The media keeps focusing on Bernie Sanders’ religion saying that no other Jewish candidate has ever gotten that close to becoming the presidential nominee of a major political party. Every time I see/hear a statement like that my stomach gets a bit ill.  You see, Bernie Sanders is Jewish in name only. I’m not talking about his anti-Israel slanders. Nor am I talking about or his feelings toward God in his heart—no man can see that, but rather than following Judaism, Bernie Sanders is preaching a political “theology” antithetical to basic Jewish thought.

Bernie doesn’t obey the second commandment, “You shall not recognize other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” (Exodus 20:3–4)”  His theology preaches that Government takes the role of God.

CNN’s religious reporter wrote on Friday:

That rock is hard to find. Sanders rarely talks about religion and grows impatient with reporters who try to pry open his soul or delve into his Jewish background. He doesn’t belong to a prayer group in Congress or a congregation in Burlington. By conventional standards, Sanders may be the least religious candidate to run for president in quite some time.

(…) Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Washington-based Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said he tried to engage Sanders in a conversation about Judaism on a bus ride to Selma, Alabama, for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Sanders politely rebuffed the rabbi’s inquiries. “He just didn’t want go there. He obviously is not a practicing Jew, and doesn’t want to talk about it, and I respect that.”

(..)As Sanders moved to Vermont and began his political career, local rabbis learned not to invite him to services. He never accepted, though friends say he would attend Jewish friends’ funerals at synagogues. He wasn’t hostile to religion, colleagues say. More like indifferent.

Here’s the truth Bernie Sanders says he is Jewish when it is politically expedient, but he really worships the golden calf of big government. In fact, his leftist political philosophy discourages people from achieving a close relationship with their maker.

Allow me to explain.

The creation narrative in Genesis explains that man is created in God’s image.  But we also taught that our maker has no bodily form, so how can that be?  The Bible is not teaching us that we are all dead ringers for the “big guy upstairs,” if that was the case the pictures on everyone’s drivers licenses would look alike, no one would be able to get a check cashed, and all of those TV shows about solving crimes would be very boring.

“Created in God’s image” is supposed to teach us that just as God acts as a free being, without prior restraint to do right and wrong, so is man. God does good deeds as a matter of his own free choice, and because we are created in his image we can too.

Only through free choice can man truly be, in the image of God. And only by choosing to do the “right thing” can one truly get close to God.

It is further understood that for Man to have true free choice, he must not only have inner free will, but an environment in which a choice between obedience and disobedience exists. God thus created the world such that both good and evil can operate freely; this is what the Rabbis mean when they said, “All is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven” (Talmud, Berachot 33b). God controls all the options we have, but it is up to man to pick between the correct or incorrect option.

Another way to look at it is that free will is the divine version of limited government. God picks which is the correct direction and even gives us a guide book in the Torah, but he does not pick winners and losers—it is up to each and every one of us to pick the direction we want to proceed and that’s how we feel God’s presence.

Because we all are created in God’s image, Jews believe that “All men are created equal.” But not the way Bernie’s leftist theology believes. “All men are created equal “means we all have the same ability to be infinitely good or wicked, or to forge a relationship with God regardless of intellectual capability, social background, physical strength, etc. It does not mean, as Bernie ascribes to that when it comes to talents, predilections, or natural abilities we are all equal. It also doesn’t mean that we all should have the same big screen TV, wireless internet, or savings account balance.

Just as Jefferson meant when he wrote those words in the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal,” means that we all have the same right to be as good as we can be with the cards we have been dealt. It’s just like those old U.S. Army recruiting commercials, “be all that you can be.”

Unlike Sanders’ leftist politics, Jewish tradition takes a positive view of both the institution of ownership and the accumulation of wealth. It respects economic success, so long, that is, as it is obtained honestly and proper respect is shown for the social responsibility that comes with it.  But it is clear that the social responsibility is an individual duty and a job for the community led by its religious leaders, but not for the government.  That doesn’t mean it’s wrong for the federal government to provide a safety net, but the primary responsibility is the individual and the local community. 

The Hebrew word for charity, “tzedaka,” has in its root the word “tzedek,” which means righteous, because we are taught that personally giving charity is one of the keys to being righteous.

The book of Leviticus (25:23) says:

“If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him proselyte or resident so that he can live with you”

Notice it says live with you, it does not say live in a government facility. That’s because the obligation is on the individual. In rare times the community was called on to pick up the slack but it was never the community government, it was the local Rabbi who would lead the effort.

In biblical times farmers were directed to leave some of their fields unharvested for the poor to feed on, because feeding the poor is a personal responsibility.

Some of the ancient sages have suggested when God created the world; sparks of his holiness were spread across the earth. Every time that a person makes the choice of performing a righteous act (such as giving charity) one of those sparks is purified and sent back to heaven. And it is through that process we become closer to God.

Liberal/Progressive governments takes away that free choice given to us by God.  Their philosophy is that left to their own devices, mankind will do the wrong thing (or at least what leftists say is the wrong thing). So Bernie Sanders and other leftists believe that government needs to replace God. They step in to control our decisions. Liberalism takes away our personal choice and gives it to the government –thus retarding our spiritual development and most importantly, the opportunity to “pick up those sparks” and get closer to our maker.

Unlike Bernie Sanders and his leftist theology which teaches that the government is the solution to each and every problem, Judaism teaches us that we cannot rely on God to bail us out all of the time. The real responsibility  falls upon each and every one of us.

There is the famous story of Moses splitting the Reed Sea which teaches this lesson (Red Sea was a typo made when the Torah was translated into Greek). In Exodus Chapter 14-15 Moses sees the Pharaoh’s troops bearing down on the Israelite nation, who are trapped against the sea.  Moses starts praying to God, but God says stop praying and do something!

And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.

This is holy talk for “get off your arse and do something!”

The ancient rabbis tell the story that when Moses lifted his staff over the sea, the water did not part.  The Egyptians were closing in, and the sea wasn’t moving. The Israelites stood on the banks of the sea frozen in fear, until a man named Nachshon took the responsibility upon himself to act. Nachshon simply walked into the water.  He waded up to his ankles…his knees…his waist… his shoulders, and just as the water was about to reach is nostrils the water parted.

This story teaches us that it’s one thing to have faith and believe God will eventually help us, but we cannot get that help until we take personal responsibility and act on our own. This too is antithetical to leftist philosophy which teaches that government is the first place to look for help rather than looking within one’s self, family, and community.

Liberal Jews get very worried when they hear a political leader talk about God.  If the political leader is a Christian (as most of them are in America) they see the person as some sort of zealot who will eventually force everyone to become Christian. If the person is a Jew, they get angry the Jew is wearing their religion on his sleeve (like me for example).

The Jewish picture of God is of a creator who instilled in us a personal responsibility to do the right thing, but he also provided us with the choice to accept that responsibility or not. There is no room in Jewish law for a government that forces their interpretation of the right thing down our throats. The politics of Bernie Sanders seems to run contrary to Judaism.

Bernie Sanders’ leftist big government theology tries to take from American citizens of any faith, the greatest joy of all— finding for themselves the path that will draw them closer to God and feeling that closeness get stronger with every good deed or mitzvah.