Dear Rabbi – Please Stop Talking Politics From The Pulpit
Rabbi, I think you’re great. I love it when you talk about Torah, when you introduce me to the spiritual insights of past generations, when you invoke the values of our ancient tradition. I even like hearing you make the appeals on Yom Kippur and the various Mazel Tov announcements. But when you talk about politics, I wish you would just sit down and shut up.
I know you’re a learned person, and I respect your intelligence and insight. You spent many years poring over the holy books. But when you veer away from the Torah and into politics, you’re an am-ha’aretz [boor]. You are uniquely ill-informed and, forgive me, totally wrong.
Let’s start with something really basic: Do you actually think that everyone in your congregation votes like you? Seriously? Since when has that happened in Jewish history? We’ve always been “two Jews, three opinions.” Any given shul, no matter how liberal, will certainly have a number of conservatives in the pews; and the smallest right-wing shtiebel will shelter a few lefties. Are you trying to drive us out of shul?
Certainly, we need to be sensitized to our connection to Israel. Thank you for reminding us that it’s a tiny Jewish island in a sea of hostile-to-belligerent Arab neighbors. We really appreciate your encouraging us to come together as a people to support those who bravely protect Israeli citizens from harm, and mourn the innocent victims of terrorism. Thank you for demanding that we uphold our moral obligation to support our fellow Jews, our extended mishpachah, wherever they may live. We depend on you to always keep the prophetic imperative alive in our congregation, helping us remember that that we have responsibilities to the larger society in which we live.
But when you invoke the latest tragedy to support your interpretation of how I should vote, I want to stand up and stomp out of the sanctuary in protest. And you know that I sit in the front row, so no one will mistake why I’m leaving.
Rabbi, I’m writing this under a pseudonym because I don’t want to embarass you. I really care for you and am aware of all the wonderful things you do for our community. You visit the sick, you comfort the bereaved, you counsel the distressed, and you inspire us to become more connected to our tradition. You help me become a better person, and that’s why I love coming to shul.
But if you utter one more word about how you want me to vote, I won’t come back to shul.
And how is it a good thing for you to alienate dedicated members of the shul like me? We will just end up going to another congregation where people think just like us, further contributing to the polarization of the Jewish people, the very same baseless hatred that has historically plagued us since the destruction of the Temple two thousand years ago.
So, rabbi: if you want to teach us Torah, if you want to sensitize us to become better Jews, even if you want to give us a little mussar [rebuke] — let’s have it.
But please, leave your personal political opinions outside. We need more space where we can focus on what brings us together as a people – not what drives us apart.
Ploni Almoni, a pseudonym for an active member of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, knows a lot more about politics than the rabbi.