"Judaism and the Elections" For years I have avoided discussing politics from the bima, but this year is different. I can no longer remain silent. We must listen to the words of our tradition. We must allow Judaism to speak to the issues of our day. If Judaism is only about Torah portions and candle lighting times then it will become irrelevant. It must speak to our country's greatest problems. In addition to the economy there are four issues that most concern me.
1) The State of Israel. I worry about Israel's security. I worry about the dangers of Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Authority. Nonetheless I will not be thinking about Israel on November 4th. Here is why. It is not good for Israel and it is not good for American Jews to portray Israel as a needy, younger sister. Israel is not the perennial victim. It is a strong, vibrant country. It is a country I deeply love. The idea of Zionism is that the Jewish people will write its own history in a country of its own. That is what it means to have a Jewish State. When I vote I must think first of the problems here not there.
2) Medical Issues. It is deeply troubling that one in six Americans does not have adequate health care. It is also deeply troubling that others wish to push on others their religious definition of the beginning of life. My religion tells me something different. Judaism teaches that the fetus is holy but not of the same moral value as the mother's. When there is a conflict between the two Judaism chooses the mother's life. Regarding stem cells I do not understand how some cannot make the moral distinction between a few cells and that of a living person. While again these cells are holy they are not of the same value. Judaism values pikuah nefesh--the saving of a life and we should do everything in our power to save life.
3) The Wars. We had every moral right to attack and invade Afghanistan. It was from there that the 9-11 attacks were planned. But how is it that we allowed bin Laden to escape to Pakistan? Regarding the war in Iraq that I once supported I offer this confession. I was wrong because it distracted us from our primary moral objective: the destruction of Al Qaeda. I was wrong because there we allowed torture and the subversion of the rule of law to take root. Adding Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo to the Arab lexicon has undermined our moral authority.
4) The Environment. The issue about which I most concerned is the environment. Judaism teaches that we are custodians of this God given world. I believe the science is irrefutable. We are destroying our world. We need to wean ourselves off of Arab oil because it is destroying the environment and it is feeding our enemies hatred. I fail to understand how we can fight wars against enemies supported by these Arab oil dollars. We should build alternative energy plants and design better, more fuel efficient cars. (For more information about Judaism and the environment, visit: COEJL.) We must do this for the sake of our children and grandchildren. This is our only world!