Featured in local papers on Thursday, September 25, 2008. Copyright 2008 by Yosef Y. Polter

Who to vote for?  Who to elect? 

By Rabbi Yosef Polter

Most of us are well aware that we are in the heat of the election season.  Democrat or Republican?  Popular or electoral?  Red states or blue states? Etc.

Perhaps less recognized is another election that is coming up much sooner than November 4, which more of us can agree on and can possibly even produce a landslide.

This Monday night, September 29, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins.  One of the cardinal elements of Rosh Hashanah is the nomination, election, and inauguration of G‑d Al-Mighty as master of the universe for the coming year.

We are more familiar with Rosh Hashanah as the milestone that ushers in the ten days of repentance, the time for new resolutions and commitments to G‑d, when we ask Him for a year of His abundant blessing.  This is all true.  Less known, however, is the essence of Rosh Hashanah as the day we elect G‑d for another one-year term as President, or more accurately as King, of the world.

This is very clear from the liturgy of the holiday services.  In fact, this is also one of the less known symbolisms behind the sounding of the ram’s horn, the Shofar.  It is meant to symbolize the fanfare, sirens, and music that would accompany an inauguration ceremony. 

Before we even think of repentance, forgiveness, redemption and decide on a new and improved path, we must first accept the basic premise of G‑d’s sovereignty over the universe and His supremacy over all of its creations.  If that most basic component is missing, all the rest becomes a joke.  If there is no ultimate supreme authority, then there is no right and wrong.  If there are no absolutes, then there is no reason to repent, ask forgiveness, or resolve to better our ways.  Nor is there any one from whom to ask for a year of blessing and success.  After all, if there is no G‑d, then everything is OK purely based on one’s passions, desires, habits, whims, and even one’s biased and limited understanding.  The world has seen many calamities of epic proportions throughout history that were perpetrated by despots who, in their distorted understanding, felt they were doing a good thing.  They didn’t for a moment think that they were wrong or evil. 

True right and wrong don’t change with time.  They are anchored in ultimate truths and are the foundations of a healthy and wholesome society.  By way of example: stealing $5 is wrong today, a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago, all the way back to the beginning of time and it is equally wrong whether it is stolen from a pauper or from a billionaire.  The same applies to many other areas of conduct.  Contrary to pop culture, right and wrong are not individual preferences.  They are G‑d-given and are not open to change because of mood, convenience, or even society’s acceptance thereof. 

These values, however, can only hold if we believe that there is a Supreme Being who sets the basic rules of morality and ethics.  The moment we separate these rules from their Divine Architect, we are in trouble.

This does not mean to say that one who believes these truisms to be G‑d-given won’t fail.  We all have our human frailties; we all have our evil inclination; and we will make our fair share of mistakes and blunders — things we will regret, things we will be ashamed of, and, as a result, things that we will seek to repent for and improve.  But at least we have a measuring stick to be able to gauge our behavior and recognize our weaknesses for what they are instead of championing our wrongs as being right and our moral weaknesses as moral strengths.

This is why the first thing we do at the very beginning of the New Year is coronate G‑d as King of the world and as our personal master.  We submit to Him, accepting His rule.  Then, and only then, can we begin to recognize our deficiencies and make amends, thereby strengthening our character and soul.

So, as we approach the Days of Awe, let us unanimously vote to elect and coronate G‑d as our king and may He indeed grant us of His bounty with a year of good health, peace, and prosperity.

Rabbi Polter is the director of the Acton-concord Chabad Center which has been serving area towns since 2000.  The center is located at 148 Great Road in Acton.  It is a non-profit organization and donations are all tax-deductible. For more information about the center’s many programs and services, call (978) 929-2513 or visit www.ActonConcordChabad.org