Rabbinical POVs In the Midst of the 2020 Election

Thoughts the Morning After the US Election

Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal — CEO of USCJ and the RA

Dear friends (including those in Canada, if you are so moved) —

I don’t know more about you but I feel more anxious this morning than I did yesterday. Regardless of our political views, the uncertainty around the US elections is challenging. The bitterness, harsh rhetoric, and real divisions in our society are on full display, and are linked to the very human process of voting and ballot counting.

Below is a message I am sending to RA rabbis later today, but that might be of interest to all of us as leaders during this time. Feel free to be in dialogue with me, and I’m happy to be of support as we move through this uncertain time together.

Warm regards,


Knower of Secrets

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: הָרוֹאֶה אוּכְלוּסֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אוֹמֵר: ״בָּרוּךְ … חֲכַם הָרָזִים״ — שֶׁאֵין דַּעְתָּם דּוֹמָה זֶה לָזֶה, וְאֵין פַּרְצוּפֵיהֶן דּוֹמִים זֶה לָזֶה.

The Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 58a, records the blessing to recite when seeing a multitude of people (in the original context, a huge gathering of Jews) which reads, “Blessed are You…the knower of secrets.” The Gemara adds: “For their minds differ one from the other, and their faces differ one from the other.”

While not gathered all in one place, a US election in which over 100 million people participated is a large gathering (far larger than the 600,000 envisioned in our tradition!), and indeed while God may already know the outcome, we will not be privileged to know fully the secrets we have collectively expressed through our ballots for some time.

This blessing (and it is a blessing) reminds us that we each hold our own very passionate beliefs about the leaders and policies of our country. Created in God’s image, our faces differ, and that diversity is more than skin deep. God knows and values every person’s secrets, but the only way we will discern the future of our country is through this very human election and vote-counting process.

In the face of both the power of such a multitude of people, and the frailty of human process, we might recall the words of our prophet, Micah (6:8):

הִגִּ֥יד לְךָ֛ אָדָ֖ם מַה־טּ֑וֹב וּמָֽה־יְהוָ֞ה דּוֹרֵ֣שׁ מִמְּךָ֗ כִּ֣י אִם־עֲשׂ֤וֹת מִשְׁפָּט֙ וְאַ֣הֲבַת חֶ֔סֶד וְהַצְנֵ֥עַ לֶ֖כֶת עִם־אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃

[God] has told you, O Adam, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice, and to love goodness, and to walk modestly with your God.

As we wait for final results, our job as clergy and as leaders is to counsel patience and perspective. Our calls to vote have been heeded. Now is the time to continue to counsel our people to:

Do Justice — every legal vote should be counted: It will take time, and there will likely be litigation, but every vote should count. The United States has had centuries of iterating and improving our democracy; at this moment we need to stand up for those democratic ideals.

Love Goodness — no process is perfect: God knows all secrets, and any human process meant to discern them will be flawed. No matter what, we must press to ensure that the dignity of every person is upheld through their vote.

Walk Modestly — have patience: We are a society that has become accustomed to instant knowledge and gratification. But in earlier times, and in other countries, it’s not unusual for election results to take some time. This is especially true during a pandemic, when so many voted by mail in order to stay safe. Harsh words and violence will not make the process go faster, nor will it build the connections needed to heal our society. We should encourage civility along with civic engagement.

These sentiments were also expressed in the RA’s resolution on the US election.

I wish us strength and courage as we connect with our colleagues and our communities, holding them and their anxiety as we await the outcome, with prayers that our collective secrets will yield healing and blessing.

Warm regards,


In The End We Must Choose to Heal

Rabbi Andrea L. Merow — Congregation Beth Sholom, Elkins Park, PA

Preface: I am writing this on Tuesday, Nov.3, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. not knowing the outcome of the election.

I write to remind myself that although I personally identify and work on behalf of a specific set of political beliefs, inspired by Jewish values, I strongly believe that our Country must find ways to come together and heal, whatever the outcome of the elections may bring. It is not an overestimation to say this election season has brought out considerable passion, sadness and vitriol but it has also brought out many more Americans exercising their right to vote than at any other time in our history. Most of us desperately believe to our core that we are correct, and that our candidates should be victorious, or we might not be able to go on; I hope and pray that we can find ways to move forward and towards one another.

I am reminded of the verse in Psalms 30:6 “ בָּ֭עֶרֶב יָלִ֥ין בֶּ֗כִי וְלַבֹּ֥קֶר רִנָּֽה׃ One may lie down weeping at night; but at dawn there is joy.” Our Jewish communities are politically diverse and thus it is important to remember that after the elections are decided some in our communities will feel great joy; others will feel deep disappointment. It is natural to feel a sense of joy and happiness when the candidates that best reflect our values are put into Office. It would also be wise for us to practice empathy for those whose candidates do not win.

Jewish history gives us two historical examples of how to deal with communal strife and disagreement. The first is the rift in the Jewish community during the late 2nd Temple period. The community was so divided into different religious/political beliefs that history would call them distinct sects. The rabbis of the Talmud note that the 2nd Temple was destroyed because of senseless hatred (sinat hinam) between these factions. Do we want to be a Jewish community constantly angry with our neighbors?.

Alternatively, the ancient schools of Hillel and Shammai almost always disagreed on questions of law, and yet, we are taught that they still were able to live together in a sacred community, and have their children marry each other. Legal rulings however, usually go by the School of Hillel because his School made a concerted effort to understand the position of their foe. They practiced empathy. They sought to understand the other side.

Once the elections are decided we need to get to the work of healing the rifts in our Country. One way to do this is to begin to focus on our common values. The book Crucial Conversations helps us by asking, “what can we both agree upon? What is our common ground?” Can we agree that we want to live in a Country that values service to others, education, cares for those in need, values honor and respects difference. Can we work to build on our shared values so that our communities grow in kindness and compassion?

May we strive to be like the School of Hillel who sought to understand the positions of others. May we learn to find what we can agree upon. May we remind ourselves that all are created in God’s sacred image, even those we disagree with. May we each work to create a “more perfect Union,” where there is more “liberty and justice for all.” Amen.

Election Day 2020

Rabbi Andrew Pepperstone — Hebrew Congregation Ahavat Achim, Wichita, KS

I feel like every election I have experienced since turning 18 has been the most important election in this nation’s history. And they have been, because each election we hold in this nation always present its citizens with critical choices about the future and direction of this country. I am sure that we all feel the weight and importance of this election, which has dominated news cycles, our conversations, and our minds for quite some time.

Each Shabbat morning, we pray that our country be one that has leaders, judges, officers and officials who devote themselves to the needs of our public, who understand the rules of justice, who work for the security, happiness and freedom of all who live in this country. We pray that everyone uproot from their hearts hate, malice, jealousy and strife. We pray that everyone work together to plant love and compassion, peace and friendship between the many peoples and faiths who dwell in this nation. We ask God to help us to judge justly, to act with compassion, to find the roots of poverty and eradicate them from our land.

In recent days, we have seen deep divisiveness in this country, deep divisions that have been with us for a long time, and that have been recently revealed. Many of us have found it difficult to have conversations with people, among them friends and family, with whom we disagree. This lack of ability to have conversations with those with whom we disagree has made coming together all the more challenging. One root of this divisiveness is binary thinking, where there are only two options, two sides, and it is one or the other. We need to begin to cultivate a non-binary way of being together, one where it is We and not Us and Them.

As individual citizens of this country, we engage in its civic life with the welfare and well-being of all who live in this country. But when we gather as a congregation, we gather as Jews, whose civic distinctions should not matter, who strive to live a life rooted in Torah, mitzvot, prayer, study, and acts of loving kindness and compassion.

We all have an obligation to go the the polls today and vote, if you have not already done so. Ever since we lived in Babylon, we have understood our duty to do all that we can for the well-being of the country in which we live. Jeremiah taught us to seek the welfare of the place where we live, and the Rabbis teach that we should all seek the welfare of the government in every time and place. To help us with that, here is a contemporary prayer for voting by my colleague Rabbi David Seidenberg, which may be worth using whether you vote today or have already voted.

Beginning this evening as voting polls begin to close, we need to be patient with the election results, letting every vote be counted. This election will not be decided this evening. It even may take weeks to finalize the results.

And then, no matter what the results of the election, we will gather as a congregation, and continue to root ourselves in:

Torah, listening to the wisdom of our tradition;

Mitzvot / Acts of Connection which help guide us in how we walk in the world;

Tefillah / Prayer, which helps gives us time to reflect, meditate, give voice to our feelings, to center ourselves, connect us to God and to each other;

Talmud / Study, which helps us discern the voices of our tradition, the world today, our own consciences and deepen our understanding of them;

Gemilut Chasadim / Acts of Lovingkindness and Compassion, which teach us to walk in the world, sharing God’s love and compassion with others, exemplifying the central mitzvah in the Torah: to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.