"Staying Aware, Even When It Hurts." Why it's important to remain politically knowledgeable and vote, even when it feels painful.
I don’t know about you, but every time the past few weeks that my phone beeps with the latest news alert, I hesitate. My heart falls a little bit. Should I even check the screen? Will it depress me, make me wince and get frustrated with the state of the world? My Facebook feed has transformed from feel-good cat pictures and videos of drooling babies, to vitriol on both sides of the political spectrum.
Sometimes, it’s too much. I just want to check out, to focus on my own little life, to ignore the bigger picture before it all becomes overwhelming. It’s easier to bury my head in the sand, to help my kids with homework and make dinners and avoid all talk of politics with friends and relatives who think differently than I do. Part of me longs to disengage, to try and not care about what happens in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. and world capitals, so that I’m not disappointed.
But whenever I think like that, I look at the faces of my children. What do I want to leave them as their legacy? And what do I want to teach them about how Jews behave? Deuteronomy 16:20 tells us tzedek, tzedek tirdof: “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” The value of justice is at the core of Judaism. It’s what compels us to engage in tikkun olam, acts that fix our world and give back to our community. It’s what inspires us to care about class and race inequity, about Black Lives Matter and the #metoo movement, about the actions espoused by our political representatives. When we live this value in our daily lives, when we educate ourselves about what’s going in the world and then try and do something about it, whatever that may be - we are engaging in holy work.
This election season, Hillel is running a campaign called MitzVote on all its college campuses. I love this nonpartisan campaign, aimed at college students and millennials. To vote is do a mitzvah, to fulfill the commandment of tzedek, tzedek tirdof and to engage in our civic and Jewish duty. This November 3rd, I encourage all of us to go to our polling places. We need to study the ballot, know who and what we are voting for. Then we can say the Shehechiyanu for having reached this season in our lives, and wear our voting sticker with pride.
One of my favorite board books to reach to my children is Lawrence and Karen Kushner’s How Does God Make Things Happen? The answer to the titular question is simple: “How does God make things happen? With little hands and big hands. With young hands and old hands. With your hands.” What a powerful image. With our hands, we can make a difference. With our hands, we can wield a pen, fill in a ballot, and change our country for the better. And when we do, we will be looking outside ourselves. We will teach our children the value of community. And we will truly be partners with God, enacting change in the larger world and continuing the ongoing work of creation.