Rabbis Should Leave Out The Politics In Their High Holiday Sermons

Dennis Prager writes: Because separation of pulpit and politics is a conservative value, not a liberal one. Therefore, rabbis with conservative political beliefs do not use their pulpit to advance their political agenda. And because no conservative believes that advancing the conservative political agenda makes you a good person. Like Judaism, we know that becoming a good person demands arduously working on one’s character, not having the right politics.

And what about the notion that “social justice” issues are, by definition, Jewish issues? This is believed by Jews on the left because “social justice” has become a euphemism for all liberal social and political positions. If you are for social justice, you are liberal; if you oppose liberals, you oppose social justice. Therefore, for liberal Jews and their rabbis, Judaism is identical to leftism. Proof? Ask a Jew on the left to name one political or social position in which Judaism and leftism oppose one another.

So why should left-wing rabbis bother talking about character when they could talk about health care or global warming or the Christian right? After all, they might offend some congregants if they talk about the congregants’ kids cheating on exams. But who in an overwhelmingly liberal congregation will be offended by a sermon on behalf of nationalizing health care or in favor of raising corporate taxes?

So, the left-wing rabbi has everything to gain from giving a sermon against the Tea Party, Glenn Beck or carbon emissions. For one thing, that takes no courage. For a liberal rabbi to espouse liberal politics from most non-Orthodox pulpits takes as much courage as it takes a conservative politician to espouse conservative politics at a Tea Party rally. And it’s a lot easier to talk politics than to talk Judaism and to use it to challenge the congregants to be more ethical human beings and more serious Jews, or to teach the congregants how to come closer to God in a secular society.

This year will be the fourth year in which I conduct High Holy Days services (pragerhighholidays.net), and from the beginning I have assured those who attend that I will never talk politics. Though I am as morally committed to conservative values as leftists are to leftist values, anyone who attends my services will be entering a politics-free zone. Jews would be much better off if all our synagogues had such a policy. If what you hear in shul is no different from what you hear on NPR or at a Democratic Party conference, why go to shul? Which is a major reason non-Orthodoxy is in decline: If Judaism and liberalism are identical, who needs Judaism?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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