A New Year for Reconciliation Despite Trump-Clinton Slug-Fest (Guest Blog)

Rabbi David Baron of Beverly Hills Temple of the Arts calls for healing during “era of partisan rancor”

This is a company town. As rabbi to a very entertainment-industry centric congregation, I am often called by film makers and entertainment executives to consult on projects, or to weigh in on disputes. We are really no different than other communities whose orbit and attraction pulls from a common interest. Because our business is communication, we often lose site of the power that our words and images have, especially during these times of social media turmoil.

There are so many divided families and longtime friendships being torn apart over, you guessed it, politics. The depth of disdain for each candidate has led to unprecedented levels of incivility. I just returned from London where one commentator called our election “the evil of two lessers.”

In 2006, then Senator Hillary Clinton spoke at our Temple of the Arts Yom Kippur service on the topic “How I Learned the Lessons of Forgiveness.” She threw aside her prepared text and spoke from the heart. Despite past Clinton scandals, even Republicans were moved. While she did not directly address her fractured relationship with her husband, she did reference the power of forgiveness which we will all have to learn to exercise after this contentious election is in the history books.

There is much at stake for our nation’s future and the passions understandably run deep. Last Yom Kippur, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer came up to the Bimah for an Aliyah and it reminded us of how a new president will impact the future of the nation’s highest court. As a people that treasures justice and the rule of law we recall how the Nazis corrupted the judiciary early on to enforce its nefarious Nuremberg Laws.

Can we believe that a responsible president will place partisan politics aside and select the candidate best suited for the high court? Sadly, in this era of partisan rancor it’s one of numerous questions to ponder. Many believe that evangelists have their own narrow agenda and ask, “Can a devout Christian’s proclaiming support for Israel really be trusted?”

Last year, I had Shabbat dinner in Jerusalem with Governor Mike Pence, his family and 20 elite Israeli soldiers. The governor, now a vice presidential candidate, was unequivocal in expressing his support for Israel. As for his running mate, what can one say? Incendiary bigoted statements, Jewish grandchildren notwithstanding, are beneath the dignity of the office and diminish our ability to engage in a focused discussion of the issues.

I am pleased to see a change in tone and demeanor taking place let’s hope it lasts. There is a Jewish practice many observe during these days which is referred to as “seeking forgiveness” (Levakesh Mechilah). One goes to the neighbors and friends and declares “if I have done or said anything in the past year to offend you I am sorry.” When approached in this manner we are required to accept the apology.

So many have shared with me how taking this first step and opening the door by email or text greeting for the New Year has brought about a new dialogue. Not every hurt can be assuaged so easily but this practice importantly initiates rapprochement and puts us on the right path. Maybe it can become our post-election healing template in that reconciliation, while required during this time of year, is open to us all year long.

We will vote in November and return to our post-election critiques and analyses. Can we do so with common decency? Our sages remind us “Derech Eretz Kadma Letorah” — common decency in our conversation and in our behavior precedes even Torah.

L’Shana Tova, a strife-free new year of reconciliation, healing and peace.

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