Off the Pulpit: More Polarized Than Ever?


“Remember the days of old; consider the years of past generations. Ask your father, and he will tell you, your elders, and they will teach you.” (Deut. 32:7). We need the historical awareness the Torah recommends.

Are we really “more polarized than ever?” There was a time when congressmen (no women) would arm themselves with clubs and knives, before the civil war. Oh, and there was a civil war. Closer in time, in 1968, there were terrible assassinations, a horrific war, the withdrawal of a President from public life, shooting of college students by the national guard, and a political convention that almost exploded.

After two world wars and a communist regime that enslaved almost half the world, we have emerged. Troubled to be sure, but also making progress in areas of disease, poverty and equality. There is much to be done, and criticism is always valuable, especially when informed by an understanding of how we got here.

Sometimes it seems the only historical analogy one hears is World War II. A lot happened in human history apart from Nazis. Long ago Moses exhorted us to learn it. Heeding his wisdom will deepen the discussion of our present.

(Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.)

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