The sudden news of an election has taken us by surprise. People might wonder who to vote for and how to go beyond voting by contributing to change in society.
Many of us are feeling not just election fatigue, but political fatigue from the Brexit referendum, division within our political parties, Trumpism and the rise of populism.
Some of us might fear that we can do nothing. I sometimes want to tune out of all the talk. If we repeatedly find the world is out of our control, then why ask what we can do?
Judaism offers much to overcome such fatigue. In Pirkei Avot 1:15, Shammai taught: “Make your Torah fixed, say little and do much, and receive every person with a pleasant countenance.”
I don’t want my attempts to contribute to society to be limited to voting and speaking about it. I’ll seek to be politically active. I do not want to speak instead of doing, but I will ask “what can we do?” and mean it.
Second, we must take part in political conversations, however much we feel saturated or fatigued, and we must take part in these with a modest openness to learning, even to changing our minds.
Judaism has a great tradition of conversation. In the Talmud, we hear the schools of Shammai and Hillel talked for three years about whose halachic convictions were right.
We are told that both are right, but Hillel’s views win out because of the way his school had the conversation. They were “pleasant and modest, and taught the other side of the argument first”. We, too, can be pleasant and modest and learn from the other side.
I want my vote, actions and words to contribute, however modestly, to a fairer society. The prophet Amos railed against using “a dishonest scale” and selling “the needy for a pair of shoes”. There is a Jewish imperative to vote and turning away from the political conversation is unacceptable.
υ Benji Stanley is rabbi for young adults at the Movement for Reform Judaism