Simchat Torah & Election Day
We spend a lot of time thinking about how we live Camp Chi’s core values of community (kehillah), kindness (chesed) and respect (kavod), and sharing opportunities for you to do so. There is no better exemplification of Kehillah than the holiday of Simchat Torah. Literally translated to the joy or happiness of the Torah, this holiday marks when we annually celebrate the finishing of the reading of to the Torah and begin it again. While most people just see this holiday as a giant celebration, everything about it centers on the power of the individuals who make up the community.
Rituals of the holiday demonstrate the balance between individual voice and collective needs. Each person receives the communal honor of an aliyah, being called up to bless the Torah for all to hear. While being called to the Torah is about an individual, it can only happen when there is a minyan or a quorum of community members present. When you are called up, you are called based on your Hebrew name which includes the names of your parents. This is important because it shows that the community cares who you are and, at the same time, verifies who you are based on those who have shaped you. Finally, when you bless the Torah, some customs encourage you to kiss the Torah with your tallit (prayer shawl), thus creating an individual moment to affirm the reading you have blessed. Furthermore, on this holiday, the children are called to bless the Torah together, accepting the Torah on behalf of the next generation. This demonstrates the future generation’s commitment to living by Jewish values and be counted as participating members in the community.
We had the pleasure of just celebrating Simchat Torah this past weekend. It’s ironic that the holiday falls so close to the 2020 election because just like this holiday, both these important days on the community calendar highlight the individual responsibility to show up and to put our values at the center of the lives we lead. When you choose to vote, you are choosing to say you want your voice to be counted in the community. Just like an aliyah, you must prove who you are to partake in the individual act that occurs in the public realm. The simple act of voting represents a moment in time where you endorse or affirm the candidates who share your values. Now more than ever, we are seeing young people expressing a desire to partake in public discourse and take a stand in who runs this Country and what they stand for, just like when the children are called to the Torah as a group, young people are putting their commitment to their values on display for the previous generation to see and hear their voice and investing in the future.
There are plenty of ways to still get involved and make your voice heard if you are not yet old enough to vote. First and foremost, learn about the candidates, and issues, and make sure your family members who are of age, are voting in the election. With parental approval, you can make calls, send postcards, letters or texts, and get involved with helping candidates, voter registration drives, and other means to elevate issues you care about. And most importantly, regardless of age, stay involved after election day too, holding the elected officials accountable to the people they serve.
Voting and the celebration of the Torah, like camp, are multigenerational experiences that showcase the values of personal expression within the collective experience. Just like an elected official on the national, state or local level leads all people, regardless of who voted for them, there are times where we make decisions for the sake of the community that may conflict with individuals desires and needs. While we have spent this high holiday season reflecting on the past and gearing up for our centennial, we want to take this time to reaffirm our values. We commit leading in a way that balances individual autonomy and the power of the collective. We commit to continue to knowing you by name, to sharing the story of our past, to showing that you matter, and to building a future tied to our legacy centered on the value and power of the Camp Chi community.
So this election season, we encourage you to take a page from our book and from the lessons taught by Jewish tradition, do your homework, express your individual voice, show your civic responsibility and help create the future that matters to you.
Still looking for a reason to vote? Check out Miles Evan’s interview about the importance of voting with the League of Women of Voters Glen Elyn.