As we approach the American mid-term election, what most concerns so many of us are the ongoing threats to American democracy that the Trump-Republican Party poses and the lies and deception that Trump, Trump-Republicans, and the right-wing media bubble shamelessly promote. The virtue of “truth” is on the ballot on November 9.
Speaking the truth is a big deal in Judaism. In the Midrashic literature, truth is regarded as divinely inspired and a foundational value: “The seal of God is Truth – חתמו של הקדוש ברוך הוא אמת – Chotmo shel HaKadosh Baruch Hu Emet” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1:9 – 650 to 900 CE).
The following Midrash describes an imaginary conversation between God and the ministering angels. The angel of Truth advised God not to include truth when creating the human being because humankind is incapable of truth-telling:
“When the time came for the Holy Blessed One to make the first human being, the ministering angels made themselves into competing counsels. Some of them said: ‘Don’t create humans,’ and the others said: ‘Create them.’ The angel of kindness said: ‘Create them, for they will do acts of loving kindness.’ Then the angel of Truth said: ‘Do not create them, for they will be full of lies.’ The angel of righteousness said: ‘Create them, for they will establish justice.’ The angel of peace said: ‘Do not create them, for they will be in constant strife!’ What did the Holy Blessed One do, but grab up Truth and hurl it to the earth. Whereupon the ministering angels said before the Holy Blessed One, ‘Ruler of all worlds, what have You done? Why have You so chastised the chief of your court? Let truth arise again from the earth.’” (Bereishit Rabbah, 8:8 – 400-600 CE)
“Let truth arise again from the earth.” What does this mean?
The mystic Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572) offered an explanation:
“…the throwing of the truth [to earth] and its arising from the earth that pure truth is, in fact, contradictory to human nature. But when truth is thrown to the ground, it splits up into many shards which are dispersed throughout the world. These are ‘sparks’ of truth, embedded in each and every human being. [Our] role is to collect these sparks of truth and connect them, until the entire truth arises from the earth.” (Cited by Shmuel Rabinowitz, Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2020)
Truth-telling is a so important in Judaism that it is a pre-condition for the processes we are called to engage during this High Holiday season of תשובה – Teshuvah (repentance), סליחה – Selichah (forgiveness), אחריות – Achrayut (taking responsibility), and התחדשות – Hit’chad’shut (renewal).
In light of our tradition’s emphasis on truth-telling, how are Jews and Americans supposed to cope with the massive corruption of truth by the former president, by so many Members of Congress, and by candidates for election in the Trump-Republican Party? According to The Washington Post Fact Checker, Trump lied to and/or mislead the country 30,573 times in his four years as President, and when we add the number of lies and misleading statements spoken by Trump-Republican members of Congress, Trump-endorsed candidates for election, and the right-wing media bubble, the depth and breadth of the lies is overwhelming.
Though it seems that Trump has Teflon skin protecting him from legal consequences for his lies and criminality, Congress and the justice system in DC, NY, Georgia, and Florida are doing their work to bring him to justice. Their task is not a simple one. They have their mandate, and so do we American citizens – to vote and to get everyone we know – Democrats, Independents, traditional Republicans, and those who have never voted before – to support candidates up and down the ballot in every jurisdiction, local, state, and federal in the nation against Trump-Republicans and for their Democratic challengers. This election is not about Democrats vs Republicans. It’s about democrats vs autocrats. It is for and against democracy itself.
I have faith that our legal authorities and we American voters will each fulfill our respective mandates and that in the end justice will be served, American democracy will be restored, and “truth will arise again from the earth.”