I couldn’t wait to board the speedy Acela train to Washington, DC two weeks ago to hear an old friend of mine, constitutional legal wiz Floyd Abrams, argue before the Supreme Court. I had watched him twice before and was riveted each time. This case, involving the McCain-Feingold Campaign finance reform act, promised to be a landmark in First Amendment law. To watch top-notch lawyers spar swords with some of the best legal minds in the country is quite an experience and I couldn’t wait to feel that intellectual thrill once again.
Also, I was planning to pay a visit my prot?g?e Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday. I had given him his first interview opportunities back in the old days when I was a producer on NBC’s “Five Minutes With” program during the 70’s and 80’s and I could almost taste that old familiar adrenalin rush as in days of yore.
The event marked the first case of newly-installed Justice Sonia Sotomayor and was going to be argued by President Obama’s newly appointed solicitor general Elena Kagan, fresh from her deanship at Harvard Law School. Space in the court was at a premium I was literally drooling in anticipation of the next day’s events.
But unfortunately my disappointment by the day’s end was almost just as palpable.
I arrived excitedly at the Supreme Court and headed to my assigned seat in the press quarter, as a correspondent for The Jewish Press. I couldn’t believe it. The press section was so full that from my seat I could only see fewer than half of the justices – the very half I didn’t care to see.
I am firmly placed on the right-wing of the political spectrum, and the justices I was so looking forward to seeing spar with the lawyers were men like Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and the new chief justice, John Roberts.
But I couldn’t even get a glimpse of these men. Instead I saw the court’s liberal justices: Breyer and Sotomayor. My disappointment knew no bounds and my frustration only got worse as the arguments started and I could hear my favorite justices expounding their wisdom without seeing their faces. The arguments were brilliant, but not being able to observe the nuances, the subtle expressions and sometimes not knowing who was saying what to whom was overwhelmingly frustrating.
I left the court disappointed. This experience didn’t come close to my previous two. And then to boot Chris Wallace was somewhat indisposed and was taking the day off. It was 12:30 p.m. and I couldn’t even get myself to visit the newly renovated Capitol building. Feeling defeated, I set out to catch the 1:00 p.m. train back home to New York.
As I was sitting staring at the bustling platform pondering the day’s events, I thought to myself: Everything in this world happens for a reason, so what could G-d’s purpose have been in my coming to Washington? I had set out to watch the drama of the Supreme Court unfold but surely G-d must have had other plans for me. The verse “Rabbot machshavot b’lev ish – Many are the thoughts of man but Hashem’s will shall prevail” popped into my head.
And then it hit me. I remembered the events of the previous night.
I had originally planned on staying at Chabad of Washington run by Rabbi Levi Shemtov who is a well-known figure on Capitol Hill. But his wife Nechama was called away and made arrangements for me to stay with the shluchim of George Washington University, Rabbi Yudi and Rivky Steiner, children of my dear friends from Toronto.
Their Chabad House is an apartment on Virginia Avenue NW in the midst of the university campus. Every Friday night they host over 100 hungry – physically and spiritually – Jewish students. Their home is filled with the kind of holy energy, optimism, and idealism that you seldom see elsewhere. These two young adults, both in their 20s, only married three years and parents of two tiny tots, work their kiruv magic lovingly and incessantly on the local college kids. The enormous success of their first year of shlichus was evident by the many testimonials of both professors and students.
Just as I was planning to retire for the night in anticipation of my Supreme Court adventure, a beautiful, young lady, vice-president of their Chabad House board of directors, due to soon become its president, dropped by.
We exchanged greetings and pleasantries but before long, out of the blue, she announced that she planned on attending some event later that week at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. The purpose of the event: to offer support to Jewish homosexuals. And being that a very good friend of hers was of that persuasion, she explained, she wanted to accompany him and give him her support.
I listened quietly for a while, but then I could hold back no longer. “I am sorry to interject and perhaps it is not my place since I am just a visitor but we both believe in hashgacha pratis so I must tell you what I think you have to hear.
“I admire you wanting to support your friend. However, from some other statements you’ve said tonight, it’s obvious that you believe in the Divine origin of the Torah. If so, it is imperative that you know what the Torah has to say on the topic.
“G-d prohibits many behaviors – murdering, stealing, etc. – but he only affixes the appellation ‘abominable’ to a select few. That kind of behavior is one of them.”
“But I feel for my friend,” she said. “Society makes him feel unwelcome and I want to offer him my support.”
“All well and fine,” I replied, “but if your friend were a kleptomaniac, you wouldn’t assist him by helping him steal or making him feel that stealing is okay. You would try to heal him of his immoral tendency. I know it isn’t easy but you should do the same for your friend in this case as well. By all means help him – by trying to discourage or heal his behavior rather than condoning it.”
At first she was taken aback but after a while she seemed a bit more receptive to my arguments, but I wasn’t sure what impact our interchange was actually going to have. So, as I pondered my Washington trip, it occurred to me that perhaps my trip had a meaning after all. Perhaps a lot more meaning than I could imagine. Perhaps my whole trip was meant for me to share these few thoughts with this beautiful blooming Jewish neshama.
The next day I got a call from Washington. Rivky Steiner told me that the young lady was reconsidering her decision to go. Two days later the verdict was confirmed: She didn’t go!
Here I thought that I had gone to Washington to attend arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of the First Amendment. Instead, b’hashgacha pratis, Hashem showed me that I had really gone to help a young Jewish lady hear arguments in defense of G-d’s Torah so she could do justice in the eyes of the ultimate Supreme Court – G-d’s Heavenly court.
May it be Hashem’s will that we all find favor in the eyes of our Supreme Heavenly Court as we approach the Day of Judgment. G’mar chatimah tovah.