As he has done every year in his Presidency, last Tuesday the
day before Rosh Hashanah Barack Obama sent a special holiday message to
the Jewish community. And as he has done every year in his Presidency,
the message ignores the meaning of the holiday and its special message
to all Americans: that progressive politics are antithetical to the
teaching of personal responsibility embedded in the High Holiday period.
credit where credit is due, it’s not that Obama’s words were
inappropriate, as he spoke about charity and introspection which are
indeed a major part of all Jewish holidays, but he missed the biggest
theme about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
With the setting of
the sun this past Wednesday, Jews across the world will begin the observance of
the “Yomim Noraim “(Days of Awe), a ten-day period that is book-ended
by the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This year’s High
Holiday period comes at an interesting time for America as the president
and his party are pushing all Americans toward a reliance on
government, rather than personal responsibility. Only one of those
choices is compatible with the true meaning of the High Holidays.
High Holiday period is all about personal responsibility. All the
prayers and readings are just tools to help us look inward, formulate a
personal accounting of our deeds over the past year, good and bad, and
to understand what we have learned or need to learn to correct.
the method of atoning for our sins goes against progressive values.
Jews are taught that our Maker is not a big massive government that will
fix everything. For earthly-type mistakes we must first approach the
people we harmed to request forgiveness and if necessary, make
restitution to. Then we must discover what led us to behave that way and
correct the flaw catalyzing such behavior. Only then can we approach
God for absolution.
It’s not that God cannot fix everything but his direct involvement would destroy the delicate balance he set up during creation.
creation narrative in Genesis explains that man is created in God’s
image. With those words, the Torah is not teaching us that we are all
dead ringers for the “big guy upstairs.” If that were the case
everyone’s driver’s license would have the same picture, the Sports
Illustrated Swimsuit Issue would seem a bit creepy, and no one would be
able to solve crimes because eyewitness testimony would be useless and
everyone would have the same DNA.
The idea of being “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 does man. Our
Maker performs “good” as a matter of his own free choice. Because we are
created in his image man also has the opportunity to do the right thing
as a matter of free choice. Only through free choice, can man truly be
“in the image of God.”
That is why God created a world where
both good and evil can operate freely. The Rabbis explain this when they
said; “All is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven”
(Talmud, Berachot 33b). In other words, God controls all the options we
have, but it is up to man to pick between good and bad.
will is the divine version of limited government. God picks the winning
direction but does not choose winners or losers. Neither does he
interfere with the process of learning through repentance and
understanding one’s actions. We are not divinely perfect nor are we
meant to be. We are only supposed to be closer to that perfect
divine-ness when we leave this world than when we entered it.
we all are created in God’s image we believe that all men are created
equal. This does not mean what progressives tell us, that when it comes
to talents, looks, preferences, or natural abilities we are all equal.
Nor does it mean we all should have the same big screen TV, wireless
Internet, cookies and cream ice cream, or savings account balance.
is actually meant by “all men are created equal” is that we all have
the same ability to be infinitely good or wicked; we all have the same
ability to forge a relationship with God regardless of our intellectual
capability, social background, physical strength, golf handicap wealth,
etc. During the High Holidays, we evaluate how well we have used the
“lot we have been given” for good deeds and to forging that heavenly
Unlike progressivism, Jewish tradition respects
economic success, so long as it is obtained honestly, and proper respect
is shown for the social responsibility that comes with it. That social
responsibility is much different than what President Obama and his
supporters would describe. It is a personal duty and a job for the
community led by its religious leaders, not the government. 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.
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. Through that process we become
closer to God.
President Obama, the progressive Democrats, and
the nanny-statists of all political persuasion take away that choice.
They believe that if the choice were to be left up to the individual,
that individual would do the wrong thing. Therefore government needs to
take an omnipotent God-like role and control our decisions.
who support progressivism are rejecting the free will given to us by
our Maker and handing it over to the government. Thus they are retarding
their spiritual development, and as a result, canceling an opportunity
to get closer to God. In a progressive society, the ten “Days of Awe”
are not necessary; there is no introspection needed, because government
makes their choices for them.
In an English dictionary the word sin is defined as:
Any act regarded as such a transgression, esp. a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle.
is no word in Hebrew matching that definition. Instead the word used on
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is “chet”. It is an archery term referring
to an arrow that “missed the target.” The person who missed the mark is
considered to have made the mistake due to a lack of focus,
concentration or skill. The purpose of the High Holidays is for each of
us to determine why they missed the mark. The answer cannot come from
someone else or from the government. It has to come from inside each
In the same vein, the Hebrew word commonly translated as
repentance, “teshuvah,” actually means return. In other words, we have
returned to the correct path. It’s true meaning is much more than just
repentance, which implies simply feeling sorry for what you have done.
Teshuvah involves changing what it is inside you that led you to go
off-course, (a concept that many politicians should adopt).
Rabbis tell us the only way to do “Teshuvah” is by undergoing personal
reflection and personal choice (as opposed to governmental regulation).
God gives us a road map in the Torah, Prophets, Psalms and other sacred
texts; he even gave us coaches (Rabbis), but to truly change ourselves
and ultimately to truly change the world, we have to discover for
ourselves the best way to read the road map.
In its purest
essence the Jewish High Holiday period is the antithesis of the various
forms of liberal and progressive government. We learn from the “Ten Days
of Awe” that we must be honest with ourselves and rely on our own
introspection to find the right path. We learn that while God may be
evaluating the path we take, and he provides a road map to the right
way, he does not nor will not make the decisions for us. Progressive
and leftist governments take free will away; they make the decisions,
determine the path, eliminate the need for introspection and the
opportunity for each one of us to find those sparks of God in the world.
What those type of governments take from their citizens is the greatest
joy of all— finding for themselves the path that will draw them
closer to God. Finding that path is what the “Yomim Noraim “