Dysfunctional Democracy

My heart is saddened and my mind is numbed, unable to fathom this week’s nightmare. No words can adequately describe my embarrassment and shame witnessing American citizens’ heinous disregard for the sanctity of life and the law of the land. The chaotic scene that transpired in our nation’s capital was unconscionable and beyond comprehension. Their acts were reminiscent of violent uprisings in third world countries. It’s hard to accept that these events are transpiring in our country; the pride of being an American seems a distant vestige of a previous life. Extremists on both sides of the aisle, in my humble opinion, have done immeasurable damage to our democracy. While protesting against wrongs are a basic right of democracy, wreaking havoc and fomenting violence is unconscionable and inexcusable.

I strive to be both liberal and conservative. I’m willing to embrace the ideals of liberalism while maintaining the fiscal responsibility of conservatism. I can be sensitive and compassionate to the needs of immigrants, while still strongly advocating an adherence to our legal system. I see no inherent contradiction with my position but nonetheless realize the complexities of bringing them to fruition. Regardless of my personal preferences, I hope the next four years will bring peace and prosperity to all Americans. Although political differences are to be expected, menschlichkeit is the underlying and fundamental principle necessary for our nation’s success.

This week’s Torah portion begins the book of Shmot – the book of Exodus that describes the Israelites’ transformation into a people. The entire book of Bereishit – Genesis, discussed the individual biblical personalities. The common denominator in most of the stories is the dysfunctional family dynamic. Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel, Lot’s daughters’ incestual relationship with their father, the patriarchs’ hardships reining in their children, and ultimately the debacle of Joseph being sold into slavery. The book of Exodus shifts from a family dynamic into a communal responsibility.

All I can say after the tragedy that befell our nation is how closely it resembles the biblical narrative. The dysfunction in our American family is as palpable as the biblical stories are. The craziness of the radical left is no worse that the insanity of the radical right. The worst part is that regular U.S. citizens are supporting both extremes. It’s time for the American people to demand that our leaders cease their childlike shenanigans and immature tirades. We should unite against whining and complaining and have them realize the world doesn’t owe them anything and never has.

We all know the famous story of the person in the boat who decided to drill a hole under where he was sitting. Aghast at being confronted he complained that he paid for the seat and it’s his to do with as he desires. When Cain was asked by God: Where is your brother? He nonchalantly replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Nevertheless, unfortunately, the narrative stops and the answer is presumed. Do you know what God said to Cain? Yes, we are all our brothers’ keepers.

Finally, it’s great to hear that vaccinations have already started and many of our members have received their first vaccine. The last ten months have been fraught with endless anxiety and fear, but hopefully we will soon turn a corner. What we only dreamt about a few months ago is almost a reality. In a few months, Covid-19 will hopefully cease to impact our way of life.

The chaos of this week can also miraculously change in a moment. An epiphany can transcend our way of thinking and imbue humanity with a realization that the cure was already available. This week’s nightmare will dissipate when all Americans realize that the word ‘United’ in our name is the only vaccine required to bring tranquility to our nation.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Jack Engel

About the Author
Rabbi Jack and his wife, Miriam have reinvigorated Anshei Emuna, a Modern Orthodox Synagogue located in Delray Beach, Florida, in the ten plus years they have been at the Shul, through their experiences gleaned from serving in pulpits in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. They are advocates of a modern Orthodoxy, being open minded, yet adhering to the integrity of halacha. They believe that being an “ohr lagoyim” refers first and foremost to the entirety of our collective Jewish family.
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