A Lesson from Biden
Thank you to Rabbi Yehuda Oppenheimer (“Biden’s Rosh Hashanah Sermon,” August 27) for finding a lesson in the unlikeliest of places. It’s a good lesson for all of us as we approach the Yamim Nora’im. The Gemara says that we can look to the animals to learn about middos tovos, e.g., to the cat to learn about modesty, to the ant to learn about honesty, etc.
I guess even from Biden’s mistakes we can learn a thing or two.
Kiruv Begins at Home
Avi Ciment (“Moving Past the Bare Minimum with G-d,” August 27) hits the nail on the head when he writes, “Another danger in the ‘pick and choose’ approach to Judaism is that our children see the hypocrisy and inconsistencies. For you, davening isn’t so critical; for your kid, kashrut isn’t so important. And then the games begin.”
An important lesson I learned years ago is that the most important kiruv is with your children. Before you can start helping other Jews come closer to Hashem, you must be careful for your children’s spiritual health. And a second lesson is that “do as I say not as I do” never works. Children are much smarter than we give them credit for; they’ll notice the hypocrisy immediately – and it will affect their relationship to Yiddishkeit for life.
If you want to raise children who grow up to be fine, kind and dedicated ovdei Hashem, the most important thing you can do is model that behavior.
A Different Drummer
Avi Ciment wisely concludes his essay on not doing the bare minimum with the advice, “Let’s stop playing games with G-d’s rule book.” It must be conceded, on the other hand, that maximalists do play games as well, as far as assuming what G-d demands of us.
Our tradition has insights about a person’s “acquiring eternal life in one instant,” which, of course, entails doing an unselfish deed the importance of which is known to the Ribbono Shel Olam alone. L’havdil elef havdalot (with a thousand degrees of separation) from such a tzadik, I have implored that attention be paid to the indefinite article in “lih’yot lo l’am s’gulah” (to be for Him as “a” treasure people) in Devarim 14:2. I believe that Hashem regards other “treasure peoples” well, and might be in accord with my “beating His drums” for that – admitted non-maximalist that I am.
Ed Yitshaq Levenson
Delray Beach, FL
Help Your Neighbor, Or Maybe Not
The picture on the front page of the August 27 issue of The Jewish Press “Helping The Afghans” is a heartwarming example of the predilection of Jews, even as youngsters to help others in need, Jews or gentiles. This is a dramatic counterpoint to the photos we so often see of Palestinian youth training with guns and suicide vests, being indoctrinated to kill Jews, even at the cost of their own lives.
However, I don’t always view our magnanimity to be a positive attribute. Jews make up a tiny fraction of the world’s population (0.2 percent), yet they are among the first to rush into danger helping out at so many catastrophes in the world – hurricanes, earthquakes, building collapses, floods, violence, etc. Unfortunately, over the millennia, very few of the other 99.8 percent of the world’s non-Jewish population rushes in to help Jews in danger, and more often than not, many even join in the carnage.
The problem as I see it is that humans, including Jews, have only a limited well of resources, emotional and financial, to contribute before these become exhausted. When this point is reached there is little left to give. For Jews in the two major Jewish population centers, America and Israel, many are now caught up in supporting “liberal” intersectional causes, including those of some of our sworn enemies. For Jewish individuals and organizations to dissipate their limited recourses in these pursuits of necessity means being less is devoted to our own needs. I have trouble seeing this as an admirable trait.
The widely quoted adage of Hillel is: “If I am not for myself who will be for me; If I am only for myself, what am I; And if not now, when.”
I humbly submit that while this is an admirable slogan and guide to behavior, the reality may not always be so noble. My view on the Jewish experience throughout the ages and even today, is much more cynical, as follows:
“If I am not for myself, nobody else will be for me; if I am only for myself I am just trying to survive; and if not now, there may not be a chance later.”
Highland Park, NJ
On Prager Pontificating
Stumbling upon Dennis Prager’s article (“Imagine No Big Cities,” August 27) I encountered this sentence:
“As for moronic ideas, rural people get meaning out of working with their hands and interacting with nature, which grounds them in reality and imposes pragmatism, while urban people are far more likely to get meaning, along with no consequences, from working with abstract ideas.”
Um, is Dennis Prager blind to the irony that he pontificates – often ridiculously and poorly – for a living?
Living with Consequences
Behavior and results are two different things that commonly get conflated. In a choice between two potential leaders, one could be morally deficient in behavior while the other one is nicer, yet the consequence of their policies should be the judge of which one should lead a country.
Almost a year ago, a lot of the support that went to Biden was simply anti-Trump sentiment. Not pulling the lever for Trump wasn’t a matter of principle for many Biden voters. Instead, it was a childish outburst of anger for petty reasons. Saying mean stuff or talking more colorfully were more pressing issues for them than re-electing a man who did amazing things for this nation.
Instead, they chose a man who has deteriorated with age who has no idea what he is doing. They have responsibility for what is going on in the world right now. Donald Trump and his supporters warned of all the horrors that would result from a Biden presidency. They have all come true – whether high inflation, high gas prices, the immigration crisis, and now a foreign policy disaster not seen in likeness in decades.
Last week, ISIS-K murdered over 100 innocent people, including 13 U.S. service members. Reportedly, Joe Biden’s administration gave a list of Americans still in Afghanistan to the Taliban. The gross negligence of the Biden administration is expected, but the lack of Biden supporters owning up to what they supported is a disgrace.
Donny Simcha Guttman
North Woodmere, NY
Josh Greenberger Was Right
Reader Josh Greenberger’s letter (August 27) about Joe Biden and our current state of affairs, warmed my heart. I agree with every point he made. Our leftist media has decided to give Biden a pass on his shortcomings, including his mind-boggling lies. Best example: the “mess he inherited” at our southern border. Was there ever a bigger lie spoken by an American president? Trump gave him a precious gift, the most secure border ever and Biden turned it into a cesspool.
Biden’s petulant, childish and mean-spirited response to this gift was to do a “180,” reversing all that Trump accomplished. His advisers (handlers) include, of course, the leftists in both Houses that hate and resent American individualism and sovereignty. Biden’s unequivocal shout out to the world, Latin America in particular, was “Come on in. All are welcome.” And why not come after Trump gave us the best ever economy, including the lowest ever unemployment numbers?
The deluge then began and persists. They come, including those with Covid-19 and other diseases. Many come with criminal records, and independent sources report that prisons beyond the border are being emptied. Ship them north and wave adios to the felons. Let innocent Americans suffer their presence. Why not? Their leader is a 50-year career politician with very noticeable signs of cognitive failure. He’s delighted to accept them and quickly ship them to many American cities before anyone can investigate. This is Fidel Castro/Jimmy Carter all over again. Castro emptied his prisons and shipped us the Marielitos, a violent criminal breed who are now in the thick of Florida drug trafficking, making millions and destroying lives. Sources also point to the certainty that Middle-Eastern terrorists have crossed our border amidst the current chaotic conditions.
Biden also lied about energy, fracking, oil pipelines and a program to end the ugly mob violence in many cities. Are we now safer? Add the current, disastrous lying about Afghanistan in all its ugly ramifications. Josh Greenberger was right that Trump was the best ever. I would add that Biden is the worst ever and has created an atmosphere that equals the dismal, apologetic face Obama put on America when he groveled before Arab potentates. We’re back to groveling before OPEC, having abandoned the energy independence Trump gave us. Gas prices and a myriad of consumer goods are now part of the inflation that Biden’s policies have foisted on us. Thanks Joe.
As for Israel and other allies, it’s obvious that there’s a fear, a dread that permeates their thinking, and rightly so. Biden’s cowardly actions and insultingly blatant lies have created this dread. American resolution and dependability are now a thing of the past, a fossil.
When will liberal Jews realize that the great bulk of anti-Semitism in America emanates from the left, not the right? The frequent anti-Semitic barbs from Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley in the House go unpunished by Nancy Pelosi who dares not denounce them. Chuck Schumer simply hides under his desk. The Democrats laugh at us, taking our votes for granted. They’ve treated Blacks and Hispanics similarly, but Trump proved to many of them that a Republican in the Oval Office was a doer, not just a talker. Time long overdue for a Jewish awakening, an aliya, a going-up to recognize who our friends and enemies truly are.
New City, NY
The ignominious flight from Afghanistan ranks among the most humiliating American debacles, all the more tragic because it was entirely avoidable. While Trump fecklessly negotiated withdrawal with the Taliban, absent the Afghan government, the current catastrophe is totally on Biden. Rejecting warnings from top military brass and intelligence services to retain a residual force, he greatly reduced American air cover support while removing Afghan aircraft maintenance contractors and intelligence sharing.
After the total collapse of demoralized Afghan fighters, who had long solely borne enormous casualties, he publicly shamed them. Leaving Bagram without advance notice crippled later evacuation capabilities, led to the freeing of hundreds of hardened terrorists imprisoned there and to the massive loss of advanced weaponry.
Biden repeatedly lied to the American people as to the unfolding situation. He has taken a knee to the Taliban, allowing them to insist on his foolishly stated date for certain withdrawal. He has abandoned many Americans to an uncertain fate, Afghan aides and their families to certain horrific retribution, and extinguished all hope for Afghan civil society – especially women and girls. He has betrayed the hundreds of thousands of Americans who served there, sacrificing life and limb, and NATO allies, who were neither consulted nor warned, beforehand. They sent armed forays to rescue their nationals, even as U.S. troops were restricted to Kabul airport.
How besmirched our country’s honor! How great the damage, perhaps irreparable, to American global power and prestige. How dismayed our friends must be, how elated our enemies. As they are, even now, running rampant, there will be many short and long term enormously severe consequences from Biden’s incredibly foolish misjudgments. Were he a secret enemy agent, he could not have done more lasting damage. He must resign!
Richard D. Wilkins
We All Miss John Mccain
The late Republican Arizona senator and presidential candidate John McCain, born on August 29, 1936, was always a breath of fresh air. What you see is what you got with the “Straight Talk Express.” He could work across the aisle with Democratic Senate colleagues, including Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman and others, on a regular bipartisan basis. This also included Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy on comprehensive immigration reform and Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform. His history in the Senate harkens back to an age of collegiality no longer seen today. McCain, like New York’s late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was an intellectual giant standing head and shoulders above today’s newer generation of senators.
In our era of highly partisan politics, let’s hope that Congress members from different parties can honor McCain’s memory on the third anniversary of his passing on August 26, 2018. Will we ever move beyond rigid ideological commitments and come together on behalf of all Americans? McCain was a role models others should be emulating. With his death, Diogenes is still searching for an honest politician.
Great Neck, NY