Politics & Parsha: “Shul Politics Like Never Before”
Each week IPA Director of State Affairs Howie Beigelman takes a look at the weekly parsha and discusses it in a way you may never have seen. Any hashkafic, halachic or political opinions are personal and do not reflect the official psak or policy of the OU.
Moses begins his – and perhaps history’s first – farewell address. And he
does two very crucial things. First, he reminds the people of all that has
occurred to them since G-d made a small request of Abram (not small as
defined by Seinfeld who notes, “small pause, small favor, long pause, big
favor”). He also tells Israel that on the next stage of their national
journey, Joshua and Elazar will be leading them.
Israel, encamped near the Jordan must have been in near panic. Their leader
– and conduit to the Divine – through ten plagues, a sea split, Revelation,
and 40 years of travels and travails was about to die. They were expected to
conquer a land filled with hostile enemies. And Moses would be gone.
What Moses does is remind the Jewish people that the Almighty has always
been with them and that while he will not be at their head, his star pupil
will be. And Aaron is gone but his son is m’maleh makom for him.
These are two crucial lessons for elected officials – and for the Jewish
people who always read this portion prior to Tisha b’Av, the national day of
Jewish mourning commemorating the destruction of both Temples, the Diaspora
and all the subsequent horrors from Crusades to Inquisition to Holocaust.
The first lesson is that the Jewish people have a destiny due to their
history and they must never forget that. As harsh and as hard as life is –
pogrom, persecution and peril notwithstanding – they must remember G-d has a
role for them. A role they must play.
They also must learn that while Moses is gone, he has not left them alone.
Before he left he implored – and ensured – that there be a leader who can,
and will, lead them on to salvation and victory.
This then, is the dual task of every leader: in government, in community, in
family: to provide a backdrop and a background to current events, to
consider that what has occurred and is occurring has a reason, a purpose. To
tell the people, perhaps as then prime minister of the UK, Tony Blair told
an America that this is their time, their battle, their opportunity.
But beyond that, to assure and ensure. To ensure that there is a leader able
to lead the people to their goal after you are gone. And to assure the
people – and their leader – that they will reach their goal.
Leaders – or retiring leaders – do this by reminding a people of their
history and by instilling courage – or at least, respect – among the people.
Moses did this. And every leader since who is worth their name has also done
Words to consider, ideas to ponder — politics & the parsha.