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September 24, 2016 / 21 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘people’

‘People Don’t Look, People Don’t Think’

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Here is an interesting Jewish thought:

The Torah at the end of Parshas Noach records that Terach was seventy years of age when his son Avraham was born. The family then sets off to settle in Canaan (Israel) but doesn’t quite manage to get there (this happens to lots of us.) They settle instead in a place called Charan and there, at the ripe old age of 205, Terach dies.

The next parshah, Lech Lecha, says that Avraham is told by Hashem to set off to complete the journey and at the age of 75 he arrives in Israel.

The interesting thing is that the Torah tells us Terach died before Avraham set off to the land of Israel. This is clearly not the case.

Do the math: If Terach was 70 when Avraham was born and Avraham was 75 when he set out, then Terach was 145 when he and Avraham parted and he lived another sixty years.

Why does the Torah imply that Avraham only left after his father died?

Rashi supplies two answers. The first is that from a Jewish philosophical perspective, a wicked person, although alive, is considered dead – and Terach was a particularly wicked person.

His second answer is little short of baffling: In order to prevent critics and cynics from claiming that Avraham abandoned his poor old father for sixty years, the Torah draws a veil over the truth and related the story as though Avraham had only left after his father’s funeral.

But any child can add 70 and 75 and subtract that from the 205 years the Torah tells us Terach lived. The Torah’s own words clearly reveal what actually happened.

Reb Simcha Zissel Ziv, founder of the Yeshiva of Kelm, says an uncomfortable and explosive thing about this paradox. It’s true that the evidence about what really occurred is staring us in the face. What Rashi is telling us, he says, is that if you want to draw a veil over the truth and cover up the facts, it need only be the very thinnest of veils because “People don’t look, people don’t think.”

Three weeks ago I drove to Queens to speak at a shul in the heart of the Bukharian community. The title of my talk I took from my April column here in The Jewish Press, “Send in the Clowns” and I added a subtitle, “The presidential election and the Torah.”

I chose my words very c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y.

I noted that I was Scottish and can’t vote. Having established neutrality, I went on to address the general criticisms leveled at each of the candidates by o-t-h-e-r-s (not me, you see!) and looked at those criticisms through a Torah lens to ascertain whether or not they were serious concerns.

I began with Hillary and her penchant for being economical with the truth. (It’s not that I’m against politicians lying, you understand; I expect them to. I just expect than to be much better at it than Hillary is).

Then I turned to Donald (who has had more than a few Pinocchio moments himself), focusing on his habit of speaking in offensive and crude terms about other people. This was particularly true with regard to his comments about women and I explained to the audience why this was a concern from a Torah perspective.

Finally I turned to Bernie, that proud self-described son of “Polish” (not Jewish) immigrants.

During my talk, no one seemed upset with my less than positive remarks about Hillary and Bernie. I had chosen my words c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y and I was very pleased with the results.

But then came my remarks about Donald and – boom! – a man was on his feet demanding to know what evidence I had “that Mr. Trump had ever spoken badly about any woman.”

For starters I reminded him about the well-known female journalist Donald attacked in the most offensive terms.

“That,” replied my interlocutor, “was only because she had attacked him!”

I furrowed my brow and asked, “So you do concede he has spoken badly about women?” The man simply ignored what I had told him and repeated, “Mr. Trump has never spoken badly about any woman.”

I considered pointing out that he was ignoring the facts but then I recalled the aforementioned observation that “People don’t look, people don’t think” and thought better of it.

Which brought to mind a recent conversation I had with a well-known New York journalist about the differences between broadcast media here and in the UK.

In England, newspapers declare their political preferences and people buy them for that reason. TV and radio, though, are different. The BBC as well as commercial stations are hardly free from accusations of bias, but none would dream of debating any issue on air without all sides of the debate represented. In the U.S. that is simply not so.

My friend agreed. Then he claimed that Americans generally do not want to hear the other side of the debate. They like to have their preferences and prejudices confirmed by others who share the same preferences and prejudices.

After the slaughter in Orlando, President Obama got very, very angry at those who would link the outrage to Islam. Should the U.S. Muslim community be under surveillance? he asked incredulously. (Millions listened, rolled their eyes, and said “Duh!”)

The focus, he argued, should be on gun control more so than the Islamist threat.

Many in the media then immediately swung into action to condemn the Republicans for allegedly supporting even the most extreme anti-gun control measures. Pundits and Democratic Party officials noted that you can be on a government watch-list as a suspected terrorist and be banned from flying but still legally buy a gun with which to kill innocent people. Insane, right?

But…that is not the position of the Republican Party or even the NRA. Because I like to check the facts, I went to the NRA website. Turns out the organization is opposed to suspected terrorists (as well as people with a history of serious mental illness) being able to buy guns.

So someone here is exploiting a tragedy for political capital. It might be Obama, Hillary, and the Democrats. It might be the GOP and Donald (although he tweeted that he supports banning watch-list people from buying guns). It might be all of them.

To those who like to have their existing preferences and prejudices confirmed by people who share them, the “truth” is always obvious.

But there are those who prefer to check the truth and who object to people like Barack, Hillary, Bernie, and Donald drawing the thinnest of veils over it because they are convinced that “People don’t look, people don’t think.”

That’s a good thing, particularly when a country is about to choose someone who will lead it for at least four years. Not thinking about the facts is a condition that can have serious consequences. Sometimes they’re fatal.

Rabbi YY Rubinstein

Why Do People Become Islamic Extremists?

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Video of the Day

Guck To Gold: Why Bad Things Happen To Good People

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Years ago I was introduced to a compelling logical argument that helped me a lot later on when I would struggle with difficult Talmudic passages: If someone gives you too many answers to a question, it probably means there is no real answer.

So many answers have been offered to the question of why bad things happen to good people. Here too, the answer remains elusive. Indeed the Mishnah (Pirkei Avot 4:15) teaches: “Rabbi Yannai would say, We have no comprehension of the tranquility of the wicked, nor of the suffering of the righteous.” Despite various approaches to this question that were known at the time, Rabbi Yannai believed the ultimate answer was yet to be known.

Does this mean we can never have even an inkling of understanding of human suffering? No, there are many small but meaningful and compelling answers that help along the way and offer hope and relief. And focusing on making sense of at least the tip of the iceberg of suffering can be pivotal for transforming oneself from victim to victor, from overpowered to empowered.

I will highlight some of those answers, which in many ways correspond with the Kübler-Ross model of emotional stages experienced by individuals upon the death of a loved one (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance).

The first is answer is that anger and frustration are legitimate, understandable, expected – and desired. The importance of communicating one’s feelings to God can be found throughout Jewish sources, from the most basic to the most advanced. The expression of one’s frustrations should come not in a disrespectful way, not in a demeaning way, but in a way that expresses a person’s feelings.

What is essential is to make sure one is angry at God – not angry about God. When a person is angry at God, it means he has a healthy and robust relationship with the Creator, but when a person is angry about God, it suggests the Creator is no longer in his life. Anger and frustration can – should – be expressed, but as part of one’s relationship with God.

The second point that is essential to remember is that no suffering is meaningless. Whatever the reason for suffering, it is not in vain; we may not know where it is leading to or the reason for it in the first place, but it is neither meaningless nor arbitrary.

The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 91:6) states that Yaakov Avinu never said anything wrong except for asking his sons “Why did you harm me?” When God heard Yaakov saying this, He responded: “I am busy bringing his son to kingship in Egypt and he says why did you harm me?”

Sometimes, more painful than the suffering itself is the inability to see any reason for the suffering. While the reasons for struggles, pain, and loss may vary, they are not meaningless.

The third thing we must always remember is that we are never alone in our suffering. When Hashem first reveals Himself to Moshe, He purposefully speaks from a thorned bush. The Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 2:7) teaches that by doing so God was saying: When my people are in trouble, I am right there with them though the hardship.

The verse in Exodus famously says, “And the children of Israel sighed…and they cried, and their cry came up unto God…and God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob; and God saw the children of Israel, and God took cognizance of them.

No pain goes unnoticed. God is there and takes consideration of every bit of our pain.

A fourth key realization is that this world, with its suffering and strife, is not the final destination. Though that may sound to some to like a cheap “out” from the profound questions related to suffering, it is powerful enough to be at the epicenter of religion. We believe in an afterlife. Suffering is not our final fate but a temporary one.

The Talmud (Arachin 16b) says that if a person puts his hand into his pocket with the intention of pulling out three coins and instead finds only two (so that he has to put his hand back into his pocket), even that “suffering” is noted above. God did not create us to suffer, so when the smallest suffering does occur, God takes that into account.

We don’t know why we suffer. We do know that Someone is looking at our suffering, listening to our cries, and factoring it all into His considerations. We are not suffering to no end. It is all accounted for and will be factored into a broader scheme of things.

The fifth idea to have in mind is that although we don’t necessarily see or understand the positive outcomes of our suffering, such outcomes should not be ruled out. Not knowing why we suffer goes both ways – we may not know what good could possibly come of it but we cannot say with any certainty that nothing good will emerge. An example that comes to mind is that of Joseph. Sold into slavery in a foreign land and then imprisoned for making a heroic moral choice, Joseph had every reason to question his suffering. But that very suffering was what brought him to the throne of Egypt.

Does this mean we should wait for a magical outcome or fairytale-like solution to difficult situations? No. But a healthy way of dealing with suffering is to immediately ask questions such as: “What opportunities do I now see of which I previously had been unaware?” “How can this help me to help others?” “How will this experience leave me stronger, smarter, or more sensitive than I was before?”

Finally, look to others for help. Yes, God is with you in your pain. Yes, prayer should be used at every possible point. But we should still look to others who care for us and will look out for us.

The Torah teaches (Vayikra 13:22) that one of the things a person with leprosy should do is vocally let people know of his affliction. The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni) understands this to be teaching us that a distressed individual is obligated to alert people to his distress.

Letting others know can help. It can help because they will pray. It can help because they will sympathize. It can help because they will offer social support or have relevant advice that might help us. Will everyone be as sympathetic as we would like? Not necessarily, but we will also be touched to discover those special people who come our way and can help.

So while we will never understand, at least not on this side of eternity, why bad things happen to good people, we do know what good people can do when bad things happen. And we know that good people, often utilizing the tools described above, are able to take really tough situations and turn them around.

It is our task to make sure we take the guck that sometimes is handed to us and to turn it into gold.

Rabbi Elchanan Poupko

The God of Global Warming

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin said that the storm was divine punishment for “being in Iraq under false pretenses.”

Not only was a Liberal deity taking a position on WMDs and punishing George W. Bush by evicting a lot of black people from their homes; but the Democratic divinity was paradoxically also committed to progressive housing policies.”This city will be a majority-African American city. It’s the way God wants it to be,” Nagin promised.Bush is out of office. America is no longer in Iraq. And Democrats have been forced to search for new theological explanations for hurricanes, typhoons and volcanoes.

In response to the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan; the green prophets of the left are prophesying that their liberal deity is angry over capitalism and industrialization.

“Whenever Mother Nature wants to send an urgent message to humankind, it sends it via the Philippines. This year the messenger was Haiyan,” The Nation wrote.

The message was apparently that Mother Nature, not to be confused with the nice elderly lady who runs a blog about alternative medicines, really hates prefabricated housing.

“That it was climate change creating the super typhoons that were taking weird directions was a message from Nature not just to Filipinos but to the whole world,” The left-wing magazine claimed.

For those infidels questioning whether Nature (capital N) was really speaking through a struggling lefty publication begging readers for money to pay its postal bills, its expert on typhoon theology had an answer.

“Is it a coincidence, ask some people who are not exactly religious, that both Pablo and Yolanda arrived at the time of the global climate negotiations?”

It is of course the very definition of religious faith to assume that a bearded woman in the sky is sending storms to threaten global climate negotiators (while missing them by two hemispheres and 6,000 miles). A more cynical person might suspect that climate negotiations are arranged around storm season for maximum effect.

The Nation, which regularly condemns “Bible Thumping”, had switched over to “Whole-Earth-Catalog Thumping”; building a religion around a Mother Nature who communicated her wishes through hurricanes and bankrupt liberal magazines.

Pacific Islanders used to believe that volcanic eruptions were angry notes from their volcano gods. The Yaohnanen tribe in Vanuatu on contact with civilization modernized their beliefs, and after encountering a younger Prince Philip decided that he had come from the volcano and that they ought to worship him.

And so the Prince Philip Movement was born. The islanders are modest in their requests of their god. “If he can’t come perhaps he could send us something,” the Yaohnanen Chief suggested, “a Land Rover, bags of rice or a little money.”

The Philippians may seem absurd, but their religion actually took a step forward from worshiping a volcano, which did nothing constructive and just destroyed things leaving the tribesmen to wonder whether the volcano was angry at their unjustified presence in Iraq or the waste carbon emitted by their cooking fires, to worshiping the Duke of Edinburgh, who can do constructive things like send them autographed photos. And perhaps one day a Land Rover.

While the savage tribesmen were approaching the margins of civilization; Prince Philip’s son was reverting to savagery and blaming everything wrong with the world, from local weather to the Syrian Civil War, on the great volcano god of Global Warming.

After some winter storms, Prince Charles announced that, “severe weather conditions in our country are, I have no doubt, the consequences of man-kind’s arrogant disregard of the delicate balance of nature.” It was the sort of statement that would have been commonplace a century ago. The only thing missing was that “Nature” had replaced “God”.The Yaohnanen tribe had moved on from worshiping a volcano god only capable of destruction; but the son of the living god they worshiped seemed eager to find a volcano god to worship. The savages were trying to become civilized, while civilized men were trying to become savages.At the Washington Post, the Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, a former president of the Chicago Theological Seminary and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, gathered the tattered remains of her religion around herself and argued that Typhoon Haiyan was caused by human sin and needed to be atoned for by “confessing” that human beings cause typhoons.

But then Thistlethwaite, displaying less faith in whatever god she believed in than Ray Nagin had in his Chocolate City divinity and The Nation in its typhoon-hurling Mother Nature, added that “These “superstorms” aren’t an “act of God,” but an act of willful disregard for God’s creation.”

That is to say, God is dead. Instead Republicans must confess to the liberal theologians who speak for the superstorms, that they were the ones who made the winds blow. And if they don’t, then the speakers-to-superstorms will also hold them responsible for the next hurricane.

What miracle is the Rev. Dr. Thistlethwaite’s faith in superstorms founded on? Like the storms themselves, it’s a bit circular. “The fact that we are having to invent new language to describe such massively destructive storms, like “Super Typhoon Haiyan” or “Superstorm Sandy” suggests we need to take a different look at such violent storms today and theologically assess the human responsibility for them.”

Using the Rev. Dr. Thistlethwaite’s reasoning, the fact that we have a word for Superman suggests that we need to seriously investigate whether there are superhuman beings among us who can leap tall buildings in a single bound. But worshipers of the liberal God of Global Warming who hates the War in Iraq, white people living in New Orleans and carbon have a looser relationship with facts than Pacific Islander tribes.

The term Superstorm isn’t new. And neither are superstorms. In a listing of storms from 1932 onward, the first one shows up in 1940.

Back at the UN Climate Change summit, which apparently incites Mother Nature to spout off  typhoons like soda bubbles, the representative for the Philippines, Naderev “Yeb” Sano, threw a tantrum and demanded that Global Warming skeptics visit the islands to see the devastation.

Then he announced that he was going on a hunger strike until something meaningful was done.

In 1991, Tropical Storm Thelma killed over 5,000 people in the Philippines.The President of the Philippines has estimated that the death toll from Super Typhoon Haiyan will be less than half that

Before Christianity and Islam, people in the Philippines believed that storms were brought by Saraganka Bagyo, the God of Storms, or Galurâ, a giant eagle who brings storms. Another story has it that they originated from a dispute between the descendants of the sea god and the sky god. Now Carbon has become the new Storm God, bringing bad weather because people won’t do anything meaningful, like cripple their economies and destroy their standards of living to appease him.

Sano, like Prince Charles and Ray Nagin, is reverting to a paganism buttressed by a science so bad that it is indistinguishable from superstition and magical thinking.

Despite the Rev. Dr. Thistlethwaite’s faith in a superstorm apocalypse derived from spending too
too much time watching the Weather Channel, there is no actual pattern of increased storm activity. Nor is Mother Nature targeting UN climate negotiations with typhoons. The only pattern here is the one that a liberal religion that believes in little except human evil assigns to storm patterns.

If the God of Global Warming worshiped by The Nation and the Rev. Dr. Thistlethwaite seems senselessly malicious, it is because it exists in their minds as a reflection of human evil. The left proclaimed the death of God only to find themselves in need of some entity to inflict ruthless punishment on those who did not believe in their left-handed path; which in the absence of the Gulags they were no longer able to do.

Liberalism in act of idolatry built the God of Global Warming in its own image. Like liberals, their deity can destroy, but not create.

The God of Global Warming is the embodiment of liberalism and holds all the politically correct beliefs while carrying out brutal atrocities in the name of the left’s favorite political causes. With a moral logic as flawed as that of its worshipers, it is a deity that kills people in the Philippines for the carbon crimes of Americans and kills people in New Orleans because Bush bombed Iraq.Science only truly began to take off when scientists stopped trying to base it around their preconceived worldviews of how things should be, but began to actually draw conclusions from the data, instead of fitting the data into their conclusions.The human race did not suddenly become much smarter in the last few centuries. Instead our greatest minds learned a little humility and began getting out of the way of the data. Instead of trying to force reality to conform to their philosophy, they experimented with building a philosophy around reality. The left has killed reality-based science, along with so many other human accomplishments.

Global Warming is the worship of the left. It elevates its petty biases against industry and the middle class to the status of a religion. It insists on their right to act as the mediators between individuals and the economy or else the God of Global Warming will unleash her superstorms on the bourgeois infidels.

Daniel Greenfield

Who by the Sword, Who by Wild Beasts, Who by Hunger, Who by the Plague

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

In the supplemental prayer of The Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement, we say these words almost mechanically, theoretically, because this is the text. But in Syria this is reality. The regime’s war against the citizens’ demonstrations, which began two years and seven months ago, has become a dirty, despicable and accursed war, where everyone is fighting everyone else. People from both sides have lost the likeness of man, thrown human values to the winds, lost any semblance of humanity, and have become predatory animals, (“and who by a wild beast”).

Assad’s army has besieged the eastern neighborhoods of Damascus because they serve as a corridor of passage to the capitol for the jihadists who come from Jordan and Iraq. In these neighborhoods in recent weeks, tens of thousands of people have been besieged, cut off from all sources of life: food, water, electricity, and from Asad’s point of view they might as well all die from starvation. These were the neighborhoods that suffered the great attack of chemical weapons on the 21st of August in which approximately 1500 people were killed, men, women and children. As a result of the hunger, a group of Muslim religious arbiters issued a ruling that allows the residents of these neighborhoods to eat cats, dogs and donkeys, in order to survive the siege and the starvation.

There are reports about places like Mu’adhamiyat al-Sham where there have been many cases of death by starvation because of the siege imposed on these places, in addition to cases when injured people have died because they did not receive treatment in time. In addition, there are places where diseases like cholera are rampant, which are caused by spoiled food, contamination of water and the environment, and from pests such as mice, rats, and snakes that multiply alarmingly in ghost towns and ruins of cities like Homs, Hama and Idlib.

Approximately seven million Syrians are destitute refugees in neighboring countries and within Syria. The approaching winter threatens to pose great harm to their health and their lives, as if the misery that people – if it is possible to call them people – have caused them was not bad enough. Because of the distress and poverty, the refugees do anything they can in order to live: the men work for pennies, and many women are forced to do unethical things in order to earn a piece of bread. Families sell their daughters in forced marriages, to get a handful of dinars and reduce the number of mouths that they must feed.

Asad’s army systematically refuses humanitarian aid organizations to operate in the besieged cities, claiming concern that the lives of the volunteers will be endangered by fire from the opposition. But soldiers of the opposition to the regime are not guiltless either: they fight with each other over ideological differences, mainly regarding the future of Syria: will it be a civil state or an Islamic state. In the city of Aleppo “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” is in control and the city is run by an Islamic court that imposes Islamic Shari’a by force of arm, whip and sword. Lately several tribes that live around Aleppo have announced that they have joined “The Islamic State” organization, in order to shelter in the shadow of the dominant force, and stay out of trouble.

The fact that children are present in the battle areas causes them severe emotional damage because of the terrible sights that they are exposed to. Children join the battle and take an active part in killing anyone who is thought to be an enemy. Asad’s militias, the “Shabiha”, are constantly on the lookout for the families of soldiers and officers who have deserted the army so that they can kill the men and abuse the women. In many cases they document and photograph this abuse to show it to those who are still serving, to discourage them from deserting.

This past month several dozens of jihad organizations operating in Syria came to the conclusion that the disagreements among them harm their fighting cause and strengthen Asad. This conclusion led dozens of organizations to put aside their differences and unify under an organizational umbrella by the name of “Jaysh al-Islam” – “The Army of Islam”. The other large organization – “The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” – is considering joining the “Army of Islam”, and it may be that “Jabhat al-Nusra”, which blessed the consolidation with “The Army of Islam”, will also join in the future.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar

The Undivided Past

Friday, October 4th, 2013

There are several words used in the Bible to describe the Jewish people. At one stage we were simply tribal. Then we became an “Am”, a people, a “Goy”, a nation, a “Mamlacha”, a kingdom. Post-Biblically, if the gentiles called us Jews, Judeans, Israelites, Hebrews, Yids, or whatever, we used “Yisrael” as the name of choice, in the main, which meant a people, a culture, a religion, a relationship with God and a land, all of that in varying and amorphous degrees. We knew what it meant, even if others were confused or bemused. It takes one to know one.

Under pagan empires religion was not a factor, just loyalty to an overarching regime or royal family. If you were a serf it was loyalty to your lord and village. Neither the Persian, nor the Greek, nor the Roman Empires cared how you worshipped or behaved, so long as you professed loyalty to the empire. Then Christianity emerged as the religion of the Roman Empire and other religions were marginalized. Ironically the bloodiest battles were within Christianity, between one theological variation and another. The same thing happened under Islam. Ideals soon got perverted by politics and as today, Muslims of different sects killed more Muslims than all their enemies put together and doubled. Freud memorably described this internal divisiveness as “the narcissism of minor differences”.

In the West, most Jews that non-Jews encounter are not particularly committed to being Jewish. For Jews like a Soros or a Zuckerberg, it’s an accident of birth, a minor casual affiliation, like belonging to the Church of England. And this explains why most of those in the West who think about the matter reckon that the Jews are not really too concerned about having a land of their own and that it was only the accidental intervention of imperialist powers that explains the Jewish presence in the Middle East. It was a misjudged adventure. And really the Jews ought to pick up and leave and stop being nasty to the indigenous population.

It takes an objective observer to notice that for millennia Jews have shared a powerful core identity, even if in almost every situation except when they were given a choice, most Jews actually abandoned the community of Jews. But it took a determined minority within a minority to fight hard, relentlessly, and ultimately victoriously for its Jewish identity.

In his book The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences, David Cannadine writes:

“Egypt under the Pharaohs may have resembled a nation…but there was no accompanying sense of public culture or collective identity. As for the ancient Greeks, their limited pan Hellenic aspirations embodied in their shared language, Homeric epics and Olympic games foundered on the disputatious reality of their fiercely independent city-states. Similar objections have been made to claims that the Sumerians, the Persians, the Phoenicians, the Arameans, the Philistines, the Hittites and the Elamites were ancient nations, or that the Sinhalese, the Japanese or the Koreans might be so described during the first millennium of the common era. Only in the case of Israel does it seem plausible to discern a recognizable ancient nation with its precise though disputed territoriality, its ancient myths, its shared historical memories of the Exodus, the Conquest and wars with the Philistines, its strong sense of exceptionalism and providential destiny and its self-definition against a hostile “other” and its common laws and cultures. These were and are the essential themes in the unfinished history of the Jews this example has also furnished ever since a developed model of what it means to be a nation.” (p. 58)

Throughout exile we somehow did preserve a sense of belonging to a people, to a tradition, to a land, a sense of community, Klal Yisrael. This is why the problem of Israel in the Middle East, the Jewish problem, is so intractable. The overwhelming majority of Jews now living in Israel or the West Bank are committed to the notion of a Jewish people. It is not to be compared as ignorant opponents of Israel try, to a few British or white imperialists imposing themselves on a vast majority “other”. Some may try to delegitimize us by overturning a decision of the United Nations, but they cannot delegitimize or wish away the Jewish people.

Jeremy Rosen

Why Ted Cruz Speaks for Me

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Ted Cruz and his allies get it.  They get that Americans can’t afford to have Obamacare implemented against our groaning, near-collapse finances.  They get that we are disgusted (and alarmed) at the idea of being the GOP’s economic attrition strategy for the 2014 election: the strategy that says, “Let things get as bad as they’re going to with Obamacare, and then people will finally blame the Democrats.”  The problem with that strategy is that someone has to pay the price for it – has to accept the financial losses, which for many people could be disastrous, even permanently life-changing – and that someone is us.

Cruz – and Mike Lee in the Senate, along with Matt Salmon (AZ) and others in the House – show that they get what the stakes are, by being willing to take a big risk on a deliberate strategy.  They’re making an attempt they could actually be defeated in:  to galvanize the rest of the GOP and get it to take a risk.

Contrast that with the bet-hedging and consultation-begging we see from the GOP leadership.  Here’s where my confession of populism comes in:  I don’t recall ever having such a sense of revulsion against the air of protecting privileged insularity that hangs over Beltway insiders, both politicians and pundits.  As we understand it, GOP leaders sent unsolicited “opposition research” to Fox News on Sunday, in order to undermine Cruz in his appearance with Chris Wallace.  Karl Rove excoriated Cruz on the Sunday show for failing to properly “consult” with his colleagues.  Tucker Carlson, Charles Krauthammer, and even Brit Hume took up the cry on Monday’s Special Report, accusing Cruz of grandstanding, and personalizing their criticisms of him to a startlingly petty degree.

Meanwhile, as the GOP impugns Ted Cruz’s motives with slam-book-quality allegations, it quietly accepts Obamacare exemptions and special subsidies for Congress.  The whole scenario seems like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington come to life.  All that’s missing is misleading photos of Cruz making bird calls.

But the truth is, this isn’t Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – because the plot of Mr. Smith turned on a relatively small matter, one that might have had symbolism for the operation of the whole government, but that in a literal sense affected only a small number of citizens.  The implementation of Obamacare is the biggest issue America has dealt with since how to get rid of the atrocious institution of slavery, and what “union” and “states’ rights” mean.  It profoundly affects everyone who will ever be an American from this day forward.  Issues don’t come any bigger.   Obamacare is about government’s relation to the citizen; about what government can dictate and control in our lives; and about what our economic liberties will mean, not in a decade, not a year from now, but tomorrow — and for the rest of our life as a nation.

From where I sit, it looks like Ted Cruz gets that.  He gets that we can’t just sit still, paralyzed by bad press and Democratic talking points, and let these questions be decided through the back door by the implementation of brain-deadening regulations.  He gets that that’s what’s happening.  He recognizes that a time comes when risk must be taken: when it just isn’t good enough for the well-worn remedies of consultation and deferral to produce the same unsatisfactory outcomes that they always do.  This time, the cost of taking that risk-averse route is too high.

Cruz did what he had to do on Fox on Sunday, remaining on message with admirable rhetorical discipline.  What he said was an accurate and succinct representation of the alternative he and his allies are offering:  fund the government without Obamacare in fiscal year 2014, as the alternative to funding it with Obamacare.  Delay implementation of the individual mandate, if that’s the best deal we can get, but go for the most we can get while still funding the government.  Don’t shut it down.  I found him to be effective in getting his point across.

But the old-school GOP leaders won’t get onboard with that message, apparently preferring to emphasize that they haven’t been consulted with.  They might as well just concede the terms of the fight to the Democrats and have done with it.

There are an awful lot of Americans out here who don’t know when the next shoe is going to drop, as the predator in the dark stalks their jobs, insurance, and finances.  Despising these people and their worries about Obamacare and the trend of big government – in the manner of Harry Reid – is as much bad karma as it is bad politics.  Yet senior Republicans seem to join Reid in being annoyed with the people for not wanting to play the role of the sacrifice in an electoral-politics ritual.

Instead of deferring an Obamacare fight to a future point we can’t guarantee we’ll even reach – i.e., after a Senate victory in 2014 – Cruz and his allies propose to fight today, on ground we can at least define clearly and prepare for in the present.  Are they right?  There are arguments pro and con.  But I don’t hear GOP leaders making any of those arguments in a forthright or convincing manner – or in any other way, for that matter.

One thing we can guarantee: we, Republican leaders and voters, won’t come to a unified position on that by refusing to address the question on the terms proposed by Cruz and his allies.  Cruz is trying to force the issue, which accords it the weight and immediacy that I give it.  He’s carrying my water.  If GOP leaders want to lead, they need to get out in front of this issue.  Go in strong with Cruz to make the strategy theirs – give the people something to applaud or reject – instead of merely sniping from the shadows.

J. E. Dyer

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/j-e-dyer/why-ted-cruz-speaks-for-me/2013/09/25/

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