Politics & Parsha: “Shul Politics Like Never Before”
Each week, Former 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 prophesizes a “choose your own adventure” for the Jewish people. Do good, do right, serve G-d and all manner of worldly and spiritual gifts are yours, not least prosperity AND security. Don’t serve the Lord and punishment awaits the nation as a whole and individuals within it. Moses, and the Almighty, use fairly specific language to describe how consequences of bad behavior arrive. G-d says, I will hide my face from them. I will Myself not see the damage, destruction and persecution.
Readers used to my citing certain trilogies may be surprised at this one: Dave Pelzer wrote a trilogy of nonfiction works describing his experiences as the worst case of child abuse in California history through his salvation by caring educators, foster parents and eventually, his successful enlistment in the US Air Force. His first book, A Child Called It, chronicles (without spoilers those who haven’t read it yet) how his mother became abusive, stopped feeding him, clothing him and even refused to call him by name, but rather she re-christened him It.
Benign neglect is one thing. Politically and philosophically, there are valid arguments to both sides: government intervention vs. free market; military intervention vs. standing down, and more. In the lives of children and families and communities, the same arguments can be made – do kids need an (over)involved parent or one who lets kids learn on their own? What’s the best teaching style? How do communities grow best – with a master plan or naturally? (To paraphrase Solomon the Wise & Maimonides, there’s probably a time for everything and often the golden mean works best.)
But active neglect – even without physical or emotional abuse – is another matter altogether. History bears sad witness to what happens when government willfully – at times maliciously – ignores whole sectors of society. (It also bears equally sad witness to government’s hyper-attentiveness.)
There is no greater punishment from on High than willful neglect. That is one lesson of the Song of Moses. And as we read Ha’azinu on Shabbat Shuva, the Sabbath of Repentance in the midst of the Days of Awe, one matter we must all think how we can do better is attending to those who require – or expect – our gaze.
Are there parts of cities or towns our elected officials aren’t paying enough attention to? Are there segments of the community our clergy or other communal leadership are ignoring? Are we there in the right way for our own family and friends? Ourselves? And, as Ha’azinu warns, for G-d Himself?
Words to consider, ideas to ponder — politics & the parsha
With best wishes for a ksiva vchasima tova, and a good year filled with the blessings in this week’s Torah portion to all.