This past week our nation lost a great man. An important political figure. A leader. A maverick. In spite of what our President once said about John McCain, I consider him a “hero” in the truest sense. When he was captured and held as a prisoner of war, he chose not to abandon his fellow prisoners when offered freedom. He was a man who spoke his mind, regardless of party affiliation or political consequences. He was a man who forged bipartisan bonds and partnerships. He was a man of worthy character who served our country with great distinction and commitment to that which is noble and just.

John McCain was not your usual politician who said whatever was needed to say to get elected. We knew his party affiliation, but we also knew that at a time of great polarization, he was not afraid to cross party lines and stand up for what he believed to be right. In 2008, at one of his Presidential campaign rallies in Minnesota, John McCain publicly disagreed with, and corrected, one of his supporters who spoke out against his political opponent at the time, Barack Obama. McCain’s now iconic, “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen …” response will forever live on as one of this nation’s finest moments in campaign politics.

Our Jewish tradition teaching: “Seek not greatness for thyself, and court not honor. Let thy deeds exceed they learning, and crave not after the table of kings. For thy table is greater than theirs, and thy crown is greater than theirs.”

At a time when so much anger, hostility and disappointment permeate our society, we are desperate for leaders of integrity and character. Leaders who are capable of playing in the political arena but are committed to truth, justice and affecting a sense of unity within our nation. I believe that John McCain was such a leader, and will be remembered as such. May we all follow his example in our own everyday lives – remembering that despite differences, we should strive for a level of understanding and communication that stretches beyond labels and stereotypes and joins us in an overall shared vision of values and ideals.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Greenberg