On March 2nd, the two largest Jewish communities in the world – Israel and the U.S. – will be going to the polls to elect their representatives who will help determine the future of the Jewish people. Whether it’s a once in 5-year experience or, y’know, every 4 months, these elections are critical and require all of us to affirm our civic duty and participate.
With three days left until Israel’s third election in under a year, it is hard to look at the scene and think that things will be drastically different this time. As Albert Einstein famously said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Well, folks here it is all over again, with the polls predicting more or less the same outcome. Even Bill Murray in the 1990s movie “Groundhog Day” realized that one had to keep adjusting and tweaking in order to break out of this monotonous and repetitive cycle.
On the one hand, this is democracy at its best. The electoral system is playing itself and those rules put in place for a hypothetical ‘what-if’ situation are really being tested.
And on the other hand, this is democracy at its worst in that the entire country has been in a stalemate for a year unable to break out of this cycle, which doesn’t look optimistic this time either.
As of this writing the, with three days to the election, poll shows right-wing bloc maintaining its momentum with 58-57 seats, while the center-left bloc and the Joint List of Arab parties are projected to garner together 57-56 seats. This leaves us in almost the exact position we were in after the September 2019 elections and does not bode well for avoiding a (gulp) fourth election – which, incidentally, has already been scheduled for September 8, 2020. According to recent polling, more people believe there will be a fourth round of elections (38%) than any other outcome, while 31% think a right-wing government will be established and just 9% think it will be a left-wing government.
To counter Einstein, let us remember that if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again, and maybe the third time is the charm. As we look to Parshat Truma for guidance this week, we see the meticulous instructions for building the Mishkan or the tabernacle in the wilderness. Exodus ch. 25 goes on and on in great detail about the colors, materials, and dimensions about how each component should look. I am always particularly struck by the innovative design of the Menorah to which great care is given to its decorative design:
The term used in Hebrew – כַפְתֹּר (Khaftor -which means ‘button’ in modern Hebrew) here seems to refer to a calyx, or a cuplike cavity or structure typically forming a whorl that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a flower in bud. But why does it have to be mentioned three times???
We love threes. We pray three times a day, we have three pilgrimage holidays, three patriarchs, and even three pillars of Jewish life in God, Torah, and Israel. Franz Rosenzweig famously iterated his theology and philosophy with a trifecta of “creation,” “revelation,” and “redemption,” and according to Jewish law, once something is done three times it is considered a permanent thing or a hazakah.
This strangely repetitive term “כַפְתֹּר” (Khaftor) incidentally found its way into Ladino slang (Judeo-Spanish) to refer to an annoying person, or a nudnik because of its cadence and repetition here (V’khaftor, V’khaftor, V’khaftor, and on and on) giving the feeling that it keeps coming back and won’t leave us alone.
One explanation of the reasoning behind this “Khaftor V’Perach” (calyx and flower) design is that gold which was used for the Menorah, is a very heavy material and also very soft material. A menorah made of solid pure gold would not be able to support itself. However, a thin gold menorah supported by an internal “skeleton” would be able to support itself, and thus we see these “kaftorim” or knobs, inserted for possible structural purposes in addition to their aesthetic and design purposes.
Maybe the repetition here does have a structural purpose. Maybe doing something or saying something over and over seems rather annoying but could serve to strengthen the structural integrity of the entity. And like the כַפְתֹּר we have to continue to be present to show up, and even to be a nudnik, if we’re going to build the sound structures that we so desperately need.
As we enter this third round of elections in Israel, let us hope and pray for a better outcome and may our elections for the World Zionist Congress be fruitful and successful.
Don’t be afraid to be a כַפְתֹּר /Khaftor and remind everyone to Vote!