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Who Would God Vote For?

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Who would God vote for in the current presidential race? Surely the question is absurd. "Well, yes and no," my mother's uncle Schmuel might have responded. 

Schmuel was an orthodox Jew who mom remembered as being saintly. To be a devout Jew means to believe that God is not some remote deity loafing in the sky. He is your ever present companion. (A real "yenta," or busybody, as they would say in Yiddish.) He walks with you to the grocery store, he watches you pray in the synagogue. You bet he'll be there in the voting booth too making sure you do the right thing!

So, while God couldn't care less about the dog and pony show of partisan politics, Schmuel would have agreed, he does care deeply for the creation and all who live within it. How could the one who blesses every mustard seed and sparrow be indifferent to our upcoming choice of the leader of the free world?

This, at any rate, was the faith not just of my maternal uncle, but of millions who believe in a personal God, which is 60 percent of Americans, according to a 2008 Pew Survey. These faithful would reject the idea that God is a wallflower at his own party. They are convinced that the Divine is active in the world, and in the unfoldment of their own lives.

But as the Jewish mystics teach, God does not control things from above and beyond the Creation. He does not manipulate life like a puppet master his puppet. "What fun would that be?" Schmuele would have asked.

It is more like a dance of two partners. God leads. We follow -- or not. The choice is ours. God inspires, he speaks to us in our heart of hearts. But the Deity does not compel obedience, because to compel would be to rob us of our human freedom, according to the mystics. And freedom is the gift that, once given, even the Divine is powerless to withdraw. 

This is a core teaching of Judaism, which holds that we humans are co-creators with the Divine. As God's children, we are given the task of tikkun olam, healing the divisions of Life. 

Our minds are divided against themselves.  Society is a battlefield of contentious camps. The earth is groaning from our exploitation and our wars. But God is One, the indivisible unity of Being itself. And he invites us to become one as he is One. He challenges us to live in unity -- not in some far off future heaven world, but here on earth. And not just in the tranquility of our prayers or meditation, but in our worldly deeds, in our relationships with one another, and, yes, also in our political acts. That is the purpose for which we were born: to bring together matter with Spirit. To make the earth itself another heaven.

The High Hoidays, the period of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) until Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), which we are in now, is the period when Jews rededicate themselves to this task of bringing heaven a little bit closer. And this is where politics comes in. Politics is one of the ways that -- slowly, painstakingly and ever imperfectly -- we humans can aspire to forge a better world.

Jews have always been comfortable mixing spirituality with politics. As a matter of fact, Jewish scripture demands it. The Torah portrays God as a full participant in history, and even in politics. It is God who commands Moses to liberate the Jewish slaves in Egypt and return to their ancestral homeland, Israel, as a free people. It is also God who inspires the prophets to rebuke the political corruption and rail against the moral degeneracy of his people. 

The Jewish God is a lawgiver who has ordained the ethical guidelines that govern life. But he does not just demand that we follow the letter of the law. He wants us to do good deeds -- to feed the hungry, to protect the helpless, the widow and the orphan, to cherish justice and to love and serve the stranger in our midsts. We hear these exhortations again and again from the Hebrew prophets. God speaks to us even today through their urgent voices of conscience.

So returning to our original question: Who would God vote for? Well, God doesn't vote, but you do. He has told us what he thinks is important. He has made his wishes known to us in sacred scripture, and even moreso in the whisperings of our own heart of hearts. But he won't pull the lever for you.

That choice is yours!

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