“I hope you don’t mind my asking, but how are the Orthodox voting?” She was an older woman with cropped grey hair and a New York accent; we left the polls together on Tuesday.
I was surprised by her assumption–how was she sure I was even Jewish?–but I had to think quickly. “People are pretty much deciding for themselves,” I answered politely, hoping to end the discussion. What good would it be to debate politics after we both voted? In truth, though, I try to avoid talking about politics with anyone, Orthodox or otherwise, so I had little idea how people were voting (with the exception of some of my more vocal friends and relatives).
But I do know this: As Jews, we can all be comforted and empowered by this week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha. In it, G-d tells Abraham that the best way to guarantee an outcome that is “good for the Jews” is by “voting” for G-d, because G-d can do anything, including perform miracles. When Abraham questions how he can fulfill G-d’s promise to become a great nation– he is one-hundred, his wife Sarah is ninety, and they’re unable to have a son–G-d tells him to go outside and gaze at the stars. There G-d informs Abraham that his fate is not determined by astrology, or anything else in the natural order.
As Abraham’s Jewish descendants, we also have the ability to bypass all limitations. Through our prayers and our mitzvos, we connect to the infinite, supra-rational, and living G-d.
The idea that G-d is living was a game-changer for me personally; He’s not just watching what I do, He’s right there with me, involved in what I do. This relationship also makes room for miracles–and not just for me in my life. By behaving as G-d wants, I strengthen His rulership over the entire world, increasing the likelihood that He will inspire the hearts and minds of leaders to promote peace and prosperity for everyone. That may be implausible according to the way of the world, but my job as a Jew is to affect the way of the world–and one way is to believe in miracles and help make them happen.
Miracles explain the birth of Abraham’s son Yitzchak–according to nature, it wasn’t supposed to happen and yet it did. Miracles also explain the survival of the Jewish people–according to nature (as in, persecution, expulsions, pogroms, and attempted annihilation) we shouldn’t be here and yet we are.
Nobody knows with certainty who or what will be “good” or “bad” for the world. As Americans, we are responsible to vote for the candidate we prefer. After that, we remain hopeful and, ideally, involved. It’s not so simple for me as a Jew: G-d wants me to “vote” for Him in everything I do. But I know He is with me and I know He helps me. Miraculous as that may sound, it’s always been the Jewish way–and when I make it my way, I help to make it the way of the world.