Come on, let’s go... we need to talk

Torah Reflections on the 2016 US presidential election.

By LAURENCE ROSENTHAL
November 9, 2016 22:04
4 minute read.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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We finally made it. After a brutal election season, we are finally on the other side. God willing we will be rid of all the speeches, debates, tweets, posts and pundits shouting and creating a lot of noise which really just fills the air with nothing more than babble.

As I sit and write this article on Monday, November 7, I have no idea of the outcome of the 2016 national election. Since I already voted a few weeks ago, there really isn’t much more I can do other than worry and pace. So I have chosen to let it go and begin transitioning beyond the election.

This exercise has been freeing but also challenging.

It’s freeing because I now find myself not obsessed with the election coverage.

I stopped reading articles on my social media feed, I am not paying attention to the long, drawn-out news stories about nothing. I hope most of us have discovered from this campaign that the greatest instigator of the hate-filled rhetoric wasn’t the candidates but the media and their need for our attention. News articles about policies, vision and national direction aren’t as interesting apparently as email servers, twitter accounts, violence and sex. If we are to be really honest, the fault lies with us and not even the media. They didn’t force us to open and read those blogs and share those posts. We did that all by ourselves.

So as I have moved my attention away from the toilet bowl of social commentary and more toward what lies ahead, I received a very interesting perspective from our weekly cycle of Torah reading.

I was struck by the contrast between the tone and tenor of last week’s Torah portion (Noah) and this week’s (Lech Lecha).

Of course the election comes sandwiched between these two epic tales from our spiritual tradition and there is much to glean if we look close enough. What was so surprising wasn’t the messages of the story but God’s apparent temperament in each of the stories. Since temperament has been an issue in this election, it might be time for us to look to God for some sort of guidance.

Before the election, we read about Noah, a righteous individual whom we are told walked with God. The world has become corrupt and evil and Noah is charged with building a massive vessel to save himself, his family and a representative sample of all of nature to weather the storm and rebuild after the massive destruction. If we listened to the rhetoric of this election season, the tone of last week’s Torah portion seems about right. And where was God in all this? God was the instigator, the agitator and a main actor in Noah’s tale.

After reviewing the state of the union, God determined that the world isn’t worth saving and the only way to create a great society is to destroy it first. Can you imagine that knock on your door? How would you respond? Probably like a chicken with its head cut off, running from room to room, gathering your clothing. With pants on backwards, mismatched socks, only one shoe and no glasses, you stumble out the front door trying to catch up with God.

Juxtapose that with this week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha. We begin with God’s first encounter with Abram (who later will have his name changed to Abraham), and the tone is completely different. Go, God tells Abram, leave your home and your family and go to a place that I will show you. God’s tone is completely different.

Come, Abram, let’s go for a walk... we need to talk.

One story begins with panic and the other story begins with calm. One story ends in destruction and intoxication (read Parshat Noah if you don’t know what I am talking about) and the other ends... well, it hasn’t ended yet. The story of Abraham continues to this day, though it started very simply.

This election season has been all Noah.

All destruction, chaos, hate, fear, noise and a lot of... well, let’s just say animal excrement. What will November 9 look like, or the day after that? Our country will emerge from the ark and we will need to rebuild. Not institutions, but what it means to be and act like an American.

To truly be one country, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. On the days after the election, each of us needs to reach out to our neighbor, our family, our co-worker, the “friends” that you unfriended on Facebook, and speak these holy words: come on, let’s go for a walk... we need to talk.

The author is associate rabbi at Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a native of Los Angeles, California and is currently in his 9th year serving the Atlanta Jewish community. He and his wife, Brooke, have four children. He can be reached at lrosenthal@ aasynagogue.org.

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