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5 Things we Learn From the Election

blogisrael.jpgIsrael held an unprecedented election redo this week, making it the second election in a single year.

The Baal Shem Tov, whose birthday we celebrate this week, taught that we can learn a lesson from everything we see. Here are five I’ve taken from the Israeli election that we can all adapt during this spiritual election season as we prepare for the High Holidays.

1. Never underestimate the power of an individual. We see how one individual has the power to decide the fate of an entire country, and on a personal level, the mitzvah of a single Jew can decide the fate of all Jewry forever. Never think that your good deed does not count. It counts and it counts a lot! 

2. In life, you always get a second chance. Just because you did not get the vote the first time around, does not mean you cannot get it the second time. G-d always give us another chance. Even if we sinned the whole year, it’s OK. G-d offers us the opportunity to come back, cast our vote differently, and regain His trust. 

3. Never take your voters for granted; just because they voted for you once does not mean they will vote for you again. Likewise, just because G-d voted for you last year, don’t assume you can sit back and coast through this election season. His vote is not guaranteed.

4. By the time the election rolls around, the candidates are hoarse from lack of sleep and constant campaigning. Politicians work hard, day and night, doing everything in their power to find favor with their voters. We need to work just as hard to curry favor with G-d and secure His vote for the upcoming year.

5. One of the greatest obstacles politicians face is apathy and voter fatigue. Yes, the voter may like the candidate and agree with his or her policies, but that’s not enough. The voter needs to be motivated enough to actually go out and vote on the pivotal day. We also struggle with apathy in our service of G-d, and we need to find ways to overcome that so we can serve Him with joy and vigor. Apathy is dangerous. 

 Each of us wants to go into Rosh Hashanah and say, “You chose us from all the other nations,” but we have to earn it. This is the season. We have the entire month of Elul to campaign and make commitments. We tell G-d we’ll pray more and give charity more generously in the coming year. We repent and hear the shofar every day this month. “Choose us!” we beg G-d. “Give us life, give us health, and make sure all our needs are met. We are worth your vote.”

As for Israel, who will lead? At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. G-d is in charge; He runs the world. We’re just along for the ride. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

“Tatty, There’s a Snake in my Room!”

It was 1:00am.

“Tatty! Tatty!” I hear through layers of heavy slumber.

“Tatty, Tatty, there’s a snake in my room!” my daughter pleads desperately.

Even in my groggy state I was able to articulate, “There is no snake in your room. Go back to bed.”

But she stood her ground. “No, there is a snake! I can’t sleep, Tatty, I’m scared.”

“What makes you think there’s a snake?”

“I can hear it!”

“Did you see it?”

“No, but I can definitely hear it and I cannot go back to my room until you kill it!”

So I got out of my bed, realizing she didn’t wake my wife because apparently I am the superior snake killer in this house. I followed her back to her room and said “OK, show me where the snake is.” But I was not getting off that easy, it seemed. “You find it, Tatty,” she insisted, and she hovered in the doorway watching me.

I went through all her drawers and closets, squeezed under her bed, and searched every nook and cranny of the room until she was satisfied there was no snake. Only then were her anxieties quieted and she was able to go back to sleep (as was I!).

We all have “snakes” in our lives: Fears. Anxieties. Worries. Concerns.

Perhaps you’re afraid of vulnerability or commitment, worried about your children’s futures, anxious about your livelihood, feeling uncertain about your marriage and what the future holds…but you are not alone. We all battle the same “snakes” at one time or another.

So how can we manage our anxieties? Who can we wake at 1:00am to deal with the “snake”?

During the month of Elul, which we have just begun, our Father in Heaven is particularly accessible. During the rest of the year, He is like a king in the palace—harder to reach. But during Elul He is like a king who travels through the fields to meet with his subjects—anybody can speak to Him.

That’s all we need to do. Talk to Him. Trust in him. Share our burdens and supplications with him, and ask him to remove the “snakes” from our lives so we can feel relaxed and energized and serve Him with purpose.

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