Laugh Your Guts Out–Irony on Yom Kippur and Election Day

Haim Watzman

Penitents are like voters. They face critical choices, ones that will set the course of their lives, and must make them in a situation of uncertainty. Committed voters try to grope through the fog of rhetoric in order to understand the true wills and predilections of the candidates they must choose from; penitents seek to dispel the mystery and ambiguity that cloaks the divine in order to understand what God wants of their lives.

But when I look around me this year, three days before Yom Kippur and a month before the American elections, I have a feeling that a lot of Jewish penitents and American voters are not using an essential tool that they need to make their choices. I mean irony.

Irony? Doesn’t that have something to do with punch lines? Is the choice of the leader of the free world and the acknowledgment and correction of one’s sins a joke?

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Should Obama Get My Vote?

“Are you going to vote for Obama?” my 14-year-old daughter, Misgav, asked me the other day.

“I don’t vote in American elections,” I replied, “because I’m Israeli.”

“But you could vote, right?”

“I could,” I acknowledged. “I’m also an American citizen. But the last time I voted was in 1980. Once I decided to make my life here and began voting in Israeli elections, I didn’t think it would be right to vote in American ones, too.”

“You should vote for Obama,” Misgav said.

“Maybe I should,” I acknowledged.

It’s a dilemma. I retain my American passport and file a tax return with the IRS every year, but I don’t maintain a residence in the U.S. I have served in a foreign army and have no intention of ever returning to the country I grew up in.

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