It’s been a tiring few weeks for all of us. While I know there are still ongoing court battles and we don’t know how these legal cases will be resolved, it seems like Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States. I’m not writing this from a political standpoint, just from how it appears in my shul and throughout our Montana community. Locally, Democrats are disheartened by the total sweep of Montana’s public offices by Republicans, and Republicans are disheartened by the presidential results and its aftermath. While everyone is proclaiming their victory, most people still seem confused and sad on some level.
It’s tough as a shliach, or simply as a Torah Jew, to remain above the fray, but that’s our role. “Anan pa’alei deyemama anan” — we are on a mission of light and we mustn’t ever back down from that. Every religious Jew I know votes, as this is an incredible gift to the American Jew that we haven’t always been privileged to receive, but voting is one thing, and being obsessed politically and becoming so active that our faith shifts slightly from Hashem to a man or woman of flesh and blood is dangerous and, may I say, un-Jewish. I am naturally a political junkie; I grew up in an era when talk-radio was taking off, and my mother would listen to many talk shows while I would eavesdrop. I would even venture to say that following politics has been my sport of choice for over 20 years. However, during this election season, I felt myself getting too involved emotionally — it was getting to my soul and that isn’t OK.
When Hashem said at Matan Torah that we are a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” that didn’t mean that we should be devoted to Rush Limbaugh, no matter how intellectual we may think he is, or that we could miss z’man Krias Shema in the morning because we were up until 5 a.m. watching election results. And we aren’t meant to place our trust in any human being, no matter how amazing we think he or she is and how much we believe that person represents the values of our blessed union. A week ago, I canceled my subscription to our local newspaper, deleted the news apps on my phone, and told Chavie and the kids that I’m taking a much-needed break from this never-ending cycle of news. There are those whose life’s mission is to effect change in Washington, D.C.; their role is to ensure civilization’s continuity, but the role of the Yid is to inspire, uplift, and infuse holiness into our fractured world, and that only happens with the light of Torah and mitzvos.
In this week’s parashah, we read at great length how Avraham Avinu spent time, energy, and resources to purchase a burial plot for his beloved wife, our matriarch Sarah, and also about his incredible efforts to find a match, a healthy shidduch, for his darling son Yitzchak. The trial of Avraham Avinu being thrown into a fiery furnace by Nimrod for sticking to his faith in G-d doesn’t merit a single biblical verse, but the funeral for his wife and shidduch for his son with a cousin up the block in Syria takes up pages and pages of Torah.
I believe this lengthy reading is to enlighten us to see the world from an Avraham perspective. Sure, Avraham could have found a random burial spot for Sarah, or, for that matter, a local moral girl as a wife for Yitzchak, but Avraham was teaching us that everything about the Jew is different. We aren’t regular people who see the world through a conventional lens. We don’t see the world as a conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat; we are Yidden, a goy echad ba’aretz, a unique, one-of-a-kind nation that sees the world from a holy viewpoint and with a deeply embedded natural recognition that everything that happens is directly orchestrated by Hashem.
It doesn’t mean that the world around us will always make us feel at home. It doesn’t mean that things will always turn out as we planned. It doesn’t mean that things can’t be challenging for the Jew along the way — history has proven that Jews can struggle and that those in government can make that struggle even more difficult. What it does mean is that we should always see the world from the Torah’s perspective. The entire process of Yitzchak’s shidduch was done in an unconventional, G-dly way. The world says dating and marriage happens one way, and Avraham, our founder, says it happens in a Jewish way, because the Yitzchaks and Rivkahs of the world need to have the mutuality of both seeing the world as a Yid. We must do the same.
I remember reading the story about the previous Chabad Rebbe, known as the Frierdiker Rebbe, Reb Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson. During the turbulent early years of the 20th century, he was traveling on a train to Leningrad. With him in the car were some aristocrats, clergy, and a group of chassidim. After a while, the discussion became a heated argument. The subject: Ideal systems of government.
At the time, the world was a hotbed of “isms” — socialism, communism, capitalism, pacifism, fascism, etc. This debate, however, examined the issue from a Jewish perspective, each individual presenting various proofs from the Torah pointing to the virtues of a particular approach to government.
When they reached a stalemate, as is the tendency with most debates, the chassidim asked the Rebbe — who was silent until this point — for his opinion. The Rebbe responded: “You are all correct. The Torah is the source of all good in Creation. The positive elements within each of these systems are derived from Torah; their failings stem from the manmade additions to the Torah values.”
I know that in Montana, the Five Towns, and around the country, so many of our fellow citizens are broken and downhearted, and some even feel betrayed; those feelings are bipartisan. It’s OK to have those feelings — some would say it’s natural — but we are Yidden, beholden to Hashem and his Torah and that’s it. We look to the Torah, specifically the weekly parashah, for our guidance and light, and this week in Chayei Sarah we are reminded clearly that everything — from burial to finding a soulmate — is always done in a Jewish way with a Torah view. We are different, and we must always act accordingly.
I once read a quote that said, “Don’t be afraid of being different, be afraid of being the same as everyone else.” How do you vote? I don’t vote like a Republican, I don’t vote like a Democrat, I don’t vote like Mark Levin says I should vote, and I don’t vote like Rachel Maddow instructs me to vote. I vote like a Jew who loves Torah above all and who lets go for Hashem to do the rest.
As Dovid HaMelech says in Tehillim (32): “For him who trusts in the L-rd, kindness will encompass him.”
Rabbi Chaim Bruk is co-CEO of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana and spiritual leader of The Shul of Bozeman. For comments or to partner in our holy work, email email@example.com or visit JewishMontana.com/Donate.