By Rabbi Michael Whitman
“Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics.” Charles Peguy
Our community is blessed with the drive to Tikkun Olam (making the world a better place). And we all have opinions how to achieve that. The key is to bring those ideals to reality, to transform mysticism into politics.
This imperative has a distinguished Jewish pedigree. Over 2500 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah quotes God, “Seek the welfare of the country where I have sent you; pray to the Lord for it, for your welfare depends on its welfare.”
The second half of this verse is followed today in many synagogues, which include a Prayer for the Government in their weekly Shabbat service. But the first half requires more than prayer – it requires involvement, engagement. Democratic society is always enhanced by more participation, never by less.
We are blessed in Canada to live in a country that values multiculturalism, religious freedom, and human rights. But that blessing comes with the responsibility to participate – in elections (which Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and other modern rabbinic sages consider a Mitzvah), in volunteering, in campaigns, and in reaching out to government officials to share our perspective.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, gives us an important perspective on participating in our political process, beyond fostering our own needs: “There are those who erroneously think that world peace will only come from a common character of opinions. But no – true peace will come to the world precisely by multiplication of all the opinions and perspective. Peace is the unification of all opposites. But there must be opposites.”
Every one of us has a unique perspective, on many issues, and the involvement of each of us benefits all of us.
Lastly, our involvement in the political process should lead us to feel gratitude for those who serve – elected and appointed officials who work hard on our behalf. And above all, our veterans and members of the armed forces who put their lives in danger for the values our democracy upholds.
A wise man wrote, “A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check payable to ‘Every Resident of Canada’ for the amount of ‘up to and including my life.’” The least we can do, to honour their service, is to participate.
Rabbi Michael Whitman serves at The ADATH congregation in Hampstead, Quebec.