Politics & Parsha: Bechukotai 5771

Posted on May 20, 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.

Bechukotai 5771: Balancing on a Pedestal

Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book. — Ronald Reagan

This week, we take a detour into the perek. Pirkei Avot, or Ethics of the Fathers, is a talmudic tract filled with ethical imperatives and it is traditionally learned each Sabbath following Passover. This week, the fourth chapter offers the following dire warning: if you desecrate G-d’s name you will be punished severely, and that is whether the desecration took place in private or full public view – and more ominously – whether it is maliciously done, on purpose or if it was in error, by accident.

We never know the full damage our actions cause (or for that matter, on the positive side, the full measure of beneficial impact our actions create). Moses hit a rock and lost, forever, his chance at entering the Promised Land. Judah admitted he was wrong and merited kingship for his posterity, for eternity.

Elected officials and candidates know this perhaps too well. People who are held to a higher standard both inspire more and disappoint more painfully. If you have a public trust – whether as a politician, a policeman, teacher or the like, you are held to that standard partly because you’re on the public payroll, but equally, because you’re on the public pedestal.

But as the rabbis remind us this week – even in private – we are on someone’s pedestal. In our communities, our homes and our offices, the way we act impacts everyone we know and everything we do.

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