Arnold Schwarzenegger has become governor of California. He is not the first celebrity to hold elected office and the fact that he is a celebrity does not necessarily mean that he will do a bad job. But it also does not mean that he will do a good job. Yet, without truly expressing his qualifications for the office, without even articulating how he will rectify the problems of the state, Mr. Schwarzenegger won.
He won because he was a celebrity. More specifically, he won because he was a popular celebrity.It might even be that he won because he was the hero in so many movies -- thus became identified as a hero -- and people simply love a hero.

The fact is that most individuals make decisions based on form rather than substance. In the California case, this is so obvious. People responded not to the necessary facts in making the decision that Arnold was the best person for the job. They responded to the charisma. They responded to their perceived image of Mr. Schwarzenegger. They responded to the emotions. The sad truth, however, is that we all do. In making decisions, so often, we respond to the charisma of a person, we respond the emotions of an event without truly investigating the substantive essence of the issue. Do we give charity based on a true investigation of the need or based on the personality of the fundraiser? Do we respond to a thought based on the form of presentation or the integrity of the idea?

This is not to say that form has no value. Sometimes form itself may reflect the substance of the matter . Sometimes we do not have the ability to truly evaluate the substance and thus must solely rely on form. Oftentimes, for example, an individual can only choose a rabbi based on personality, since the individual does not have the knowledge to examine the rabbi's true expertise. The problem is when we substitute, in our minds, form for substance. We must always ensure that we never lose sight of the real issue at hand.

Rabbi Benjamin Hecht

2003 NISHMA