I am bereft this week because I did not get the mail I was expecting. Weeks ago I filled out the paperwork which would allow me a postal vote in the British elections. While Sarah opened her envelope with glee, I was left to curse (under my breath, of course), the vagaries of the British postal system. Why was I so upset?
Firstly, I still think of myself as British or English even though I love living in Las Vegas. The ability to vote in a general election is a symbol of my continued connection to those fair islands. However long I live in Vegas, London will always be my bayit, my home, on many levels.
Secondly, the Jewish injunction, “Al tifrosh min ha’tzibur, don’t separate yourself from the community”. I have that ringing in my ears when election time comes around. Jews are commanded to engage and contribute, not run away or despair. We all have problems with politicians and their attitudes but that does not allow us to give up. There is nothing more stimulating than a nation engaged in a debate of ideas and values, of what she stands for. A national community, through the process of holding an election, presses a reset button every few years and checks in to see how it is doing. As Jews, we have to be part of that.
Thirdly, I think of the morning blessing in our prayer book, “Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam, she’asani ben Chorin, Blessed are You, Adonai, Ruler of the Universe, who has made me free”. Any citizen of any democracy has a legally enshrined right to vote. This right should be universal but is not. In other words, there are plenty of citizens of other countries who would dearly love to contribute to their tzibur/community by participating in the electoral process but are unable. What a sweet way to celebrate freedom by participating in an election.
So, I will harangue the mistaken office staff who cut me out of the electoral process. I will also urge all of you to vote, the next time an American election comes around, local or national. We can complain about all that is wrong in the world, but we also have responsibility to do something about it, and voting is one part of that equation.
Rabbi Malcolm Cohen