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Torah Wisdom from Chayei Sarah: Counseling Grief Stricken Voters

President Barack Obama won his bid for reelection this week. Many people were very extremely emotionally invested in the outcome of the vote.

Obama’s greatest supporters wiped tears of joy from their eyes as the president addressed the nation in his victory speech. Mitt Romney’s greatest supporters were also drying their tears as they were informed of the results (captured in spectacular modern form on this Tumblr: Whitepeoplemourningromney).

In the old days, when your candidate lost, you grumbled at home, maybe made some comments around the water cooler at work, or maybe even penned an Op-Ed. But in 2012, when your candidate loses, the opportunities to publicly grieve are so much greater. Conservatives (and liberals would have done the same thing if Romney had won) took to social media expressing their distaste for the election results.

This means three things.

First, it means that people have an opportunity to vent, be heard, and create a conversation about the election in a public place. That’s great.

Second, it means that people can make one another hysterical with exaggerations, myths, or pure fabrications. Since anyone can write anything they want, misinformation can spread rather easily. Especially, when people are in a state of grief, they are particularly susceptible to hyperbole and over-dramatics.

Third, it means that people in a compromised state can say or do things that they will regret. But they are doing them publicly. This can make things awkward when they cool off.

I think that we need a little bit of advice on dealing with disappointment and grief. Fortunately, this week’s parsha is Chayei Sarah – the parsha where we learn about grief. Granted, Avraham was grieving for his beloved wife, but I am pretty sure some people loved Romney more than they loved their spouses, or at the very least, hate Obama enough to make it an apt comparison.

The Torah tells us that Sarah died and Avraham came to eulogize her and to cry for her. The next verse says that “Avraham rose up from the presence of his deceased.” (Genesis 23:3) Then Avraham went to negotiate a burial place for Sarah. The commentaries are bothered by the strange usage in verse 3. Why does the Torah say that Avraham “rose up”?

I once heard from Reb Yeruchem Levovitz that the Torah is telling us an important lesson in grief. So long as Avraham was grieving for his wife in private, it was acceptable, even laudable,  for his emotions to be on his sleeve. But once he began dealing with outsiders in a potential business deal, Avraham had to leave those public emotions behind. Avraham had to “rise up” from his mood of public grief and put on his game face so that he could deal with the realities of life. Outward displays of grief have a way of weighing on others and making interactions uncomfortable for other people.

Avraham was in complete control of his emotions and when it was time to face the world, he kept his emotions in check.

I think this is great advice for mourning conservatives. I empathize with people who feel terrible about the election. But I do not empathize with YouTube screeds, public plans to move to Australia, fear mongering, sore loser complaints, or any other anti-social reaction to the election. I think we all have a responsibility to act civilly toward each other whether we win or we lose, whether we are elated or depressed.

To be fair, I think this applies equally to public displays of schadenfreude. But I have seen far less of that than I have seen meltdowns.

My last piece of advice is not to become too emotionally invested in things that are out of one’s control. Politics and sports are two areas where people place a tremendous amount of emotional energy. We are setting ourselves up for disappointment if we expect to win every time. We won’t. Reasonable people will disagree. Your political opponents are not (all) idiots. There’s enough room for an amalgamation of conservative and liberal views in our political system.

I chuckled at liberals who mourned in 2004 when Bush won his second term and I chuckle today when conservatives proclaim Obama’s reelection the end of America.

Let’s learn the lesson of Avraham’s mourning. Pull yourself together and carry on with making a difference in the world.


38 Comments
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  • MarkSoFla

    Whitepeoplemourningromney

    I’ve been wondering. When “white people” are perceived as losers in some respect, why is it okay to use race so cavalierly, and why is it so accepted by liberal thinkers (like you) without even a second glance. Yet whenever any other race is perceived as a loser in some respect, the cries of racism abound?

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      No idea what you are even saying here.

      • Machshavos

        I think he’s claiming that there’s a double standard, which condemns negative group portrayal of most races but condones negative group portrayal of “white people.”

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          Still not making any sense. What negative stereotype is implied by using the word white? Who has been oppressed for being white? How is this is even minutely racially biased?

          • Machshavos

            I’m not sure he’s talking about a bias. He may just be saying that the cavalier usage of the phrase “white people” is considered legitimate while a similar site with a url containing “black people” wouldn’t be tolerated. (Not sure where he’s going with the “perceived as losers” aspect. Seems to me that it applies more or less equally to winners and losers, i.e. a blackguyscelebratingobama tumblr.)

            • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

              You have a better word to use?

              • Machshavos

                I assume you mean than bias. I’m not trying to split hairs, I don’t think he’s talking about a bias at all. I think he’s talking about accepted terminology.

                • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

                  No. I mean, other than “white”.

                  • Machshavos

                    Ha! I was going to ask “bias or white” but I was pretty sure you meant bias. I’m not sure why you need anything instead of white, but you could use Republican or conservative.

              • Holy Hyrax

                Um… how about not using it. What does Mourning have to do with white? How about creating a Tumblr site “peoplemourningforromney”? But he can’t. He has to bring race into this.

                • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

                  Maybe it has to do with the fact that non-whites are not too broken up about Romney losing… Maybe. JUST maybe…

                  • MarkSoFla

                    You make it sound like “non-whites” are all of one mind on this issue. That in itself is a racist statement – implying that all people of certain races feel the same way, and don’t have their own brains that they think with and often reach different conclusions with.

                    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

                      I made no such implication. The facts are that 88% of Romney’s voters were white.

                    • MarkSoFla

                      I made no such implication.

                      You kinda did. You said “Maybe it has to do with the fact that non-whites are not too broken up about Romney losing”. The real facts are that some non-whites were broken up and some were not. If the word “some” were included before “non-white”, it would be accurate and non-assuming of certain behaviors based on race.

                      The facts are that 88% of Romney’s voters were white.

                      This statement logically doesn’t support your first sentence*. I’m surprised that a trained attorney would make such a mistake :-)

                      * If, for example, 88% of all voters were white, it would lend no support at all. And even if less than 88% of all voters are white, it doesn’t lend support to your earlier statement.

                    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

                      As a white person, are you offended by the Tumblr? Racism is not determined by naming groups, it is determined by offensiveness.

                    • Holy Hyrax

                      >As a white person, are you offended by the Tumblr?

                      I think one should be offended by the double standard and the constant need to throw race into everything. Was he just making an observation that there are more white people mourning? Fine. If its JUST that, than there is no reason “blackpeoplemourningobama” should be offensive, since it is just stating an observation….that the vast majority of blacks voted for Obama. Thats all. Just an observation.

                    • No Name Yet

                      As a white person, I am not offended by the use of my race. I am, however, offended that people of ANY race who claim “racism” (at any time) feel it is ok and proper to label other people by their race. MLK said what? That we should judge people by the content of their character but not by the color of their skin???
                      I was talking with a non-white coworker about the election last Tuesday and she said “Oh, I would never vote for a white guy”. When I quoted for her MLK she kind of balked. “Uh….but I still don’t care. I won’t vote for a white guy”. She could provide no reasoning for her choice of president other than the color of their skin.
                      I don’t care if the candidate is black, white, or purple with green stripes. It is their character and what they stand for that makes me want/not want to vote for them. I don’t even know the race of over half the people I voted for/against. The ones I do know- most of them made a big deal over it at some point in the election (or their previous term in office).
                      Why must race be an issue?? In 2012 we should not even consider it. We are all humans. We (those voting) are all Americans.

                      But remember, a wise person once said: Black people can never be called racist.

                    • MarkSoFla

                      As a white person, are you offended by the Tumblr?

                      Nope, not at all, I pride myself on not taking race into any account whatsoever in all my dealings throughout life. It’s what I strongly believe.

                      However, improper logic and inconsistency offends me to no end.

                    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

                      And I wasn’t making a conclusive logical argument with 88%. I was making a point. We both know the context so it was a valid point.

                    • MarkSoFla

                      Nope, sorry, the point is completely invalid in any context. And the 88% statement, in fact, proves the exact opposite of what you are trying to defend. The 88% statement says that 12% of Romney voters were non-white thereby completely obliterating your earlier statement “that non-whites are not too broken up about Romney losing”.

                  • Holy Hyrax

                    Your just begging the question. Why bring race into this in the first place? Why does race need to be brought into everything. The tumblr administrator was clearing meaning this as a jab. A jab that the Left thinks is perfectly fitting.

                    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

                      Look, I don’t care why the Tumblr is about white people. Maybe they think it’s ironic or funny that white people are sad about losing the election to a black guy. I don’t know. I don’t care. If there was a ethnicallydiversepeopleofeverysingleracecreedandcolormourningromney I would have used it too. I just find it hilarious when white people want the “benefits” of over-sensitivity.

                    • Holy Hyrax

                      >I just find it hilarious when white people want the “benefits” of over-sensitivity.

                      You’re not listening. I am not offended. Mark isn’t offended. We are offended by the double standard coming from the side that is supposedly anti-racism yet continue to put race into everything and don’t realize the double standard they are created. You really don’t think the continue use of “oh poor white people” “rich poor white people” has no affect on the people, let alone on the younger generation that looks at this sort of crap? Do white liberals have such self hatred that they can’t see this?

                    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

                      Honestly, I have no idea what you are saying. If you think race means nothing you should not care that the tumblr is called whitepeople… If you do care, you are being over-sensitive. Of course there is a double standard. One group has been victims of racism and one group has not. The same way you treat an orphan differently than a child with parents. OHHH!! DOUBLE STANDARD! ZOMG!!!

                    • Holy Hyrax

                      Sigh. If according to Liberals, race is a sensitive issue in whatever manifestation it takes, than there is NO difference to its disgust if the “elite” class is doing it, or now, if the table is turned and the “victim” is doing it. It’s either Right, or its Wrong.

                      If you want to use your orphan analogy than use it to its full extent. Clearly, its wrong to make fun of an orphan for his status. But that does NOT in any remote way make it right for the orphan to say” Look, I have been a victim, now its my turn to give it to those kids with parents”.

                      Tell me, do you say the same thing about Jews that look down on Goys? When some goy mocks a Jew, it is wrong, but when a jew does it, do you say “look, one side has been persecuted, and the other was not?” Or would you say, “Yes, Jews have been persecuted, and there is still some anti-semitism. But that doesn’t give license for reverse bigotry.”

                    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

                      Are you so dense that you can’t distinguish between common experiences of different people?!

                      I mean, when a WASP gets a deal, no one will take offense if you say he is cheap or frugal. But Jews get offended when they are called cheap. That is normal. Stereotypes and persecution play into how words are interpreted. There is nothing hypocritical or unfair about it.

                      Are you the same guy who moans and groans when people in wheel chairs get preferential treatment and can sit while they wait on line?! Or do you complain when people are nice to little children with but poor Holy Hyrax, nobody wants to play with you…?!

                      There are different standards for different kinds of people. Get over it.

                    • Holy Hyrax

                      >Are you the same guy who moans and groans when people in wheel chairs get preferential treatment and can sit while they wait on line?!

                      Mamash dafuk. Your a rabbi, yet i sense a lack of wisdom. How about comparing apples to apples and not apples to Cadillacs. What does preferential treatment have to do with this? We recognize out of sympathy that someone on a wheel chair may require that sort of treatment. Are you saying blacks for example, require some special treatment to reverse the racism (and that we should be sympathetic to that preferential treatment as we sympathize with people on wheel chairs?)

                      I believe it is quite irrelevant what a people went through in the past. As you would agree past persecutions of Jews does not give license to current anti-goy comments.

                      >There are different standards for different kinds of people.

                      Exactly. I hold everyone to the same standards.

                    • No Name Yet

                      I guess Fink thinks that people of certain races (The Blue with Pink Stripe Race) are “All” needing special treatment and handling. Like they can’t make it without special assistance. Like people who are handicapped. I have no problem with the handicapped getting to cut the line at airport security because I realize they physically cannot wait like the rest of us. They are “special” and should be treated as such. Standards are lowered for them.

                      Is he saying that certain races/ethnicities of people are “special”? That they can’t handle the world? They need affirmative action and special treatment because otherwise they are not smart enough?

                      That’s what it sounds like… comparing race to people in wheelchairs.

                    • No Name Yet

                      There is a difference in regards to the the orphan and the person from the victim of racism.

                      *How often are these people screaming “racism” actually been victims themselves? Most are responding to a cultural or political mindset, rather than their own personal history. The orphan lost their parent themselves. They are the ones who have to live the rest of their lives without a parent.

                      No one being helped by affirmative action today went through slavery or the civil war. The applicants for college/grad school today did not even go through the days of separate sinks or public bathrooms. They were never in segregated schools. There might have been a time/place for it, but not in 2012.

                      That’s the difference.

                      Also, if you look at history- many many groups have been victims of racism in one form or the other. Just in America alone…. we have the: Irish Need Not Apply. The Japanese Internment Camps in WW2. Yellow Peril (Chinese and Japanese). Also look into the history of the Italians in America.
                      Any benefits for them 50 or 100 years later?

      • Meir Weingarten

        maybe he means that it should say “people” mourning Romney… or “Americans” mourning…

      • MarkSoFla

        Had Obama lost, a blackpeoplemourningobama site with blacks looking stupid and crestfallen would be roundly condemned as racist.

      • http://www.facebook.com/zevgoldberg Zev Goldberg

        The idea that would be more difficult to discuss is why isn’t there a blackpeoplemourningromney website.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          You know, I really don’t get it.

          The reason it is not politically correct to categorize black people by their color is because they were persecuted, enslaved, killed, marginalized, feared, and hated simply by virtue of the color of their skin. Classifying people as “black” has a very negative connotation.

          Now, it SHOULDN’T be that way. But its our (non-blacks) fault that it is that way. The appropriate response is to avoid using language that might be offensive to black people.

          The way it SHOULD be is that one SHOULD be able to categorize people by color without insinuating anything negative. It IS that way with white people.

          So we should be striving to be able to do the same for other colors because that would indicate that we are past the horrors of racisms. But unfortunately we are not there yet. But that doesn’t mean that where it is not a negative stereotype, one shouldn’t use the appropriate word – white.

          You make it sound like you are jealous as a poor white guy who has to put up with people categorizing you in a negative way because you are white. You know what? Go through generations of slavery and lynchings, maybe then you will have the right to be insulted by a generalization like “white people”. It’s like an abled person wishing they had a wheal-chair.

          As it stands now “white people” is not code and can’t be code for any persecuted class. Black people is. That’s the difference.

          cc: @MarkSoFla:disqus and @machshavos:disqus and @meirweingarten:disqus

          • Holy Hyrax

            >Now, it SHOULDN’T be that way.

            Right. There isn’t a “but” after that.

            It’s utterly disgusting that whitepeoplemourning is something that we can mentally spin that it is OK. Hey, the point of the post was to move forward. Ech. its just horrendous how identity politics is involved with everything in Liberal discourse.

            >But unfortunately we are not there yet.

            Of course not. Thanks to Left-wing identity politics to consistently inculcate a generation that they are still victims. With this in mind, it will never go away and you will always find excuses for ‘white people’ being accepted but not ‘black people,’ without every thinking that this hashkafa IS affecting the next generation in how they perceive white people. I think like self hating Jews exist , there are a lot of self-hating white people (mostly Liberals) out there that find this to be OK (um, for now) in a way to help their self esteem for past wrongs.

            Point of post: Move forward.

            • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

              Wait, so Jews can be alarmists for anti-Semtiism (and don’t pretend we are not), but blacks can’t be sensitive to racial comments?! Get a grip.

              • Holy Hyrax

                Um, we SHOULDN’T be alarmist. My point exactly. And to solve this, we shouldn’t turn to table around and now, stick it the white man. What kind of nonsense is this?

  • Alan Levin

    The short answer: Deal with it.

  • vladimir

    Living your life without expectations is bliss. Truly, nothing outside of our private, spiritual universe goes in accordance with our wishes. We should take world as it is, and follow the wisdom of not wishing the day to be sunny, when nature sends us the rain. Embrace freedom of not having desires outside of our abilities and will.