With the political spectacle of this week’s Republican National Convention and our anticipation of next week’s Democratic Convention, we are being inundated with harsh (and sometimes very nasty) rhetoric. Yet, while the candidates will certainly be taking shots at each other for the next four months, we need to find a way to be civil and respectful in our discourse with one another.
In our Torah portion this week, we have a model for such restraint. In this week’s portion, the non-Jewish prophet Balaam tries to decline King Balak’s instruction to curse the Jewish people. In his heart and mind, he knows that placing a curse on the Israelites is wrong, and he challenges King Balak with the following question, “How can I curse those whom God has not cursed?”
Perhaps, this should be a mantra for all Americans over the course of the next few months. We are going to hear a lot of stuff we do not agree with. We are going to engage in conversations which will turn political without notice. We are going to find ourselves in the midst of political arguments rooted in emotions rather than reason. Whatever the case may be, we need to remain civil. We need to remind ourselves that everyone is entitled to an opinion, and we need to take our cue from Balaam in our Torah portion and watch what we say.