Against Idolatry

The following essay on political idolatry was forwarded to me by my good friend Gila. Rabbi David Zaslow is with the Jewish Renewal movement in Oregon. Thanks, Gila, for passing this on.
As we approach the weekend when we study the golden calf we learn the calf represented an old paradigm consciousness that our ancestors were not willing to let go of: old ways of solving problems, old images of what the solution looks like. In every generation Torah implores us to have faith, to recognize that Hashem is sovereign of our partisanship, and that the unfolding of history is truly G-d's hands...as long as we do our part by staying connected to the mitzvot. The first step in doing our part is to fulfill the negative mitzvah of "not making a golden calf."

Look at the amazing ways the Holy One is working in our world. Torah invites us to see the cup as half full, and to strengthen our optimism. Yes, there is much to be done, and much will frighten us along the way, but the signs are clear.

- The Ukraine, of all places, had a nonviolent demonstration for democracy that became a model for the whole world;

- Afghanistan has a terrific leader elected in the first ever democratic election in an Arab nation;

- The Palestinians had a free election, and are beginning to experience the power of real internal debates and self-criticism for the first time in their history;

- The Saudis had a less-than-ideal election (it excluded women) but it was possibly another step in their reform process toward democracy;

- A pro-democractic revolution (or at least reform) might erupt in Lebanon as it stands up against the Syrian occupation;

- Egypt and Pakistan are discussing further internal reforms;

- The conflict between Pakistan and India is calming down;

- And the greatest inspiration of all came in the recent elections in Iraq.

Arik Sharon is riding a wave - not just President's Bush's push toward spreading democracy in the world - but a wave some of us sense as being inspired from Hashem. Let us not make a calf of our own preconceptions, but, rather, let us be open to be startled by new realities the Holy One presents to us. No one could have imagined in 1945 that the two most evil governments of their time (Germany and Japan) would be our best friends so quickly after the end of WWII; no one would have imagined after 1967 that Sadat z"l and Begin z"l could come together as they did; no one would have bet that Nelson Mandella would leave prison to lead his multi-racial nation. Miracles happen and one is happening before our eyes right now. Just as the fall of the Soviet empire surprised us in its speed, an even greater miracle is happening now - the bells of feminism, pluralism, freedom, and democracy are beginning to ring in the middle east. For sure, we need to pray for our leaders, but we also need to guard against building a golden calf of cynicism, sarcasm, and bitterness that prevents us from praying for the leaders we disagree with.

Shabbat shalom, Reb David Zaslow

Ashland, Oregon


Link: Rabbi David Zaslow

** Also, please take a few moments to read this very fine article by Reb David Zaslow:
The Two Wars in Iraq