Four years ago, together with thousands of other people, I went to Invesco Field to listen to Barack Obama accept the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. Indeed it was a historic moment and I wanted to be part of it.
I admit to have been swept up, to a small extent, in Obamamania. I believed that the very fact that a person such as Barack Obama could become president would give the average American hope and inspiration – something that was much needed during those tough economic times we were in.
In his acceptance speech this year, we saw a chastened President Obama. After all the lofty promises he made in 2008, over the last four years he has come face to face with the harsh reality of what is possible. Yet he continues to say that he can change it all, all he needs is more time. It seems that he has not learned the most important lesson of all – human limitations.
In fact, the Torah warns us against saying that “my power and the strength of my hand created this success,” (Deuteronomy 8:17). Acknowledgement must go to a power higher than us.
There is a Biblical law stating that that upon settling in the Land of Israel the Israelites were commanded take of the first fruit to bud on a tree and put them into a basket and bring it to the House of God (Deuteronomy 26:1-2).
The idea here is that although the fruit came about through the work of the farmer, Divine help is also a part of the equation. This is acknowledged through bringing the first fruit to the Temple in Jerusalem.
It is fascinating that the difference between the 2008 Democratic platform and the 2012 platform (before God was added back in) was exactly this issue. In 2008 the platform stated:
“We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.”
In 2012 it said:
“We gather to reclaim the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and the most prosperous nation on Earth – the simple principle that in America, hard work should pay off, responsibility should be rewarded, and each one of us should be able to go as far as our talent and drive take us.”
The difference is clear: In 2008, the Democrats still thought that God is part of the equation needed for success. In 2012, however, they were of the opinion that success has to do exclusively with “my power and the strength of my hand” – exactly the attitude the Bible warns us against.
The fact that Jerusalem was also left out
of the platform as well is completely consistent with this view. The first fruits are brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. Indeed the entire significance of Jerusalem is that it is a city chosen by God to be holier than any other place in the universe.
If you leave God out of your party platform, then it is entirely consistent to leave out Jerusalem as well.
Under pressure from Jews and other religious groups Obama reversed course on this. However, the subtext is still there: He, and many Democrats, it seems, do not give credit to God for any of their successes (or failures).
According to the Bible, this is the greatest form of arrogance a human being can have. The proverb says that arrogance comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). Thus, the Obama team and the Democrats ignore ancient Biblical wisdom at their own peril.
Rabbi Levi Brackman is co-founder and executive director of Youth Directions
, a non-profit organization that helps youth find and succeed at their unique positive purpose in life