Days of repentance

With Rosh Hashanah over and Yom Kippur on the horizon – we are now in the period known as the Ten Days of Repentance.

Man with shofar at Western Wall, September 4, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Man with shofar at Western Wall, September 4, 2018
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
For more than nine months we’ve been in election mode. It has been one long, ugly political campaign that saw every party pick the other apart, every individual slam his or her opponent and the dirtiest of gossip turn into fair game.
It has been this way since December, when Israel first went to elections and it has been highlighted by the sin called lashon harah, the halachic term for evil tongue, evil talk, or simply, derogatory speech.
With Rosh Hashanah over and Yom Kippur on the horizon – we are now in the period known as the Ten Days of Repentance – now is a good opportunity to think about the type of political rhetoric we want in this country.
Everyone in politics is quick to engage in lashon harah and quick to use derogatory terms to describe an opponent. But it doesn’t have to be this way – running for the Knesset shouldn’t mean you have to trash someone else to put yourself higher. You don’t need to trash someone else.
Moreover, you don’t have to run a divisive campaign and then talk about unity. What about running a campaign about unity?
What about running a campaign that isn’t about dismissing or negating the other, but is about coming together and healing as a nation?
We should always be talking about unity, both as a people and a parliament.
It’s who we are and who we want the Knesset to reflect.
To all our politicians: stop the lashon harah, stop being divisive. It’s negative, it’s ugly. The people are sick of it.
Yet, to be truthful, it’s not just the politicians – what applies to them also applies to society as a whole. We as a people, and as individuals, need to start talking nicer about people, and to people. We have to calm down.
We need to be better people – behave better, be more courteous on the streets. We need to help more, stop what we’re doing and ease the lives of others.
Take driving for example: when someone is trying to merge lanes, trying to make a “k” turn – let them in, let them finish. When you see someone waiting at a cross walk, stop and then let them go. When you are waiting in line at the supermarket, it doesn’t have to look like a bar brawl. People can stand together calmly and courteously.
It plays out at our children’s schools and in our hospitals. Kids curse their teachers and patients attack their nurses and doctors. This is not the Jewish way. This is not who we are meant to be.
We need to come together as a society during the whole year as we come together during these High Holy Days. Before Yom Kippur starts, we say, “We permit ourselves to pray with the sinners.” To the Right that means the Left, to the Left that means the Right, to the very secular that means the religious, to the very religious it means the secular.
But it’s not. It’s all of us, all the Jewish people.
If the politicians are not able to demonstrate it for us, then we must show them: after nine months of listening to all the mud-slinging, the secular and Right and religious and Left are all going to synagogue together, and the right-wing will sit next to the left-wing, and the religious will sit right next to the traditional. We sit together.
We hope and pray, especially during these 10 days, that the politicians can build a coalition and bring the Knesset together for the people’s sake, understanding that there is a state that is at stake and needs to be run and managed. A third election should not be allowed. It needs to be beyond the pale.
Come Tuesday night, we will all be saying the same words of Kol Nidre. May we not only agree to pray with the sinners, may we as citizens learn to live with the sinners; and may the leaders learn to govern with them – and create a unity government.