|Every Voice Matters – the Basis of Bipartisanship
Gather to Me seventy men (Numbers 11:16)
אספה לי שבעים איש (במדבר יא:טז)
Earlier this year Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) circulated a letter in the Senate addressed to U.N. Secretary General António Guterres regarding what the lawmakers called “entrenched bias against Israel at the world body.” The letter, signed by all 100 U.S. Senators noted “Through words and actions, we urge you to ensure that Israel is treated neither better nor worse than any other U.N. member in good standing…We are deeply committed to international leadership and to advancing respect for human rights. But continued targeting of Israel by the U.N. Human Rights Council and other U.N. entities is unacceptable.” As the Jerusalem Post noted, “it’s not often that all 100 U.S. senators agree on something.” The fact that every member of the U.S. Senate from both political parties signed the letter sent a powerful, critical message not only to the new U.N. leader, but also to the world at large—in the United States Congress, America’s strong friendship with Israel is a bipartisan priority.
During the difficult incident of the complainers, Moses grows despondent and complains that, “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.” (Numbers 11:14) In response, he is instructed to, “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them and bring them to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you…” (11:16) Ramban explains that this group represented the precursor for the Sanhedrin, the great Rabbinic Assembly of the ancient era. According to the Talmud (Sanhedrin 2a), the Sanhedrin numbered seventy-one elders, corresponding to the seventy elders noted in our parashah in addition to Moses, who served as the head of the assembly. What then is the significance of the number seventy? Why did the Torah require such a large number of elders? Ramban (on verse 16) explains that, “He commanded this number of judges of Israel, for this number would by definition include all opinions [that are possible in a given case] since it comprises all powers, and there will be no case too difficult for them to handle…”
Moses was commanded to gather seventy sages in order to ensure that all reasonable opinions are considered on a legal matter before making a final decision. Every voice from across the ideological spectrum carried meaning and weight, without which the Sanhedrin could not reach a sound decision. Today, in an era of political hyper-partisanship, this ideal represents the bedrock of bipartisanship upon which a strong US-Israel relationship is based.
At face value, bipartisanship is a practical political calculation—political fortunes rise and fall over time, so linking support for Israel to a particular party would inevitably fail to protect the Jewish State. Yet, bipartisanship isn’t simple pragmatism. Rather, it forces us, in the pro-Israel community, to listen to every voice on a myriad of issues, and take into account the wide ranges of opinions with regard to support for Israel. Rarely will every individual agree—as they did with the U.N. letter. But every Senator and member of Congress knows that because bipartisanship is a core value to our community, his or her opinion is truly important and will be carefully considered. Like the seventy voices of the Sanhedrin, when bipartisanship is a fundamental value, every voice really does count. Shabbat Shalom