Op-Ed: A Few Days Before Election, a Rabbi’s Reflection

Let’s face it, we’re smack in the middle of a time where we need to make some tough choices.

The decisions we will make in the coming days may be some of the most consequential of our lifetime.

So much is at stake, and we need to be the ones to make the right decision for this moment, whilst recognizing the reality of the impact our decisions might have for years to come.

Further, we know those choices aren’t easy. Americans just like you and me are grappling with these tough calls right now, and are sitting at home poring over research, wondering whom do I vote for. It is not just the presidency, but also many other local and non-local races.

Such anxiety, angst and worry…

I asked myself what helpful advice can I offer as a Rabbi without getting into the very muddy and turbulent waters of politics. Truth be told, no Rabbi should ever tell you for whom you must vote, as it is simply unfair. While you may have read that this group of Rabbis support Trump for President and this group of Rabbis endorse Biden, it is wrong, plain and simple. If we have learned nothing else from this pandemic, it is humility. Look how little we know about the coronavirus, let alone anything else. While I will always defer to great Rabbis, I do not want them to tell me who to vote for as it takes away my free will, which was given to me as a gift from above.

I readily admit that I am somewhat guilty of the above. While I have never told anyone who to vote for, I have been outspoken unnecessarily on politics. What I mean by “unnecessarily” is offering my opinion on something political, like who is moral and who is immoral, and who will go down in history as a good or horrible politician. I have learned to keep my opinion to myself.

Having said the above, I will always stand up to anti-Semitism. I will go toe to toe with a member of congress, governor or even a president, and I will do so vociferously. I know (not just think) that we have to be constantly vigilant when it comes to anti-Semitism.

So what advice, counsel, guidance and direction can I offer you that will be helpful and take away some of the torment we are all going through?

Among the founding principles in Judaism are Emunah (faith) and Bitachon (trust). To distinguish between the two, Emunah is that there is a God and He forges my destiny and fate. No human being, even an extremely powerful one, can change what God has decreed for me. While it is true that I have free will, this is only in moral decisions that I make.

Bitachon means trust. God wants what is good for me. While I am responsible to be proactive and hands on, I am not in charge of the outcome and I definitely am not the arbitrator of the results. While I do my part and I go to work, I rely and trust heavily on God. In the words of the Psalmist, “I cast my burdens and place it on God.”

Therefore, when I vote on Election Day (or before), I am doing my part, but I will completely put my trust, faith, hope and reliance on God. The obvious question that comes to mind is if God is in control then why even bother to vote. The answer to this leads me into another great principle of Judaism. One cannot simply go about life asking God to take care of them without effort from the individual. One cannot expect to win the lottery if one does not buy a lottery ticket. We have to do our part. We must vote and then let God do His part.

In these final few days before the election, I ask you to not only go vote but also be humble. Respect someone else’s point of view even if it is baffling and feels wrong. I also ask you to pray for the best outcome for our country.

In conclusion, regardless of the outcome of your decision making process and the results of the election, I very much hope to be able to share many good times together with you in the future days where Covid is a distant, yet sore, memory.

Wishing you the very best of luck in all the tough choices you need to make.

Rabbi Yakov Saacks, The Chai Center, Dix Hills, NY

Republished with permisson

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