Dear Rabbi Zalman,
With Election Day just around the bend, the politically charged atmosphere is tangible everywhere, with candidates on both sides of the aisle vying for every possible vote. Does Judaism have any election season insight? In other words, Does G-d care how I vote?
– A. Political
You should know better than to ask a Rabbi a political question. But since you asked for election season insight, here it is – (free of charge!):
What’s the difference between G-d and the President of the United States? G-d doesn’t think He’s the President. Hardy har har, that joke is as old as the hills.
But if you’d like to know what they actually do have in common, it’s that they both are running for re-election.
Except G-d does it every year.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: G-d, re-election? Huh?
I totally understand your consternation, so let me explain.
Have you ever tried reaching the President in his office? It is a thought so daunting; most people wouldn’t even bother making the effort. Cloistered by the protective walls of the White House, surrounded by aids and advisers and guarded by the ever-watchful eye of security; even the most affluent members of society have no guarantee they would be granted an audience with the Commander and Chief, should they so wish it.
G-d too is likened to a “king” in his “palace”. During the course of the year G-d can sometimes seem distant, even inaccessible.
Contrast this with election year. The President is out there in the streets going after the vote, mingling in the crowds, kissing babies and pressing the flesh. He [or she] is accessible to all, even “Joe the plumber”. Indeed, he becomes a man of the people – because he needs the people.
The current Jewish month of Elul is G-d’s election run.
But why does G-d need to be re-elected? [Was G-d even elected in the first place?!] The Kabbalah teaches that the creation of the universe is a result of G-d’s desire to be king. And “Once a year, the universe enters into a state of suspended animation. G-d reconsiders His creation. Is it turning a profit? Is it realizing My goals? Do I still desire to invest Myself in the role of “Creator”?” For in fact, the continued existence is dependent upon the renewal of divine desire for the world, which is effected by our acceptance of G‑d’s kingship each year on Rosh Hashanah.
But there can be no king without a nation. The entire sum and substance –in fact the very definition – of a king is dependent on having subjects. Consequently, G-d, as it were, is entirely dependent on the Jewish people in order for Him to be King.
Rosh HaShana – “Head” of the Jewish year – “marks the anniversary of the creation of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, and their first actions toward the realization of mankind’s role in G‑d’s world”. Rosh Hashanah, therefore, highlights the unique relationship between G‑d and humanity: our dependence upon G‑d as our creator and sustainer, and G‑d’s dependence upon us as the ones who make His presence known and felt in His world.
We need G-d and G-d needs our vote.
How does G-d campaign for His annual reelection? Does He simply sit up there in His “palace” relying on our good sense to declare Him king once again? Or does G-d too hit the campaign trail, becoming a “G-d of the masses”?
Here’s how Rabbi Shneur Zalman (my namesake) describes the month of Elul – the month that precedes the divine coronation on Rosh Hashanah:
“It is like a king who, before he enters the city, the people of the city go out to greet him in the field. There, everyone who so desires is permitted to meet him; he receives them all with a cheerful countenance and shows a smiling face to them all. And when he goes to the city, they follow him there. Later, however, after he enters his royal palace, none can enter into his presence except by appointment, and only special people and select individuals. So, too, by analogy, the month of Elul is when we meet G-d in the field…”
As we enter the month of Elul we bear this thought in mind: the king is in the field. If we need something from Him, there is no better time to ask.
May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a year of goodness, health and prosperity!
(Photo: Joe Doe 2010)