Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Torah Thoughts for Post-Election 2016

Dear Facebook Friends who are celebrating the results of yesterday’s election:

Here are two relevant teachings of our Sages from Pirkei Avot (4:18), written some 1,800 plus years ago. Please read & share with your friends:

“Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar would say: Do not appease your friend at the height of his anger; do not comfort him while his dead still lies before him; do not ask him about his vow the moment he makes it; and do not endeavor to see him at the time of his degradation.

“Shmuel the Small would say: "When your enemy falls, do not rejoice; when he stumbles, let your heart not be gladdened. Lest G‑d see, and it will be displeasing in His eyes, and He will turn His wrath from him [to you]" (Proverbs 24:17-18).”

Here is a link if you’d like to study it in depth:…/…/jewish/Chapter-Four.htm

This election has been unnerving enough. There is no need to taunt or denounce anyone, regardless of whom he or she voted for. It is not helpful.

Here are the obvious directives from the above-mentioned teachings:
  1. Your fellow American who voted for Hillary is probably very angry right now. Respect that.
  2. Don’t try to appease or comfort him. Let him grieve. If he wishes to rant, let him and be quiet.
  3. If she vowed to move to Canada, don’t remind her or ask her about it. Understand that it was hyperbolic.
  4. Do not rejoice over her grief or loss. Just be happy over the election of the candidate you think will be best (or least bad) for the country. No need to revel or gloat on social media in a way that is disparaging to others. Be humble (like Shimon the "Small"). If it helps, try to remember back to 2008 or whenever when your candidate lost, and have some empathy.
  5. Do not say anything to make another person feel bad. Don’t rub it in. This goes for sports too. If you’re a Red Sox fan, for example, don’t taunt or insult a Yankee fan in a way that will really make him feel bad, unless both of you mutually understand that it is in good spirit. The Torah calls this “אונאת דברים.” It is forbidden to hurt another person with your words, spoken or written.

This goes the other way too. The same law also applies to those who are incensed over yesterday’s election results. Grief, anger, despair, regret, etc., is all fine. But please do not disparage other Americans who voted for the winning candidate. They do not necessarily approve of: misogyny, xenophobia, sexual assault, adultery, or anything else their candidate has been accused of. Nor do they even necessarily agree with all his stated policies.

Perhaps she voted for him because she feared the alternative more. Maybe he is a single-issue voter, like a jobless coal-miner in the rust belt, and the only thing that matters to him is his ability to put food on the table. Or maybe she fears a nuclear Iran more than anything else in the whole world, and feels that a misogynist, tax-evading buffoon is preferable to a perhaps-more refined and experienced candidate whom she fears is more likely to tolerate a nuclear Iran. Maybe for her, it’s a matter of life and death. Let’s stop judging each other and stop looking it in terms of US and THEM.

Peace to all. G-d bless America (and Israel too).


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