December 11, 2023 /
I’ll be honest with you, there will be a lot of forces in our country that’ll be trying to pull us apart this November. This election has been one of the most vicious cycles that I can remember and I’m sure many of us will be following the news closely and anxiously to find out who will win this contentious election. For those of you who attended my October Rabbi’s Forum, you know that our tradition views voting to be a mitzvah. And when I write “mitzvah” I mean it not in the figurative sense of a “good deed” but rather in its literal translation of a “commandment.” As we examined on that Shabbat morning, it is not just a Reform interpretation, but major rabbinic authorities from every denomination of Judaism agree with the interpretation that no matter how you vote, voting is not only a moral imperative, but a religious one as well.
One of the reasons why our sages declare that voting is a religious obligation is that voting is supposed to help regulate order in society. Voting ensures a covenantal relationship between God and government by electing a government that maintains the values that we as Jews aspire to. For me, one of the most important virtues that we are to aspire to is that of Shalom. Shalom is often translated as “peace.” I, however, prefer a different translation because sometimes “peace” connotes an idea of “same-ism.” Shalom really means “harmony.” Having shalom means that we should all be able to live together in harmony – all of our different viewpoints, political identities, ethnicities and backgrounds – honored and respected.
Hopefully, by the time you read this the election will be over or at least near its completion (even if a winner is not declared for some time). And in the intervening time between the election’s conclusion and the determination of a winner, there will be plenty of infighting and bickering that will drive us all to the verge. Instead of letting it do that to us, I would like to recommend something else… find ways to unite instead.
Here is one possibility for you:
For years there has been a group of clergy that come together to provide an interfaith service for Thanksgiving. Other than that, there was not much that bound us all together. That changed during COVID-19. This summer we started meeting on a weekly basis. Muslim, Christians and Jews, uniting to help support New Brunswick. We even adopted an official name: The New Brunswick Interfaith Alliance and you can find more information about us at www.NBinterfaith.com (because you aren’t an official organization until you have a website). This Thanksgiving we will focus on the theme of “Coming Together” or as I would like to put it, “Shalom.” We will be releasing the service on Tuesday, November 24th at 7:30 pm on our Facebook and YouTube channels and I hope that you will join us as a way for you to declare that the forces that pull us together are stronger than the forces that pull us apart.
Philip N. Bazeley