Politics & Parsha: Chukat 5771

Posted on June 30, 2011 In Archives

Politics & Parsha: “Shul Politics Like Never Before”

Each week IPA Deputy Director of Public Policy 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.

Chukat 5771: Taken Under Advisement

“I know the difference between giving advice & taking orders. You’ve had my advice, & now it’s time for orders.” – Trumpkin, Prince Caspian

You’d think after the debacle with the spies and the follow up coup attempt by Korach and then the resultant plague, G-d might be ready to offer the Jewish people an olive branch – a softball. Instead, we get the parah adumah, the red heifer.

This is the ultimate Biblical & Talmudic example of a chok, a commandment without rhyme, reason or logic. (Yes, some attempt to provide some explanation – the cow is the “parent” cleaning up the mess left by its kid, the Golden Calf. But if so, why is it red?  Shouldn’t it be gold?  Even still, how this sacrifice purifies those in need is unknowable to us humans; it is a religious rule that we must accept if we believe.)

One lesson for us all of the parah adumah is that of CS Lewis’ dwarf.  There are times to debate and challenge. But when leadership makes the final decision, the only choice for any servant worth their name is to accept (even if they disagree with it) and give their all to executing it flawlessly.  Korach had time to challenge. But G-d made his choice.  And He chose Moses and Aaron.  Patriotism to the nation of Israel and subservience to its G-d required of Korach that he swallow his pride – and his convictions even – and support the Almighty’s choice.

Candidates for office must always fight to win and then, whether it’s a primary or general election, one (or more) of them will lose.  And the loser needs to support the winner.  Not begrudgingly, but wholeheartedly.  (That doesn’t mean always agreeing on policy, on specific votes or on decisions made.)

Elected officials and their staffs must learn to fight for principles but also, in the legislative system we live under, compromise on the possible (I’m reasonably certain the extreme of neither party is looking to take us back to the days of unlimited monarchy).  Voting for a bill you don’t love but has elements that you fought for isn’t being a turncoat.

So in our own lives; at work, in our communities and personal relationships, there’s time for advice and there’s time to step back.  Even when we’re sure the other is mistaken.  Parents must do this with children, friends with their peers and managers with subordinates.  Similarly, staff must give the best advice and their most professional opinions to their bosses; children need to be honest with parents and friends ought to critique friends.  But they must also know when to step back once the decision’s made.

People make a decision, and then it is theirs to succeed or fail by.

Words to consider, ideas to ponder — politics & the parsha.