Guest Column by Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal
We finally made it. After a brutal election season, we are on the other side. G-d willing, we are rid of all the speeches, debates, tweets, posts, and pundits shouting and creating a lot of noise.
As I write this article on Monday, Nov. 7, I have no idea of the outcome of the 2016 election. Because I voted a few weeks ago, there isn’t much more I can do other than worry and pace. So I have chosen to let it go and begin transitioning my mind beyond the election.
This exercise has been freeing but challenging.
It’s freeing because I find myself un-obsessed with the election coverage. I stopped reading articles on social media and am not paying attention to drawn-out news stories about nothing.
I hope that 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 sexual licentiousness.
If we were to be honest, the fault lies with us and not the media. They didn’t force us to open and read those blogs and share those posts.
As I moved my attention from the toilet bowl of social commentary toward what lies ahead, I received an interesting perspective from our weekly cycle of Torah reading. I was struck by the contrast between the tone and tenor of last week’s portion (Noach) and this week’s (Lech Lecha). The election comes sandwiched between these two epic tales, and we can glean much.
What’s surprising isn’t the messages of the stories, but G-d’s apparent temperament in each. Because temperament has been an issue in this election, it might be time for us to look toward G-d for guidance.
Before the election, we read about Noah, a righteous individual who walks with G-d. The world is corrupt and evil, and Noah is charged with building a massive vessel to save himself, his family and a representative sample of nature to weather the storm and rebuild after the destruction.
In the rhetoric of this election season, the tone of last week’s Torah portion seems about right. And where is G-d in all this? G-d is the instigator, the agitator and a main actor in Noah’s tale.
After reviewing the state of the union, G-d determines that the world isn’t worth saving and that the only way to create a great society is to destroy it first.
Can you imagine that knock on your door? You find G-d standing there with a look of panic, shouting: “Quick, build an ark! I’m going to destroy it all!”
How would you respond? Probably like a chicken with its head cut off, running from room to room, gathering your clothing. With pants on backward, mismatched socks, one shoe and no glasses, you stumble out the front door, trying to catch up with G-d.
Juxtapose that with Lech Lecha. We begin with G-d’s first encounter with Abram (who later will become Abraham). Go, G-d tells Abram, away from your home and your family to a place I will show you.
G-d’s tone is completely different. Instead of a voice of panic, we hear one of calm and quiet. Come on, Abram, let’s go for a walk. We need to talk.
One story begins with panic; the other begins with calm. One story ends in destruction and intoxication; the other ends — well, it hasn’t ended. The story of Abraham continues to this day after starting simply with a walk.
This election season has been all Noah: destruction, chaos, hate, fear, noise and a lot of, well, let’s say animal excrement.
What will the days after Nov. 8 look like? Our country will emerge from the ark, and we will need to rebuild — not institutions, but the concept of what it means to be and act like an American. To 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 neighbors, our families, our co-workers, our unfriended Facebook friends and speak these holy words: Come on, let’s go for a walk; we need to talk.