Parshas Shoftim (5768)
I've been thinking about all the scrutiny and media coverage that Sarah Palin and her family have been subjected to now that John McCain has nominated her as his vice-presidential running-mate.
Rumors about her and her newborn baby Trig are flying around the internet, gossip columns are talking about her husband Todd's drunk driving charge over 20 years ago, and her daughter Bristol's very personal affairs are being discussed and debated by nearly every talk-show host in the U.S.
Pretty sick, isn't it? I mean, even though Governor Palin surely had to know going into this that she and her family would be put through the ringer, it still seems utterly reprehensible and downright disgusting that every detail of her personal and private life should be exposed for everyone to see!
It's one thing if she were being nominated as the "Vice-Spiritual Leader" of the American people, whom everyone would look up to as their role model for leading a moral and ethical life. Then we could possibly understand the need for all that scrutiny. After all, if Sarah Palin and her family are to teach the nation about family values, G-dliness, and sensitivity to others, we need to know that they are worthy and capable of fulfilling that mission.
Of course, this is not the case, since the Vice-President (and even the President) of the United States is not the spiritual, but the political leader of the nation, and, as such, requires nothing more than good leadership skills and experience coupled with a charismatic personality - and what he or she does in private is nobody's business.
I then realized that the type of intense scrutiny that Sarah Palin has been subject to is exactly what - according to Jewish tradition - each and every one of us will experience on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, only 24 days from now!
As we pray in the traditional Mussaf liturgy for Rosh Hashanah: "Atah Zocher Maaseh Olam" - You [G-d] remember the deeds of all, and consider [the actions] of all Your creations. In front of You is revealed all the hidden things and the secrets ... Who is not judged on this day, for the remembrance of all creations comes before You, the deeds of Man, his thoughts, schemes, and the temptations of his heart ..."
This means that on the Day of Judgment, G-d and His Heavenly Court scrutinize our every deed, exposing all those things we did in private, and judging us down to the last detail. If, in the past year, we once spoke Loshon Hara (slander) about a co-worker, if we once gave too little charity, if we once cheated on our tax returns, if we once lusted after something that we shouldn't have - everything is revealed in Heaven on Rosh Hashanah for the court to decide our fate for the coming year. And you thought Sarah Palin had it bad!
The truth is that all this scrutiny and "Heavenly media attention" is no less than we deserve. You see, we - each and every one of us - took upon ourselves as part of our mandate as Jews to be a Mamleches Kohanim, a "kingdom of ministers", and a Goy Kadosh, a "holy nation" [see Exodus 19:6]. This means that we are to serve humanity until the end of time as "Presidents" and "Vice-Presidents" of spirituality and morality, to manifest G-dliness in the world by virtue of the way we act, think and live, and to be role models of morality and ethics to all the nations.
This also means - and we knew this before we accepted the nomination 3320 years ago - that each and every year, at the end of our one-year term when we would come up for "re-election" on Rosh Hashanah, we would be subject to intense judgment and scrutiny by G-d and His Court to see if we indeed qualify to serve another term in this very difficult and spiritually demanding role.
Of course, we all make mistakes, and G-d (unlike the media) is forgiving - which is why we were given Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement - but if we are going to continue serving as "spiritual leaders" of our families, our communities, and the entire world, we need to make sure that we are in tip-top moral shape. And that's why all that scrutiny is truly necessary.
As we get closer and closer to "Election Day", may G-d give us the moral strength and courage to examine our actions of the previous year and rectify them as best we can, in the hope that we will then merit a good judgment and be given the chance to serve our constituency as Jewish "ministers" for yet another year.