By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz
Well, it seems like most hopes for a change in the election results have faded now, and Joe Biden is the President elect. Do you want my opinion on whether that’s good for the Jews or bad for the Jews? I think it’s good.
Now, this has nothing to do with whether he will be a better president than Donald Trump, or even whether the election was fair. I do believe that numerous parties conspired to hurt President Trump, one of the most embattled leaders our country has ever had. For four years, people refused to give him a chance to govern or the respect the office deserves. He did a lot of good things. And I think Joe Biden will too.
By now I’m sure you’re confused. Am I a Trump supporter? A Biden supporter? Neither. Those of you who are like-minded will know that I am a supporter of only one leader in the free world: Hakadosh Baruch Hu. He was in charge before the election and He will be in charge after the election. In fact, even when people vote against Him, Hashem is still in charge.
When I say, therefore, that Joe Biden’s win is good for the Jews, it is because Hashem always does what’s best for us. We can make our choices, but ultimately Hashem will cast the only ballot that counts and certify the final decision. “But wait,” you will say. “What about free will?!”
Ah, a great question, and one for which I have a relatively simple answer. As I see it, Hashem gives us the opportunity to make choices, but they will never result in something He didn’t have planned for. Here’s a moshol I created to explain my understanding, based on the Chovos HaLevavos:
You are at a restaurant, wedding, or any other establishment of eating. The waiter asks what kind of ice cream you would like, vanilla or chocolate. Being a normal person, you order vanilla. [If you would order chocolate, please don’t take offense at that. It’s not your fault you have no taste. ☺]
He goes to the kitchen, then comes back and says, “I’m sorry, we’re out of vanilla.”
Did you have free will to choose? Absolutely. Were you ever going to get that vanilla ice cream? Nope. Hashem gave you the chance to order it and make your choice, but the result was not yours to determine.
Say a person is in business and he decides to cheat someone else. I know, I can’t imagine that ever happening, but hypothetically it could be possible. In the end, the deal fails, the cheat doesn’t accomplish what he set out to do, and no money changes hands. Is the fellow a cheater? Even though he didn’t manage to rip off the other party, he definitely is a cheater in character and in the eyes of Heaven. He chose to steal and for that he will be judged.
Ah, you’ll say, but what if the deal went through and he DID manage to accomplish what he wanted to do? The answer there is that Hashem accounted for it as well. The Midrash tells us that Hashem showed Moshe Rabbeinu a scene to illustrate why tzaddikim seem to suffer and the evil seem to flourish. A fellow went to a well, (apparently a popular hangout in Biblical times) and bent down to drink. As he did, he dropped his wallet.
After he left, another fellow happened along, found the money, and put it in his pocket. He continued on. Then, another man arrived, and paused to refresh himself with some cool water. At this point, the first fellow returned, and assumed the new fellow had stolen the wallet. When he denied seeing it, the first one beat him to a pulp and moved on.
Moshe was stunned. He didn’t understand the miscarriage of justice here. One fellow lost money, another one got the money, and a third got beat up though he was innocent! Hashem explained that there was more than met the eye over here.
The first fellow had stolen money from the second, and Hashem was returning it. The third fellow had done something for which he deserved a beating, and Hashem made it happen at the hand of the first fellow, who would later be judged for his actions.
[One message here to consider is that when someone “hurts you” or “does you wrong,” you don’t need to be fearful or angry since Hashem was behind what happened to you, and you should ask yourself why it did. Not because someone else wanted to hurt you, but because Hashem orchestrated this result. It makes forgiving others, moving on, and growing from hard times much easier.]
The overarching lesson of the Midrash is that Hashem has never lost control of the world, nor put it in the hands of man to control or guide it. Rather, much as a child sitting on his parent’s lap in the car may think he’s “driving” but the parent would never give the toddler such control of a dangerous situation, so, too, Hashem is definitely retaining control and just giving us the illusion of having it.
So why do I say the election results are good for the Jews, even if they may have been manipulated? Because that’s what Hashem made happen, so it was in His playbook all along.
The Steipler said that having faith and trust in Hashem, is a choice. To me, the only important decision of 2020 is whether we’ll see the hand of Hashem in everything and know it’s for the best, or whether we’ll choose to turn a blind eye and keep seeing the illusions that blur our 20/20 vision.
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