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I have a niece who volunteers with very sick children in hospitals. She dresses as a clown to make them forget their illness and pain, at least for a while.

As the Talmud teaches in a story about two brothers who did the same thing, with sick people in their time, that can earn you a First-Class accommodation in heaven.


She asked me once if I knew how lucky I was? “You get to speak all over the world about what you are most passionate about. You have the dream job!”

I smiled and she asked me, “How many different topics do you lecture on?”

That was a more difficult one to answer. Technically, there are a large number of subjects I speak about, but I answered her honestly and said, “I have hundreds of topics…but I only really talk about two things.”

Of course, I knew that would pique her interest and she asked the inevitable question, “What are they?”

One of the two I’ll leave for another column, but the other is one of Judaism’s most well-known teachings from Pirkei Avot, “Aseh Lecha Rav”… Get yourself a teacher, a mentor… someone you can trust.

In 2020 finding someone like that, is about as rare as finding folk who are not worrying about the coronavirus.

Truth, honesty and trust, are under attack like never before and the attack is quite deliberate.

There will be few Americans that are unaware that Putin’s Russia has been waging a sustained campaign to undermine the U.S.’s electoral process.

The extent of the interference was uncovered during the 2016 election and of course was promptly denied by President Putin. He is in the habit of denying things.

He denied that Russia was playing any part in the war in Ukraine despite overwhelming evidence that he was and is.

He also denied any knowledge of the poisoning of the ex-Russian Agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia who had fled to the UK.

When pictures of the two men who did the poisoning with a banned Soviet era nerve agent “Novichok” went viral, he denied any knowledge of them.

When their real identities emerged, Colonel Anatoly Chepiga and Dr Alexander Mishkin, and that they were active officers in the GRU (the successor to the KGB), he again denied any knowledge of them. When pictures of him pinning a medal on one of their chests went viral, he denied that too.

But recent evidence that Russia has been busy again with the forthcoming Presidential election, has people wondering if they have fallen down the rabbit hole. Russia seems to be trying simultaneously to make sure that President Trump and Bernie Sanders both succeed.

And if that strikes you as simply nuts, welcome to 2020 and a world where no one trusts anybody and where clear evidence that someone is lying is met with a sly shrug and is contemptuously brushed aside.

You don’t have to be as cynical about politics and politicians as Mark Twain who said, “If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.” to know that things have gotten much worse lately.

I think President Putin, who after all is a product of the KGB, simply remembers his “Lenin” who wrote about how good Communists shouldn’t wait for the West to destroy itself when they can give it a helping hand to do so.

What could constitute a helping hand more effectively than creating an atmosphere where no one trusts anyone, and certainly no one trusts their Government, Congress or Senate.

I think the barefaced brushing aside of the evidence, really came to the fore when Hillary Clinton ran in 2016. The number of times she made claims that were demonstrably and laughably false were the stuff of mendacious legend.

Who can forget her claim to have flown into Sarajevo under heavy anti-aircraft fire? Hillary’s defense was that she, “Misspoke.” That word means, “to express oneself insufficiently clearly or accurately.” If you look it up online, you will find a graph showing the frequency of its use. It was hardly used at all until recently and then the graph spikes to form a peak that resembles Mount Everest.

Hillary of course did not “misspeak” when she made the claim. She lied.

Then there are those who make a small industry in pouring over President Trump’s statements for claims of mendacity. But if you leave aside Ilhan Omar, Tlaib and the “Squad”, today’s greatest exponent of the barefaced lie is Elizabeth Warren. You know her; the not a Red Indian woman, who was not fired for being pregnant and whose children did attend private school.

But surely Putin and all the rest of America’s enemies must be smiling when they watched Senator Chuck Schumer openly threaten the last bastion of truth in the land and two Supreme Court Judges if they dared to rule in a way he disapproved of.

Schumer tried to backtrack with surreal justifications about it all being the fault of Brooklyn which made him speak that way. No one believed him and in our post-truth 2020 world, no one has to, and this bullying, dangerous man, can still carry on. And that, as Mr. Putin will tell you, is exactly the point of all his interference. The truth is dead, long live the lie!

So, in a world where liars lie fearlessly, take Pirkei Avot’s advice, find yourself a teacher, someone you can trust.


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Rabbi YY Rubinstein is a popular lecturer, a regular broadcaster on BBC National TV and Radio, and the author of 10 books (including, most recently, “Jewish Life and Jewish Laughter”).