest assessment of our defense needs, overcrowded school schoolrooms, hospitals and highways. And why should they when we just keep posting our concerns on social media thinking we’re making a difference. We no longer notice that our brave young people who risk their lives to protect us can’t find a good job or earn enough to buy an apartment. I have yet to hear a single Israeli politician address the failing stock market or the rising prices in any of their neon campaigns. We may not be on mute, but we have been silenced.
What happened to us?
Why do we allow politicians to hide behind petty deceptions and small-minded cliques? I am not entirely sure, but Moses already insisted a long time ago that it is our responsibility to set the wheels of justice in the land in proper motion. “Choose wisely who among you could be a worthy leader,” he commanded.
In ancient Israel, the people appointed for themselves judges and magistrates for each tribe and in every city, and pointed out that it is our responsibility to choose with care those who can provide godly and righteous leadership (Deut. 16). Back in those days of civilizations led by a king and the strong arm of his military might, Moses’ idea sounded ridiculous. Give the power to the people to choose their leaders? Impossible and foolish.
Yet today we say that government should be “for the people, by the people,” but in our modern political marketing it sounds just as foolish and impossible as it did back then. Only now we have been subdued by the very same wealthy overseers (on both sides) aware that they don’t know how to fix our problems, so they keep us in the dark of what’s really going on. And frankly, we don’t seem to mind that much.
But there it is, my friends, inscribed for all eternity, as clear as day, that we are responsible to choose our leaders, those who can demonstrate sound moral character and who are known to “judge the people fairly.”
Where do we find these good men and women?
I am still looking. But while meditating on these things and on who I should vote for, I noticed a caution in verse 19: “You shall not pervert judgement.” When I first read this I thought it spoke to our leaders who must have integrity and judge fairly (with grace and truth). But I noticed that this warning is directed to us, not to the politicians, but the people who choose our officials. It seems that when we fail to appoint proper leadership, we too are responsible for the bad governments to which we have appointed our representative to serve.
This sobering truth ought to stir deep reflection as we consider who we support and why.
The root of the problem
In the final verse of Deut. 16, the Israelites are admonished not to plant an “idolatrous tree” or Asherah pole. The rabbis asked what an idolatrous tree has to do with the warning to be careful about who we appoint to lead. Rabbi Nachman teaches that a corrupt judge is one who is easily influenced by public opinion, just as a tree bends and sways to the whim of the wind. And, according to the teachings of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, though it may look much like all others from the outside, the corrupt leader, like the idolatrous tree, is rotten to its core.
We can’t always see the immorality, injustice or corruption from the exterior of a person, nor from the beautiful leaves of a tree, but over time it will become evident, though by then it is too late.
Amongst the mumble jumble of today’s election scramble, I suggest to all of us who are facing elections to turn off the chatter, ignore the ads, and spend time reading scripture to help focus our minds on what really matters. And pray that God grant us an understanding heart, a perspective that cares for the poor and needy, and compassion for our leaders who have failed but can admit their shortcomings.
For us, we try to choose someone who has proven over time through actions that he or she is a true believer in Zionism and the unique place of Israel in God’s heart.
Please pray with us for God’s grace for Israel, and for His people, on this special day.
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