Public policy decisions should be based on facts


Parashat Pinchas can at times be a difficult parashah for us to relate to our modern times, as it speaks of Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron, killing an Israelite man and Moabite woman for acting in an immoral way and disrespecting God. Pinchas’ act is sometimes considered one of heroism as it “wakes up” the Israelite community and causes them to turn from their abhorrent, immoral ways, as well as stops a plague that God had inflicted as punishment upon the Israelite community because of their behavior.

It can be hard to think of punishment and plague in this very literal sense, but in a very real way, today within our greater Jewish community we too have been struck by a “plague.” It is not a plague that makes us physically sick, but it is a plague that can cause divisiveness and potentially cause us to engage in less than desirable behavior, such as being a party to slander, gossip, and other such things that go with speaking and hearing half truths.

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In this election year, we Jews, believed to be a voting bloc, have been targeted and will most likely continue to be targeted by those on both sides of the political aisle in an attempt to gain our vote. We as a community must be aware and recognize that much of what we receive, through targeted e-mail and mail, is not always the truth. At times there may be some truth to what we receive but more than likely we are receiving half truths that are meant to tug at our heart strings and cause us to consider or reconsider what it is for which we stand.

While most of us care a great deal about Israel and often will not support a candidate who does not support the State of Israel, we Jews are not single issue voters. Many of us, within the Jewish community, continue to vote on values, but many of us also base our vote very much on the economy and issues of security. My point is not to talk about how we vote as a community but rather to focus on how we maneuver our way through this election cycle, as an informed community that seeks the truth.

Our job in this election year is to be like Pinchas, to take a stand against and root out the abhorrent tactics used by all sides that seem to plague us each election cycle; we need to stand up and say that we are voters who believe in making our decisions not based on slander and half-truths but based on accurate information of each and every candidate and issue. This will not be an easy task but if we succeed, regardless of how each and every one of us casts our vote, we will be voting as Jews, with a Jewish voice, because we will have voted based on emet,din, v’rachamim — truth, justice, and mercy.

Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg of United Hebrew Congregation is a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association.