A Victory for G‑d and A Jewish Jerusalem

By: Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort

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Over the past two weeks we have again witnessed some of the great machinery of American Democracy at work; the conventions of the Republican and Democratic Parties. The conventions have certainly become highly entertaining, and frankly, fun to follow. The festive and positive atmospheres, which are buoyed by the enthusiastic participants, is something to behold. It is like a circus, religious revival meeting, pep rally, and rock concert all rolled into one. 


Underpinning all of the fanfare some extraordinarily important and serious issues are at stake. In fact this week two issues of the most profound importance came to be central issues. As the Democratic Party worked on ratifying their final party platform two significant omissions came to the fore, and were then publicly decided upon (fortunately in a very positive way).


For the first time ever – at least as far as my limited knowledge goes – no reference was made to G‑d. Additionally, for the first time in the past several conventions, no reference was made to Jerusalem being the capital of Israel.  These glaring omissions brought justifiably deep-seeded angst and some embarrassment to a huge number of Americans, particularly Jewish Democrats. To the credit of the Democratic Party and Convention Chairman, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, these omissions were overturned, and were then reinserted into the official platform of the party.


The purpose of this article is not to question why these issues were left out in the first place and why there was so much angry resistance to them being reinserted, though I believe it to be extremely disconcerting and indicative that the Democratic Party has clearly evolved (and not necessarily in a good way) from the party historically supported by the vast majority of Jews since the Great Depression. The purpose of this article is to point out that Divine Providence has demonstrated that G‑d and a Jewish Jerusalem are so closely related as to be inseparable. Is it not wondrous, nay miraculous, that these two points should be treated as one? I think even those who disagree strongly with my premise must wonder at how it came to be that these two issues were decided as one?


As a Chabad Rabbi I also have the obligation to point out that there is a distinctly “Chabad angle” to this whole story. The day that this debate took place and was settled was on the Jewish date of the 18th of Elul, known as Chai Elul. Chai, of course, means life. The day became known as Chai Elul because in addition to being the 18th day of the month it is also the birthday of two great luminaries in the Chasidic Jewish world; Rabbis Israel Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name), and Shneur Zalman of Liadi, also known as the Alter Rebbe.


The Baal Shem Tov is considered the originator of Chasidic Philosophy. The Alter Rebbe is considered his spiritual ‘grandson,’ meaning the leader who developed and refined his spiritual system and approach to serving G‑d. 


One of the primary and most important teachings of the Baal Shem Tov was that a Jew must learn from everything he/she sees and apply it in his/her service of the Almighty. Surely the confluence of these two issues must inspire us to fight to keep G‑d on the front burner of our collective conscience and that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people.  


The Alter Rebbe emphasized in his philosophy that we must serve G‑d in an all-encompassing manner, using our entire being in His service. Most importantly he posited we must use our intellect to control our emotions thusly creating a solid foundation to perpetuate our attachment to G‑d. In other words, for a Jew intellect dictates that G‑d can never be removed from a party platform just as He cannot be removed from any aspect of our lives because our lives are generated by Him and are meant to revolve around Him.


Whichever political party we may belong to the events of this week must galvanize all of us to redouble our efforts to bring the realization of the centrality of G‑d to the world and of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Obviously it is not obvious, and in fact, these two very basic notions are being proactively assailed right now. It is our duty to reverse these troubling trends and create an appropriate ‘dwelling place’ for the Almighty in this world.   


Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort is Director of Chabad at La Costa, North County Jewish Center. Rabbi Eilfort readers’ feedback via email, [email protected].