Torah For Today: The Chief Rabbi wading into politics

Torah For Today: The Chief Rabbi wading into politics

Rabbi Ariel Abel takes a look at a topical issue and offers a biblical response

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

With just over a fortnight to go before the election, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, issued a stark condemnation of Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

He said “the overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety” ahead of the December 12 election and that “a new poison” has taken hold in the party “sanctioned from the very top”.

What is the Torah’s view on this – should rabbis become involved in politics?

David, the king, prophet and psalmist was unequivocal in his policy of engagement with realpolitik.

The psalm declares: “Then shall I sit with kings and not be abashed” and “I shall not be ashamed when I see all Your commandments.”

These verses confirm we have  a religious duty to speak out, informed by Torah values, on matters of state.

The charge to express one’s moral view vis-à-vis a political situation was a compelling one for the prophets, and the Torah lists many examples of these.

Prophets often called out moral decrepitude of every kind, even unto the throne itself – Samuel to King Saul for his hasty disobedience; Nathan to David for his immoral conduct; Elijah to Ahab for his disloyalty to religion.

Isaiah was urged to ascend to a high mountain and raise his voice like a trumpet to announce Zion, and for the sake of Zion to foreswear silence.

The age in which we live requires us to trade silence for a proactive stance at all times, no less so at the time of an election, when so much is at stake.

In that vein, the threat of antisemitism and a systemic failure to deal with it has been addressed loudly and clearly by Rabbi Mirvis.

As a trade unionist, and rabbi of Riverside, the former Liverpool constituency of Dame Louise Ellman, who resigned from Labour last month, I am grateful to the Chief Rabbi for leading by example and speaking out.

Rabbi Ariel Abel CF serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to Merseyside Army Cadet Force

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