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Not kosher to mix Republicans and Democrats at the State of the Union

By Harold Witkov
web posted January 24, 2011

The President's State of the Union address is this week and a new great debate regarding the seating arrangement at the event is taking place.  Should Congress sit: boy, girl, boy - younger, older, and younger - or Democrat, Republican, Democrat?
 
According to traditional Judaism, certain things should never mingle. For instance, there is a dietary law that says one should not mix meat and dairy, and a clothing commandment that forbids the wearing of a garment made of both wool and linen.
 
While some things are never meant to mix with each other, some things are designed to be separated and mixed intermittently.  Accordingly, there are times when men and women should not mix, and times when they should.  (It is not by coincidence but by design that "be fruitful and multiply" is the very first of 613 Torah commandments)
 
When my wife and I went to Israel, we visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, a site where Jews have prayed to God for millennia. At the Wailing Wall, there is a separation barrier for men and women. 
 
When my wife and I prayed at the Wailing Wall (or Western Wall), I know that my wife and I shared a specific request of God, and that she had prayers that were hers alone.
 
That is how it is at the Western Wall. Men and women pray before the same Western Wall and to the same God.  Sometimes, they ask God for the same thing, sometimes not - and always they stand separated before Him.
 
There are times when Congressional Republicans should mix with Congressional Democrats. For example, they share the same committees. Republicans and Democrats in Congress should also feel free and independent enough to talk to each other and listen to each other's ideas. However, there are times when they should not mingle together.
 
There has been an almost 100-year tradition of American Presidents delivering their State of the Union speeches before a voluntarily divided assemblage of Republican and Democratic members of Congress. During the addresses, sometimes these elected officials seated before the President supported the same legislation the President hoped to see passed; sometimes they had ideological differences and did not.
 
This is how it is at the State of the Union.  Republicans and Democrats sit in the House Chamber before the television cameras, separated. They stand, applaud, and sometimes cheer together when they hear from the President ideas they share. One side stands and cheers by themselves when the ideas are theirs alone. 
 
As I see it, the present format of the State of the Union is good for everyone. It provides us, the American public, already wise enough to understand we are one people and one nation, with the luxury of seeing for ourselves the ideological differences between the two parties. It provides members of Congress the opportunity to stand proud before the American people and boldly demonstrate what they and their respective political parties stand for. 
 
To change the seating arrangement and mix the elected together at the State of the Union is a bad idea. It is simply not the kosher thing to do. ESR

Harold Witkov is a Chicago-based writer and a regular contributor to Enter Stage Right.

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