As we have focused on America’s calm and most pedestrian of elections for quite some time, it was easy to forget that yesterday, November 2nd, was one of the most significant days in modern Jewish history. I refer, of course, to the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, when Lord Arthur Balfour, the British foreign secretary, sent a three-paragraph letter to Jewish leader Lord Walter Rothschild proclaiming that “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
Those simple words, the culmination of many years of effort, including future Israeli President Chaim Weizmann’s great contribution to the British victory in World War 1, literally rocked the world and history. The backing of the Zionist dream by one of the world’s superpowers propelled the dream of Israel into a reality, culminating with the creation of the State of Israel 31 years later, ironically over the British efforts to stop the miraculous Zionist journey. Rarely have such few words had such an enormous impact.
While we constantly hear that this election is the most important in years/our lifetimes/ever in history, and it may well be (though I’m a bit skeptical of the latter claim), we will only know this with hindsight. There will surely be discomfort and even challenges for supporters of the losing candidate, and there is good reason to fear violence over the next few days, but let us not carry political battles into our personal lives. If we can look at the big picture, especially within our and the broader affiliated Jewish community, we can hopefully focus on the many things that unite us and not let even the most monumental of political disagreements divide us.
Yes, I know this is pablum’ish, but it is truly sad to see the constant battles between left and right and the demonization that often accompanies disagreements (and the incredible bittul z’man (waste of time) that these social media battles often cause). It’s wonderful to be passionate about causes, but we must also recognize that others have very different views. The Talmud stresses that the students of Hillel and Shamai often had antithetical views to one another, but they didn’t let such titanic disputes stop their sons and daughters from marrying each other, and thus shared grandchildren.
Let us all commit to focus on our core Jewish values of tolerance, of extending people the benefit of the doubt and of endless hope and optimism. I think all of America and the entire world can use some good doses of these eternal vaccines against hate, rush to judgment and pessimism. Let us also remember that a few simple worlds can cause an historical revolution while predictions of Armageddon often fizzle into feeble daytime drizzles. B’ezrat Hashem, which we always need, America, working in tandem with Israel, will continue to shine a beautiful light unto the world.