This is my 50th posting on this blog and it could not come at a more exciting time. I will admit to being a newshound or whatever one might call it and will admit that I find elections, particularly presidential elections, enormously exciting. While I do not believe that clergy, those that serve congregations in particular, should “endorse” a candidate and I steadfastly refuse to do so, I also know that it is not difficult to make assumptions about the voting preferences of a person who, through their profession, has to take stands on particular issues or reveal a particular philosophical perspective on the world. Still, because I believe that a person’s vote is a private matter and because of how I and we at our congregation interpret the tax laws, I will not reveal my choice. However, it is true, that I like all of us, I’m sure have hopes for how the election plays out.
This is such an important moment for our country. There are many critical issues that have been placed on the table and many others which have been given less attention than they should (climate change being the most apparent). Whether the issue is the economy, health care, a woman’s right to make decisions in the issue of birth control or abortion, future supreme court appointments, foreign policy in general and for many of us, relationship with Israel being critical, or so many others, we have a choice to make and we, as a nation, will do so tomorrow.
But, today, my excitement for tomorrow is tempered by real concerns about the electoral process here in the United States. Even if we set aside the fear that one party or another will attempt to in some way tamper with results or succeed in attempts to intimidate or exclude voters, our process is so unwieldy, with so many different types of ballots- and I should say here quickly that I miss pulling the lever that closes the curtain and flipping the switches on the machine but that’s another matter entirely- with so many legal questions swirling about early voting, absentee ballots and so many different methods to count votes, it is reasonable to be concerned that the election results will not be clear for many days or weeks. That is cause for great concern. Our nation needs to explore ways that our elections can be fair and open to all citizens who are registered or desire to be. I hope the fears are unfounded and that the election produces a clear winner so that we can get on with the business of addressing the issues of importance in our country.
I plan to get to my polling place well before it opens tomorrow morning. We have a very long ballot here in Michigan and I’m sure the lines will be long and slow moving- even then. But, it is not only for convenience that I want to get there early. There is a beautiful thought in Jewish tradition that we should be zerizim lamitzvah- we should be eager to perform a mitzvah. Is voting in a presidential election a mitzvah? Absolutely- and not only in the sense of a mitzvah being a “good deed”. The word means commandment or obligation and I believe without question that even if we are not commanded to vote, it is an obligation to do so. So, I plan to show my eagerness by being there right at the beginning and, as I do every four years (and should do every time but I leave it for the presidential elections), I will say shehecheyanu after depositing my ballot. It is an honor, a privilege, a sacred duty to vote and I hope that all who can will be at the polls tomorrow.
May our nation be blessed with peace, harmony and opportunity for all.