This call to “exalt, magnify, and uplift” the officers of our government is not a call for power, but for stature. It is not about what a government does or can do, how big it is or isn’t, where it intervenes or doesn’t. It’s about how a government is viewed in the eyes of other countries and - most importantly - in the eyes of the people it governs. It is about the degree to which its institutions are respected regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with a particular policy, approach, or decision. In many ways this phrase harkens back to the earliest source we have calling for a prayer for the government. In Pirkei Avot (3:2), Rabbi Chanina exhorts us to “Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the awe of it, man would swallow his fellow alive.” The stature of a government, the “awe" and the reverence in which it is held, is directly proportional to the peace and prosperity that can flourish within its borders. Where government is looked up to, the common good can be cultivated, nourished, and rewarded. Where government is looked down upon, man’s evil impulses are all too often set free.
This week, “the awe” of the American people for its government fell to historic lows and our people - literally and tragically - “swallowed his fellow alive.” The chaos which unfolded in our capitol threatens to undermine the institutions upon which we as individuals, and as a Jewish community, depend for peace, safety, and tranquility. The fact that it happened through violence and with disregard for the sanctity of human life means that it is something which we, as Torah Jews, must not only oppose, but abhor.
Let us add a bit more kavanah this week, therefore, and pray that we see all three branches of American Government speedily restored to an exalted, magnified, and uplifted place in the eyes of all Americans and in the eyes of the world.
With best wishes for a Shabbat shalom,