A religious leader commenting on a hot political issue will need to set aside any personal political bias and give an opinion based on an honest and objective interpretation of Biblical law viewed through the prism of thousands of years of tradition.
In response to my article about politics some readers wrote to me saying that it is not the job of a rabbi to comment on politics. Stick to religion, I was told: rabbis should keep out of politics. Clearly, many people think that religious leaders should be apolitical, however in my view they are mistaken.
God convinces Moses of this, and assures him that He will be with him. However Moses remains skeptical: “They [the children of Israel] will not believe me nor will they listen to me for they will say God did not appear to you.” This reveals Moses’ true concern: he was worried that since the children of Israel would not believe that God involves Himself in politics they would conclude that a man of God who claimed to have a message with political implications should be ignored.
To counter this God allowed Moses to perform miracles that proved he was indeed the carrier of an authentically divine message.
I was asked recently whether I was pro-choice or pro-life. Often the answer to this question will depend on which side of the political spectrum one comes from. My answer however, although related to a political question, has nothing to do with politics itself. The Bible sees human life as being of infinite value. So according to biblical law, with the exception of cases where the mother’s life may be at risk, abortion is forbidden. According to the Bible, this is simply not a choice that God allows humans to make.
We seem to forget that the Bible is more than just a roadmap to spiritual enlightenment: it is a divine manual for humanity which deals with almost every ethical issue that confronts humankind.
Here in the United States the Senate has recently approved the appointment of two new Supreme Court judges, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito. During the questioning one major theme came out: judges are supposed to interpret but not make the law. In judgment, all personal opinions and biases need to be put aside to ensure that an objective interpretation of the law is made.
So a religious leader commenting on a hot political issue will need to set aside any personal political bias and give an opinion based on an honest and objective interpretation of Biblical law viewed through the prism of thousands of years of tradition.
Ever since Moses was called upon by God to get involved in politics for the betterment of his people, religious leaders have the obligation to spread the word of God without fear of what people may say. Whatever the issue – the peace process in the Middle-East, Iranian nuclear ambitions or ethical and moral issues at home – rabbis and religious leaders are charged with the responsibility of speaking out fearlessly and sharing the views they have garnered from intense absorption in divinely inspired texts.
I am not advocating a theocratic type of government. Indeed the separation of church and state is vital and must be defended at all costs. Neither should religious leaders become politicians – history tells us that giving individuals the power to impose their religious views on others is fatally dangerous. However, since the Bible has so much to say on almost every issue, it is the obligation of every responsible religious leader to share that view with a public, which is then free to accept or reject it.