Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water: Parashat Nitzavim Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20

In the recent election in Israel, the people of Israel, both Jewish and Arab, from all genders and all classes, stood before their Maker and cast their votes for who should rule on their behalf. In the imminent election in Canada that is just a little over three weeks away, the people of Canada, both English and French, from all genders and all classes, will stand before their Maker and cast their votes for who should rule on their behalf. In the election just a bit more than thirteen months away in the United States of America, the American people, black, white, Asian and Latino, from all genders and all classes, want to be able to stand before their Maker to make a free choice for who should rule on their behalf.

However, before they can do this, they face a crisis with their current leader. For he went beyond the sea, across the sea for assistance to bring ignominy on a leading fellow citizen. He used pressure to do so. He, or his minions, also tried to cover it up.

For the Constitution which binds them together, the Constitution to which the president bound himself when he accepted the obligations of that high office, is now before them all once again to see if those citizens want to renew their vows, to join themselves once again with the covenant they made with one another and before their Maker. For that is the only way, when there is a constitutional crisis, that the members of a people can renew their vows. Without such a renewal, the Constitution, the covenant that binds them together to constitute them as a people, becomes but a tiger made of papier-mâché.

In other words, it is not only the president that will be on trial. It will be the American people, not only all the political leaders – congressmen and senators, judges and prosecutors – but every citizen in America, including, and especially, those who carry out the most menial of duties, the hewers of wood and the drawers of water. All, every American, is now responsible for renewing his or her vows to uphold the Constitution.

In America, the hewers of wood and drawers of water are not a caste destined forever to serve in menial roles. These jobs are not assigned to them because they crossed the border and claimed, perhaps falsely, to be persecuted. People that desire to be one with America and its people shall not remain problematic. Rather, they are symbols that the lowest must join the highest to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land. Without them, there can be no democratic polity. And the highest in turn must prostrate themselves as low as possible before the demands of the Constitution. For the Constitution is an instrument of inclusiveness not divisiveness. When one goes, not bowed at the waist, not merely on bended knee, but spread across the floor, one does so by becoming a hewer of wood who trims his or her own branches of arrogance and self-righteousness, who becomes the drawer of water to those who have been parched and dried out by following their leader in a moral desert.

In order to excise the idol, one must cut oneself down to size. In order to excise the idol, one must bring, not remonstrations, but drinks for the souls of those who have so long been parched. Only when the pruning and the watering come together, can future growth be resumed.

The people must look back to the covenant, to that Constitution, to its terms, to its rights and to its responsibilities, in order to guide them out of the wilderness in which they now find themselves. Their moral wealth must be revived and restored. For the president solemnly swore or affirmed that he would, “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States,” and would to the best of his ability, “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” He did not.

However, the instruction to uphold the Constitution is not simply the responsibility of the president but of every member of the polity. Each is enjoined to uphold the law when the matter before the people is not baffling but put before them with clarity and concision. The interpretation of what is at issue does not require sophistication. Rather, it is very close to every American, close to their mouths that have made those vows and to their hearts that have pledged allegiance to the Constitution.

If they do not regain that faith in the lifeblood of their constitutional being, America as the democratic leader of the free world will die. But if that renewal is made in this time of crisis, America as a leading moral light in the world will once again burn brightly, have long life and endure upon the soil of America on which American citizens have a custodial role.

And if they do not? If they forsake their vows and their Constitution, disaster awaits. If they betray their founding fathers, if they turn to defend narcissistic idolatry based on manipulation, dishonesty and resentment, if they worship a false god, then the wrath of the world and their Maker will wreck vengeance on sinners and do-gooders alike. The American polity will sink into an abyss. The land that has been so blessed will become cursed. If the American people do not listen, if they fail to heed all the warning signs, if they close their hearts off from the words of their own Constitution, then America as a light unto the nations will perish.

Section 3 of Article Two of that Constitution includes The Take Care Clause that requires the president to obey and enforce all laws, though he has some interpretive discretion with respect to enforcement. Section 4 of Article Two establishes that the president and other officers can be removed from office through the impeachment process, which is further described in Article One. Impeachment is the analogous process to an indictment by a grand jury that is handled by the House of Representatives. The trial itself is conducted by the Senate.

Grounds for impeachment include:

(1) improperly exceeding or abusing the powers of the office;

(2) behaviour incompatible with the function and purpose of the office; and

(3) misusing the office for an improper purpose or for personal gain.

The action does not have to be criminal. An impeachable offence is an abuse or violation of public trust. It is a breach of faith. When there is a breach of faith, it is an assault on the Constitution itself. The more important offence is NOT the impeachable offence itself, but the excusing of such offences that are driven by feelings of resentment and bitterness. For in implicitly endorsing such offences by failing to confront these failures of faith in the Constitution, those members of society become infused with “gall and wormwood.” Instead of a democratic polity, there is a danger of the politics of resentment superseding it.  

Let not arrogance, let not overconfidence, let not a desire to separate oneself from the well-being of the community as a whole, including those who heretofore have followed an idol and false god, an idol who considers himself immune from sanctions, an idol who could declare that he could shoot someone in cold blood on Fifth Avenue and still not be punished by the people, let not the righteous desert the fallen and followers of the sinner, for Americans are in this together. They must separate themselves from the hubris of a leader who imagines and acts as if he is above and apart from everyone else, above the law and apart from the Constitution and the polity created by that Constitution. Their polity survives or falls with how they handle this crisis. The theme must be reiterated – the whole community has a responsibility to uphold the Constitution.

When a citizen, when the leader of those citizens, turns to a foreign entity to assist in winning to become the choice of the people, when a significant portion of those people also forsake their faith in their own Constitution and its principles, when both the leader and his followers fail to listen, when they walk “in stubbornness,” they bring disaster, not only on their own shrivelled and dried out hearts, but also on the bleeding hearts who cry for the cost and loss to the democratic polity. And the moist are swept away with the dry. Democracy dies. No one is a winner.

The bleeding hearts must also bleed for those who have been duped. They cannot imitate their idol and adopt the arrogance of, “I told you so.” Self-righteousness has no place in defending the Constitution. Superiority and self-importance must be cast aside and the process followed with all due humility. No pounding of chests to demonstrate pride in not having become a lemming. Rather pounding of one’s own chest to rid within oneself of the self-importance, the arrogance, the self-aggrandizement of he who would be Lord.

29:19 the LORD will not be willing to pardon him, but then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy shall be kindled against that man, and all the curse that is written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.

The only solution: lance the source of evil. The leader of this self-idolatry and self-serving must be impeached, must be cursed, and his name must be blotted out from under heaven. He shall be separated out and driven out of office according to the curses demanded by his vows, by the covenant into which he entered to uphold the Constitution as written in the book of law. Unless that happens, the polity will disintegrate, it will become dysfunctional and it will become subject to the interventions of foreign forces. At the very worst, the same leaders that tried to close off the land and its society from welcoming strangers will themselves be cast as refugees in another land.

This is what happens when the supreme source of all law is blatantly betrayed and when the leadership fails to live up to the specific words of the law. This is what happens when a portion of the polity is smitten by such a leader. This is what happens when those who escape such hypnotism fail themselves to get rid of any sense of self-importance in their own hearts, who fail themselves to bow and come not simply on bended knees before the Constitution but prostrate before the book of laws in engaging in the process of excision. The bleeding heart must now not only bow before the Constitution but prostrate him or herself before it. It is insufficient at this point in the crisis to merely bow at the waist. Those in the right must lower themselves entirely to make common cause with those who have been betrayed and misled the most. Only then can humility and hubris reengage to once again give life to the Constitution. Each must individually become small so that the whole community can once again become large, become once again a moral force for good in the world.

Americans must return to their constitutional faith. They must listen to its ordinances and its demands. They must come to understand what it means to commit high crimes and misdemeanours. Americans must become great again – not so much as an economic and military power, but as a moral leader and witness before the whole world. They must renew their pledge to the Constitution to keep its commandments and statutes that are written in the book of the law.  

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