Wheat Harvesting Elections

Wheat harvesting elections June 10, 2016

Running through a wheat field would be painful frustrating, and wearing. It is certainly not path we would choose to get to our chosen destination. In the same breath, as we say we wouldn’t want to spend time moving through a wheat field where would we be without the flour that comes from that very wheat? In fact, in Pirke Avot (Wisdom of the Sages 3:16) we hear:
Ein kemach ein Torah, without flour there is no Torah/values and direction in life. We have to eat and sustain ourselves physically. If we don’t feed our bodies, we are crippled in our pursuit of something higher. So how do we go from a wheat field that we don’t want to wade through to the flour that sustains us? Follow the little red hen, of course. If we follow that story (if you don’t know it, please look it up and read it) we have to cut wheat grass, thresh the wheat – beating the kernels out of the heads, winnow the wheat – separating the grassy chaf stuff from the kernels and finally grinding the wheat into flour. We go through steps to go from a mass of stuff that hampers movement and can slice us up to the staff of life. I share this with you in this season because of something I have learned from all of my garden projects. When I do some of these physical acts (like the cutting, threshing, winnowing and grinding of wheat), I can apply that technique or action symbolically or in my imagination to other spiritual or emotional challenges I face.
Case in point: it is not just a season of harvest but it is a time of election. I know I am not alone when I say that watching the election discourse, from the candidates, the media and people out in public, is like slogging through a wheat field.
In her blog called Grok Nation, actress Mayim Bialik declared: I already feel exhausted by this campaign. The resistance to electing a woman simply because she is a woman and the narrative of people believing that a woman cannot be president annoys me, Trump’s attitude and the fact that he says horrible bigoted things annoys me, liberals with no tolerance for people being Republican annoy me, Bernie not stepping down for what I think is the good of the party annoys me; everything annoys me right now. http://groknation.com/news/annoyed-with-politics/

Bialik puts into words what I have been feeling and now translate into my wheat analogy. We have a big field of stuff. There is lots of movement, color, mass. It is hard to see what is of value in the midst of noise. All of the posturing, finger pointing and name calling is a negative distraction that I can’t digest. But if the election is a wheat field, then we should find the sustenance the same way. We should be able to separate grain from chaf, identifying debris that block our way from the real value of this process. Again I turn to Mayim Bialik: ….Except democracy. I love that we have a vote and a voice. I love that it is a country where – more than most countries – we have freedom of speech and press. I know it’s not perfect here, but visit a lot of countries in this world and you’ll find activists and civilians arrested and jailed and killed with no due process for even questioning the government, and you’ll find artists killed for creating political cartoons about the government.

I’ll take America. I’ll take this wacky system and this annoying election over that other kind of society any day; any year.http://groknation.com/news/annoyed-with-politics/
We can all do this. We can all sift through and tune out the negative. We don’t have to try to digest it or force others to consume it. There are real issues to wrestle with and real dialogue with friends and neighbors and leaders to have about how to live out the values of our country. I pray that whatever our political affiliation or outlook, we can take this to heart and bring it into our lives. We can’t afford to have people worn out by the process, disillusioned or annoyed so they tune out or injured in the act of trying to get through it. We need a country, using the energy we have to work together to work on the real “stuff” that feeds and sustains us, physically, spiritually and intellectually so we have a happy, healthy and productive United States.

Rabbi Michael Birnholz
Temple Beth Shalom