As a Chabad Rabbi I have the obligation to point out a distinctly “Chabad angle” to the recent debate over G-d and Jerusalem at the Democratic Convention.
In case you’ve somehow missed it, underpinning all of the fanfare of the Republicans in Tampa and the Democrats in North Carolina, some extraordinarily important and serious issues, beyond the foregone presidential nominations, were at stake. In fact this week two issues of the most profound importance came to be central matters of discussion. As the Democratic Party worked on ratifying their final party platform two significant omissions came to the fore, and were then publicly decided upon, fortunately the outcome was positive for the Jewish people.
For the first time ever – at least as far as my limited knowledge goes – no reference was made to G-d in the Democratic Party platform. Additionally, for the first time in the past several conventions, no reference was made to Jerusalem being the capital of Israel. These glaring omissions brought justifiably deep-seeded angst and some embarrassment to many Americans, particularly Jewish Democrats. To the credit of the Democratic Party and Convention Chairman, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles, these omissions were finally corrected, and then reinserted into the official platform of the party.
The purpose of this article is not to question why these issues were left out in the first place, nor why there was so much resistance to them being reinserted, though I believe it to be extremely disconcerting and indicative of the Democratic Party’s evolution (and not necessarily in a good way) from the party historically supported by the vast majority of Jewish Americans since the Great Depression.
Rather, the purpose of this article is to point out that Divine Providence has demonstrated that G-d and a Jewish Jerusalem are so closely related as to be inseparable. Is it not wondrous, nay miraculous, that these two points should be treated as one? I think even those who disagree strongly with my premise must wonder how it came to be that these two issues were decided as one?
The day that this debate took place and was settled was on a significant date in the Hebrew calendar, the 18th of Elul, known as Chai Elul. Chai, of course, means life. The day became known as Chai Elul because in addition to being the 18th day of the month it is also the birthday of two great luminaries in the Chasidic Jewish world; Rabbis Israel Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name, or the BeSHT), and Shneur Zalman of Liadi, also known as the Alter Rebbe.
The Baal Shem Tov is considered the originator of Chasidic Philosophy. The Alter Rebbe is considered his spiritual ‘grandson,’ meaning the leader who developed and refined his spiritual system and approach to serving G-d.
One of the primary and most important teachings of the Baal Shem Tov was that a Jew must learn from everything one sees and apply it in one’s service of the Almighty. Surely, the confluence of these two issues with their birthdays should inspire us to fight to keep G-d on the front burner of our collective conscience and never waver in our certainty that Jerusalem is the everlasting capital of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people.
The Alter Rebbe emphasized in his philosophy that we must serve G-d in an all-encompassing manner, directing our entire being to His service. Most importantly, he posited we must use our intellect to control our emotions, thus creating a solid foundation to perpetuate our attachment to G-d. In other words, for a Jew, intellect dictates that G-d can never be removed from a party platform just as He cannot be removed from any aspect of our lives because our lives are generated by Him and are meant to revolve around Him. G-d is everywhere for us.
Whichever political party we may belong to, the events of this week must galvanize us to redouble our efforts to bring the realization of the centrality of G-d to the world and of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Obviously, it is not obvious, and, in fact, these two very basic notions are being proactively assailed right now by our enemies and by those who are ignorant of our history. It is our duty to reverse these troubling trends and create an appropriate ‘dwelling place’ for the Almighty in this world.
Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort is Director of Chabad at La Costa, North County Jewish Center, located in Carlsbad, California. He is married to Nechama Miriam Eilfort and they have eight children. In addition to serving as rabbi of his community Rabbi Eilfort has been the editor of Impact! Magazine, and one of the original scholars on www.AskMoses.com. Rabbi Eilfort welcomes readers’ comments and question at RabbiE@ChabadatLaCosta.com.