How many rabbis will be able to resist the urge to pontificate during the Days of Awe about matters on which they know little?
In the hands of Obama the potter, American Jews are but clay. In his recent telephonic pep talk to a reported 1,000 American rabbis, the president invoked some of the most memorable (and theologically challenging) passages from the Rosh Hashanah liturgy to support his health policy agenda. He spoke about the new month of Elul, the meaning of this time of year and, oh, by the way, the crazy distortions of all those who have dared to object to his massive experiment with one-sixth of the American economy.
Some good prep-work from Obama’s staff (“Sir, it’s pronounced eh-LOOL”), some happy talk, and the president apparently had these mostly left-leaning rabbis eating out of his hand. In these kinds of calls, there is always an “ask,” and Obama’s was simple: Proselytize to your congregants and tell them the good news about health care reform.
This is an intriguing prospect. What would happen if these American rabbis went back to their laptops, hit delete on the current drafts of their High Holy Day sermons and started afresh by reading the latest issues of the health policy journals? No doubt some have already Googled “health policy sermon” in the vain hope that there’s an easy solution to Obama’s challenge.