Saturday, September 20, 2008

Jews obsessing over politics (and watching sports)

Hesh writes in FrumSatire about “Jewishness of the Obama and McCain campaigns”. This Jewish obsession with politics very much annoys me.
Another example of this political [censored]:

A campaign button on her lapel says, in Hebrew, “Barack Obama ‘08” and Soifer explains the agenda this way: “We are here today to talk about Sen. Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s record, and to ensure that Baruch Obama is elected the next president of the United States. 
Her use of the Hebrew name Baruch brings applause and laughter. The heavy turnout showed Democratic enthusiasm, but several of those on hand said they were former Hillary Clinton supporters and some of their friends were still slow to warm to Obama.

The first time I read this, I almost puked.

Many Jews don’t realize that we are primarily citizens of the Jewish State — no, not the modern Israel, but the Jewish theocratic state established by Yehoshua and then re-established after the first golus. Yes, it doesn’t exist today physically, but that merely means that we are a state in exile (ever heard of golus?), with government in exile (the rebbeim from the times of Mishna till now, who are spiritual and legal descendants of the Sanhedrin, the real Jewish government body) and still legally bound to obey its laws (ever heard of halacha?).

It is just like Poland during WWII: they too had people in exile and government in exile. While returning to Poland was impossible (since it was occupied by a hostile government — like Eretz Yosroel has been for the duration of the last golus), Poles in exile with their government-in-exile were residing in England. As a result, they had a situation of dual citizenship: Polish and British — which meant that while living in the UK they had to follow its laws (obviously) and have minimal level of participation in the society to repay UK for its hospitality (pay taxes, learn English, participate in local business, when possible contribute to overall welfare of the society). But why would a Pole in exile become emotionally invested into who gets elected to the UK Parliament and become really involved in the election campaign?

Hello, people? We are here temporarily, while our home is destroyed and we are waiting for it to be rebuilt. We appreciate the hospitality of this nation, we repay it by being minimally involved and contributing to the overall stability of society — but this is not our home!

This is just from historical point of view. Obviously, from yiddishkeit point of view, it is not a Jew’s business to be involved in the goyishe society’s affairs at all — except when minimally necessary: to support oneself and one’s family, for example. Our main goal and essence of existence is serving Hashem.

The possible exception to this is when Jewish lives (physical or spiritual) are clearly and obviously at stake and depend on a particular government being elected (or not elected). For example, today in Israel. Or in Russia during the election, in which Frierdiker Rebbe urged Jews to vote against Bolsheviks. Or when the Alter Rebbe supported Alexander I over Napoleon. Today, however, election of the particular president — though it may be important for the economy, long-term stability of the country and the world, etc., will not have an immediate effect on Jews. So, unless one believes that Obama (or McCain — although, I am not sure, why) being elected will clearly increase the rate of assimilation or will lead to Jewish lives being lost in a direct way (G-d forbid), I don’t see how one can justify obsession with politics.

Also, if someone tells me: “I am actively supporting McCain because Obama being elected will increase chances of nuclear war [or international terrorism, major war against Israel, more Jews succumbing to liberalism, etc.]”, I will not have such a major problem. I also will not have a problem if people are interested in politics as an academic interest, in passing. Yet, most people who support Obama and McCain in the above example do so because they are emotionally involved in the American politics (“Baruch Obama”, [censored]), because they identify with the particular candidate not from Jewish point of view, or because they intellectually agree with him, but because they are emotionally invested. This is a major problem.

The same thing is true about sport. Especially baseball. Liking to play sport is a good thing: Jews are supposed to stay healthy; “healthy mind in healthy body” and all that — and a Jew certainly needs a healthy mind; a good way to blow off steam and stress; a good way to take a break, etc. Enjoying an occasional sports game (especially soccer :) is bittul Torah, but I can live with it (the same way I can live with a Jew enjoying ice cream). Having a favorite soccer, football or basketball team, however, is already a problem: now you’re getting involved in this emotionally.

Now, in case of baseball, it is impossible to be interested in a baseball game, unless you know who is batting, making a run, etc. — the game in itself has no dynamics, no flow (football has little flow too, but it has more of it than baseball, and at least there is some strategy there, for those who know what is going on). So, I have no problem with a Jew playing baseball — it is no different from any other sport in that sense. A Jew watching baseball, however, is definitely problematic. He is similar to a Pole refugee living in the UK during WWII suddenly starting to have a favorite cricket team. An embarrassment, in other words.

(By the way, the owner of the web-site Hesh wrote about that sells those politicized kippas wrote this article in support of Rubashkins. A real chossid.)

1 comment:

menachem said...

In this lecture on, Professor Sarna talks about General Ulysses S. Grant's Order to expel all the jews from his territory during the Civil War.

It is a fascinating talk, and at the end he talks about what happened when Grant ran for President.

The response of some of the jews of that time was pretty radical and can be connected to this article.