Politics & Parsha: Vaetchanan 5771

Posted on August 11, 2011 In Archives

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.


Questionable Actions

 Moses, the Jewish tradition teaches, really, really wanted to enter Israel.  He asked G-d for pardon, begged Him for mercy and pleaded for compassion.  In fact, tradition teaches, Moses utilized every type of prayer.  In fact, he was about to pull out his trump card, the nuclear option.

At Sinai, tradition holds, Moses was taught many secrets by the angels.  One was that if he would ever pray for something using a double please, he could not be refused.  That was how Miriam was cured of her disease – Moses formulates his prayer as “Please G-d, please heal her.”  And so it was.

But Moses only gets to one “please” this time.  Before he can get to the second, G-d orders him to cease and desist.  Now, Moses knows if he says it again,  the Almighty will need to give in.  But he doesn’t.  He accepts the Divine verdict and dies without ever entering Israel.

There are two lessons here – for legislators, executives, and as well for average citizens.

One is that we can’t give up.  We need to try different ways of approaching a problem.  Sometimes in law and policy, language matters.  An elected official may not support legislation crafted in one way.  But change some of the words and it may work.  Moses tried every which way to get to yes.  He tried every way to find what would work for Heaven.

We need to do that in our policy debates and in our own personal lives.

The second lesson is that we may have a nuclear option but the decision to use it or stand down is always ours.  Moses knew he could force G-d’s hand, could force the yes.  But at what cost to him,to his relationship with the Divine and most importantly, to the Divine plan for history?

G-d told Moses no.  Because it wasn’t going to help Israel anymore.  Moses, if he truly was serving G-d and Israel instead of himself, needed to serve in a way he disagreed with.  He needed to give up and give in, even if he knew he could win.

This is especially so for us in international relations, but sadly, increasingly in our national and state political debates.  And what is true at the high end, filters down to communities and families.  We need to decide who we “serve” and why.  As well, at what cost victory.

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