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Machshavot: Parashat Behalotcha

June 09, 2017 Andrew Shaw
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I landed from Israel at 8:05pm last night and just about made it to the polling station to cast my vote and waited.
It was certainly an interesting night, heading to Shacharit this morning it struck me that Labour were celebrating even though they had lost and the Tories were devastated even though they did actually win. The reason for this is that no one expected this. A few weeks ago, we were being told the Conservatives would win over 400 seats and Labour would be lucky to get 200. The actual results were therefore quite shocking and produced interesting reactions.

Once again, we have a shock election. We should be getting used to it. Brexit, Trump and now this. The question is how did it happen and what lessons can we learn from it?

Honestly, I was not surprised by the result; I saw it coming because the Tories made the same mistakes that the Remain campaign and the Clinton campaign did. Similarly Corbyn and co followed the successes of Brexit and Trump – let me explain.

It was pointed out to me that the Brexit campaign was built on hope whereas the Remain campaign was built on fear. It is not for one to say whether the hope that was promised by Brexit will be shown to have been false and the fear spoken of by Remain may have been true – the simple fact is that this was the strategies of the two camps.

Similarly, in America, Trump was mostly about ‘Make America Great Again’, again it is irrelevant whether or not you believe he is doing that or if it is important, the simple fact was that so much of his campaign (not the debates but what was said on the road) was visionary, similar to how Brexit put their case to the UK populous. The democratic campaign was mainly focussed on stopping Trump and a lot of the adverts I saw leading up to the election were painting an apocalyptic picture IF he got in – playing to our fears.

In both cases, vision and hope beat fear and trepidation. Again, this is not a political statement saying therefore that Brexit and Trump were good and Remain and Clinton were bad. It is simply using the idea that hope beats fear.

The exact same thing happened here. Jeremy Corbyn presented a vision for the future, I am not saying it was a good vision, or even a possible one but it was aspirational. The Tories main weapon was to tell us to imagine the disaster if Labour got in. So many times last night, as Labour celebrated (remember they did lose!) their supporters spoke about how they were about giving the people, especially the young voters hope and a vision for the future.

So what can we learn? Well, the reason I landed from Israel last night was that I had spent the last four days visiting many of the yeshivot and seminaries (we visited 12 of them) where our boys and girls spend a year or more before University. These young men and women are the cream of our community; they possess a strong connection to Torah and Israel and use that connection to engage positively with the modern world. They are living the dual ideals of Modern Orthodoxy and Religious Zionism and can be a walking Kiddush Hashem.

Why were we out there? We want to make sure that when they return to the UK that passion and that vision remains strong. It is no surprise that all data has shown that a year in Yeshiva or Sem can contribute hugely to your Jewish identity. It is an engagement with a visionary Judaism, whilst living and learning in a land of hope and miracle. Their connection to Judasim is fuelled by a positive aspirational vision of Torah, not one fuelled by fear or trepidation.

We have to instil in all our young people a connection to an authentic Judaism that is looking to the future by drawing its strength from the past, an authentic Judaism that inspires, that garners hope and belief. Having been in Yerushalayim for Yom Yerushalayim with Mizrachi Olami, having seen the effect that our Mizrachi Rav, Rav Eliyahu is having in Hasmonean and Edgware, and having experienced the power of the Day of Inspiration- I believe that is the Judaism the wider community needs in order to make sure our assimilation rates begin to come down. That is also the Judasim that we need to strengthen ourselves and our families with.

I am proud that Mizrachi is providing those experiences, not just for our young people but for the whole community, to connect us to the eternal messages of the Torah while living our lives in the 21st century as proud Religious Zionists.

Now that is a Manifesto worth voting for

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Shaw

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