Writing for a ḥaredi audience, Rabbi Aaron Lopiansky considers what lessons pious Jews should draw from the attack on the Capitol last week. To Lopiansky, the rioters’ actions “should have been unthinkable,” and thus the relevant question is not what motivated them, but what made them thinkable. He blames a lack of two cardinal Jewish virtues: da’at (wisdom or “cerebral and calm deliberation”) and civility, or being a mensch:
If people don’t see mentshlikhkeyt (civility) as a virtue, then what is to stop them, when they become distraught or frustrated, from behaving the way that mob did? . . . If patience and civility are the hallmark of a “loser,” who would want to be a loser?
Perhaps the Torah’s most powerful description of mob behavior is that surrounding the Golden Calf. When Joshua hears the revelry, he is unsure as to what he hears. Moses responds, “it is not the sounds of victory; nor is it a cry of the weak. Rather it is the sound of mocking denigration, intended to hurt and cause anguish” [as per the 11th-century commentator Rashi’s understanding of the verse]. The sounds of a roaring mob are not an expression of self; rather they are a destructive cacophony.
A society where dignified and calm interaction is fostered is a good society to live in.
Lopiansky then turns to consider what he sees as the specific failings of his own community, beginning with the growing “plague” of “emotional involvement with the political candidates and their parties.”
No candidate or party represents Torah values. Neither the Republican nor the Democratic platform is Torah. And this is beside the fact that their political “ideologies” are shifting sand. A Torah Jew has no business identifying with either party.
The Jewish people have many needs and sensitivities. We weigh the different options and vote for a candidate or party based on what is important to us. We engage in political barter: a vote from the community in return for advancing values important to us and allocating vital resources. We are courteous and respectful to all, but we do not identify emotionally with any candidate or party. In fact, emotional enthusiasm for a candidate or a party is an “eysh zarah”!
This last term, literally a “strange fire,” is used to in the Bible (Leviticus 10:1) to refer to the unholy offering brought into the Tabernacle by Aaron’s sons—a desecration for which God punished them with instant immolation.
Read more on Mishpacha: https://mishpacha.com/gone-missing/