We have weekly article deadlines, and I haven’t been all that good in honoring them lately. However, as much as I tried to write my reflections ahead of time this week, with the way the election was trending I was unable to do that and be relevant at the same time.
My youngest son, Binyamin, has been relentlessly bothering me for a remote-control car that he insists he deserves. I acquiesced to his pressure and ordered it on Amazon a couple of days ago. It was supposed to be delivered by 9 p.m. on Tuesday evening.
He woke up on Tuesday morning and was just ecstatic about the prospect of his car arriving at some point during the day. As the day went on and ultimately gave way to night, I got a notification from Amazon that the delivery was delayed and it would arrive on Wednesday or Thursday, the latest.
I felt crushed for my little boy, or so I thought. After hours of following the election results, when it became clear that the victor of the 2020 election would not be officially confirmed, it hit me that I may not have truly related to his disappointment in not receiving his car — but now I certainly can.
This column is intended to promote the perspective of life from the vantage point of the soul in things both sacrosanct and seemingly mundane. I say seemingly because as the Zohar states with regard to G-d, “Leis asar panui mineih,” there is no place devoid of Him. If there is no place devoid of G-d that is certainly the case in the daily goings-on of our lives. While I may still get to the message emanating from the soul in all this, the very soul of America is at stake as history is being made and the results of the election have been delayed until later today or even later than that.
The last time that an election decision was not called on the night of the election the 2000 face-off between Bush and Gore. That case, decided ultimately by the U.S. Supreme Court, focused on recounting Florida ballots that were not tabulated in the first count. The court decided that to count (or in this case recount) these ballots using a different standard from the rest of the state violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The CDC posted on Sunday that people infected by COVID-19 who should be isolating at home could break their quarantine to go cast their vote. Permitting people to break quarantine restrictions while infected raises a number of questions regarding months of lockdowns and school and business closures.
I was following most of election night with BlazeTV presided over by Glenn Beck, Steve Deace, and Stu Burguiere, along with Chad Prather and some of the other hosts with daily shows on that network. One of the interesting characterizations that they used to describe this current election and the uncanny twists and turns was that this was more a military operation than an election.
I learned from BlazeTV that the moment Biden chose to speak Tuesday night, assuming that it wasn’t just due to his fast-approaching bedtime, was something his campaign had set in place weeks ago, presumably at first to concede a hard-fought election despite the exhortation of Hillary Clinton back in August not to concede on election night under any circumstances.
When the Biden campaign saw that it was a close contest, with many untallied states, despite many of the projections trending towards the incumbent president in significant numbers, the candidate called for patience and to allow the many incomplete states to resume count in the day or even days to come when a victor would be determined.
Trump followed with remarks of his own almost two hours later, more or less saying that he was the winner of the election if not for the fraud that the Democratic Party and its handlers were perpetrating against the American people and the tens of millions who had cast their vote for four more years of the Trump administration.
It truly is astounding. While this has probably been the most contentious election in American history, even without figuring the events of election night, considering what is currently playing itself out before our eyes, we are living through truly historic times.
If there was a verse in Tanach that characterizes what we are currently experiencing on a global level it would be “Maharsayich u’machrivayich mimcha yeitzei’u,” on which the Metzudas Tziyon comments that the source of destruction ravaging our people is not coming from G-d but rather as an insurrection from within our nation itself. Although this verse is referring to our nation, I don’t think it is a stretch to suggest that there are parallels in the world around us, especially here in America.
The Democratic Party, which for many years was viewed as an equal side of American body politics, has grown progressively left and has been steered in the direction that some on the right of center and perhaps even slightly on the left would describe as democratic socialism. People more on the conservative side have said that the Democratic Party is a complete sellout of American politics, looking to replace it with pure socialism.
President Trump’s campaign for a second term in office is a struggle for the soul of America and the liberties upon which this nation was founded. You may have seen the video of an interview on i24 News on Election Day where someone pointed out that the names Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are reminiscent of Amalek. Kamala’s Hebrew name would be spelled kuf, mem, lamed, ayin; Joe’s name would be gimmel vav, possessing the first two letters of Gog, referring to the war of Gog U’Magog, which is said to precede the Messianic era.
While these are mere symbolisms and conjecture without being grounded in true sources, much of the tension surrounding this election leads us to believe that it is consequential, not just on the level of politics but that it will cause a seismic shift in the American way of life.
But there is something about the suspense of this campaign that reminds me of the way Rosh Hashanah is described in the works of Kabbalah and Chassidus.
On Rosh Hashanah we implore G-d to renew His reign over all of existence as we say, “Reign upon the entire world in Your honor and be exalted upon the entire earth in Your splendor.” However, the sefarim write about the durmita and nesira, which is the separation of Adam and Chava, who were created attached from the back. It was preceded by what we might term an anesthetic spell, under which the separation between the two of them occurred. This period that replays itself every year on the eve of the new year is associated with a period of Divine severity wherein there is an outside chance that G-d would decide not to renew His Kingship over the world.
The failure to produce a victor, both in multiple contests for the Israeli prime minister’s office and in this historically suspenseful and tense campaign, fills me with a feeling that there is a great opportunity for us to direct our will towards the return of G-d in His essence upon us and to herald a new, brighter, Messianic era.
On the verse in Parashas Naso, in the series of sacrifices offered by the heads of the shevatim, the verse states: “On the eleventh day the tribe of Asher brought their sacrifice.” The Midrash notes that the names of the shevatim are symbolic of the redemption of the Jewish people and their praise. The name Asher then is an expression of the gentiles’ praise over the Jewish people being a desired land,“eretz cheifetz,” and on account of their praise, as it states: “Ashrei ha’am she’kacha lo, ashrei ha’am sheHashem Elokav.” The Midrash then goes on to say that the only assurance (Ishuran shel Yisrael) is in their choosing G-d over all else and G-d’s choosing of the Jews to be His treasured nation. Therefore, when the tribe of Asher stepped forth to offer their sacrifice they did so on the chosenness of the Jewish people over all of the other nations, as the verse states: “And in you G-d chose to be for Him a treasured nation.” Upon them it is written: “Fortunate are those who are chosen and come close.”
In a ma’amar on this verse in the year 1971, coinciding with the Rebbe’s 69th birthday, he asked a series of questions towards understanding this midrash:
- Initially the midrash said that the assurance of the Jews is their choice of G-d. It would seem then that G-d’s reciprocal choosing of the Jews is superfluous.
- Then the midrash notes independently that the sacrifice of Asher was associated with G-d’s choosing the Jews, which we just noted was superfluous to the main point of the Jews choosing G-d.
- When we talk about choosing between two things it goes without saying that the two things are equal, requiring one to choose equally between the two options. Here, regardless of whether the Jews are choosing G-d above all the gods of the earth, or G-d is choosing the Jews, there is no equality between the two entities that require the need for a choice. Furthermore, with regard to G-d choosing the Jews over the nations, the Alter Rebbe notes in Tanya that G-d chose the body of the Jew, which outwardly looks similar to that of any human being.
This could be understood better based on the verse in Eichah that states, “My portion is with G-d, says my soul.” The Midrash in explaining this verse offers the following parable.
A king comes into a country accompanied by all his interior ministers. One person says, “I want my lot under the duke,” another person asks to be placed under the watch of the iferechen, and yet another under the astrologers. There was one wise person who said, “I would like to be placed under the watch of the king for all the ministers are replaceable but the king isn’t.” So too are the nations of the world: some of them worship the sun, others the moon, and yet others the stars, but the Jewish people only serve G-d alone, as the verse states, “My portion is in G-d, says my soul.”
Elections are a part of life in a democratic society. There are a number of important factors that lead various blocs of voters to cast a vote one way versus another. And while matters like foreign policy, economy, and healthcare are items of great import, ultimately everything that transpires in our lives is in the hands of Hashem. Therefore, the one item that is most consequential for Jews entering into the ballot box is which candidate will enable us to serve G-d in the most optimal way.
This stalemate will come to a resolution, likely having to be decided in the Supreme Court. However, as I am writing this and the election officials are tasked with having to discern if cheating and fraud have transpired in the four hours that we put our heads down to sleep, it’s an opportunity for us to find a sober moment and plead with G-d and say, “M’loch al kol ha’olam kulo bichvodecha” — we need to enter into the role of the smart people that we are and realize that new presidents come and go every four or eight years. We need to set the course of history forever, and that is through electing G-d.
Actress Rose McGowen, who was previously critical of both President Trump and former Vice President Biden, sent a message last night from Mexico: “I stand with all of you in fear tonight. All over the world and tonight, especially in the United States, it will be hard. It is hard, but out of this can be born a new system.”
She continued: “We just have to keep fighting and pushing forward, not in the same cult-like, two-way thinking. This is different, this is bigger. Go with the game-changers, even if someone stirs it up and you hate them, you are reacting and you’re thinking, and you’re feeling, and you’re doing and you’re moving and you’re acting. The action is the most important thing.”
The notion exists that we need to strive for a higher system of living. I believe sometimes that G-d puts words into the mouths of people we would not suspect to arrive at these higher truths and to allow the message to reach the broadest audience possible. The message to us, though, is clear — declare G-d as King and usher in the era of Mashiach leading to a perfected world.