Q: Now that the election is over, we now have a president-elect loathed by just under half of our country. I’m briefly fortified against misery since the Cubs won the World Series, but that feeling will soon pass, and certainly long before one of ”Those Two” takes the oath of office. I’m trying to find some post-election solace in scripture, looking to the admittedly gender-centric Psalm 146:3 “Put not your faith in princes,” and its ever-encouraging follow-up in Psalm 146:4, which promises us that soon those princes will be dead anyway. Perhaps it’s better to skip ahead to Psalm 146:5 “Happy is he who hath the God of Jacob for his hope, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” I think we could all use a prayer right about now, and some rabbinical wisdom as our nation moves forward. – from your old pal, Flounder
A: Dear Fish, First, please understand that the solace you feel at the Cubs’ win is not going to do much for my Cleveland readers.
Second, I am writing my reply to your agonized question on the Sunday before the election. So I have no idea and no interest in comforting or stirring up readers who are on the winning or the losing side. I am, however, absolutely certain that following this particular national election, some form of national healing must be embraced. I am not wise enough to know how that can be done, but I do know that many of our fellow Americans are in need of a national coming together, while others will sadly only use the election to deepen their grievances and their anger and their despair.
What I do think is that, despite your most excellent textual suggestions from the Bible, our nation may need more than a well-chosen Psalm to heal our national wounds. Since we are talking texts, I would encourage you to add to your list Isaiah 40:21-23 and his etymologically scathing description of all the nations of the world”
“Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.”
The point of Isaiah’s divinely revealed wisdom is not that the political realm is without value and not that public service is inherently corrupt and corrupting, but rather that the entire political sphere of our lives does not remotely touch or inform the most important parts of our lives. Our love for each other, our courage in the face of challenges, our gratitude to a power beyond us that also created and loves us – all this is untouched by politics. All this remains true and present before us no matter whom we elect. If there is no God, and no transcendent realm then the nation is as high as we go, and it leaders are the sole guardians and rudders of our existence. But we are more than bodies ruled by the state who happen to have souls. We are souls who happen to have bodies.
One of my favorite rabbinic interpretations of the Bible (midrashim) taught that some of the people who walked through the Red Sea during the Exodus never saw the miracle of the walls of water on their left and their right. One rabbi asks, “How was this possible?” and another answered, “They never looked up, and so all they saw was mud.” The way to recover from this election is to look up.
And when we learn all this and we look up – when we learn that the truly and enduringly important things about our personal and collective existence are utterly immune to the vicissitudes of politics – then we will gain a spiritual strength that can help us find God and find each other despite the acrimony and vulgarity of this dispiriting campaign. Isaiah again at the end of chapter 40, verses 28-31:
“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
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