By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
The country was gripped by hysteria last week and many Jewish groups bought into the narrative as well, issuing quotes and releases in a bid to be included in the conversation.
Fringe lunatic groups, including neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other weirdoes organized a demonstration in Virginia against the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee. Leftist groups lined up against them and there was much physical contact and violence. One of the neo-Nazis rammed his car into the crowd protesting his protest and killed a young woman while injuring many others.
A frenzy was stirred by the media against President Donald Trump. The president condemned the violence, but didn’t use the exact language that the PC crowd would have liked. His opponents grabbed onto the gift and launched a vicious tirade against him. Their candidate couldn’t beat Trump at the ballot box in November, and ever since, they have been working incessantly to discredit him and cause him to leave office prematurely.
The week before, it was North Korea and the hysterical alarms that the president’s statement that he would respond to any North Korean attack with “fire and fury” would cause a war. Trump’s gambit worked and the North Korean boy-dictator climbed down from his threats. That was the end of that story. It was gone from the national conversation almost as quickly as the allegations that Trump colluded with the Russians to swing the election his way, when polls showed it wasn’t sticking.
And so it has been going ever since Trump’s presidency began.
The Democrat party has evolved into a group of avowed leftists, led by the likes of Reps. Maxine Waters and Keith Ellison, socialists such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Marxists such as Black Lives Matter, and the overwhelming majority of liberal Jews, blacks and Latinos. In order to preserve their coalition, it is vital for Democrats to cause their constituents to view the Republican Party as bigoted, racist, opposed to working people of all races and dedicated to stripping minorities of their rights and privileges. Class warfare is a classic Marxist tactic adopted by communists and Saul Alinsky, architect of much of the modern Democrat party and intellectual guide of notables Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
I received the following invitation from Tom Perez, chair of the Democrat National Committee: “This weekend, we’re holding a nationwide Weekend of Action to rise against hatred and organize to defeat all those who would perpetuate it. What happened this past weekend in Charlottesville, and Donald Trump’s disgraceful actions since, should only motivate us to keep fighting even harder for what is right”
They are rising “against hatred” and have to “organize to defeat all those who would perpetuate it,” meaning Republicans, and especially President Trump, because he has “engaged in disgraceful actions” since Charlottesville.
What was Trump’s sin? He said that leftist protesters engaged in violence. It is forbidden to say that. Leftists can do no ill and whatever they do is justified. Their actions in Ferguson, Baltimore and other cities where people rioted against police, destroying property and causing mayhem, are not up for condemnation. Only people on the so-called right are to be condemned.
The Nazis, white supremacists, anti-Semites, KKK, and others like them are all contemptible; that goes without saying. We would prefer that they be put out of business, but this country’s laws guarantee them the right to gather and engage in public speech, even if it is hateful and despicable. The president never said otherwise, and to say that he did is fake news. Because he condemned leftist violence, he was accused of engaging in moral equivalency. A tumult ensued so quickly that it was as if it had all been planned.
Typical of the way the media works on the public’s perceptions was a broadcast conversation between CNN icon Wolf Blitzer and CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, who said that the Barcelona terror attack was related to what happened in Charlottesville.
It was Sciutto who brought up the idea, saying, “In light of the uproar of the last several days, five days apart you have a white supremacist in Charlottesville use a vehicle to kill, and here you have attackers at least following the modus operandi of terrorists using vehicles apparently to kill as well, and those shared tactics that should be alarming.”
Blitzer, who views himself as the reincarnation of Edward R. Murrow, picked up the narrative, saying, “There will be questions about copycats. There will be questions if what happened in Barcelona was at all a copycat version of what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. Even though there may be different characters, different political ambitions, they used the same killing device: a vehicle going at high speed into a group, a large group of pedestrians.”
Never mind that using vehicles as weapons is an ISIS tactic, perfected by the Arabs in their terror battle against Israel before being introduced to Europe. But facts never stop leftists from the propaganda tricks they use to promote their agenda, whatever it may be.
There are ISIS networks in many European cities, including Barcelona, where a large group had been plotting this attack for some time. ISIS doesn’t need to learn from a sick hick Nazi how to commit acts of terror. Much planning goes into their attacks as they perfect their killing methods. There is no way any thinking person could think that this was a copycat attack.
Yet, CNN, the standard for news reporting in this country, has no problem tying the terror act to Charlottesville and, by extension, Trump. People watch this and read it. And the continuous drip, drip, drip of the lie that Republicans and Trump are bigots and KKK supporters continues to seep deeper into the American psyche.
Polls taken last week show that an overwhelming majority of Americans want the confederate statues to stay where they are. You would never know that the only people who want them removed are liberals, because the media has so tainted the way you view and understand what is transpiring in this country. What the majority wants is not necessarily what the media tells you they want.
The facts are not important to the media. They are focused on an agenda, which in this case is to discredit, demean and destroy Trump.
Last week, some sixty-plus Democrat House members signed a resolution censuring the president. Rep. Steve Cohen went further, saying that he would seek to impeach Trump because of his Charlottesville response.
Trump is Trump. He hasn’t changed since he ran for president. His agenda was clearly laid out, a bitter campaign ensued, and the American people elected him to serve as commander-in-chief. His political enemies thought that would never happen. There was no way Mrs. Clinton would lose. When she did, they could not face defeat.
Trump surely has his faults, and his administration has not yet established a solid footing. His constant, sometimes infantile tweeting does him no good and must be done away with. He has to keep his petty thoughts to himself and concentrate on doing what he promised he would do for the country. While Senators McCain and Graham, and others, may well deserve the contempt Trump heaps upon them, his tweets accomplish little more than antagonizing the swamp and people whose support he needs to move forward the agenda he was elected to implement.
Now, with Steve Bannon out, there is a chance for the president to get his act together and regroup. We hope that he can right his ship and get back to focusing on governing, without veering off and getting bogged down with tangential issues.
There is a lot at stake here for the country and for religious Jews. President Trump is the friendliest president to Israel in a very long time. He has relationships with many Jews. Two of his children married Jews.
This president fights for moral causes. We benefit from a proper moral climate. He works to improve the economy. So far, the stock market has risen 4,000 points, as people are optimistic that his economic agenda will sharply improve the economy. Our community is desperate for a good economy, and for more and better jobs.
A President Hillary Clinton – like the past administration – would have forced us to be exposed to practices that are amoral. We should be thankful that we now have a president who values and supports religion. Our people should not be joining with the various liberal groups and swamp creatures who seek to weaken, isolate and topple the president, who still has the potential to do much good.
Do we want this country to look like Europe, where terror attacks are becoming commonplace thanks to the utopian open borders policy? Many Jews are afraid for their futures there and are planning leave the continent. Do we not appreciate what the president has set into action to stem illegal immigration and stop vile, dangerous people from coming here to perpetrate their murderous ideology?
Do we want a return to the days of Barack Obama? Have we forgotten what he did to undermine the country’s moral standing and weaken the country in myriad ways?
Are we that backward that we seek to curry favor with the likes of Senator Chuck Schumer, who votes against the interests of our community on every issue except Israel?
For decades, people have been voting for Republicans because they promised lower taxes, better health care, morality, and much else that the majority of this country supports, yet they have never delivered on their promises. They become engulfed by the Washington Disease and seek to please their bosses, lobbyists, the media and Democrats. Finally, there is a president who takes those promises seriously, and is fighting to force Republicans to keep their word.
As a people who have been buffeted about from one country to another, we appreciate that this country is the most accommodating to us in history. This is in large part due to the constitution, which guarantees free speech and freedom to worship as we please. It is imperative that we elect candidates who take seriously their pledge to uphold the constitution and the freedoms it offers every citizen of this great and compassionate land.
Do we not appreciate the meaning of Trump’s victory? Do we not recognize the need to respect the country’s leader? Does anyone think that the country, or the religious community, or Israel would have been better off with the Democrats at the helm of the vast bureaucracy?
Did the same people rushing to microphones to condemn the president ever utter a disrespectful word when Obama and his Sec. of State engaged in anti-Israel activity, or condoned wild anti-police demonstrations around the country?
There was an election and this candidate won. As a democracy, we are to support him and pray for his success. Let us do so and hope that he finally gets his act together and is empowered to bring prosperity and unity to the land. Let us not contribute to the president’s further isolation, and aid the bid to topple him and reverse the trajectory of accomplishment.
Rabbeinu Bechyei writes in his introduction to Parshas Shoftim that just as peace is necessary for the world’s existence, so is mishpot, justice. Without it, people would be robbing, harming and killing each other and the world would not last. It is only with a system of laws and jurisprudence that everything hangs together.
Chazal say (Avos 1:18) that the world exists on three things, law, truth and peace, as the novi Zecharia (Zecharia 8:16) states, “In your cities judge truth, justice, peace.” He is referring to the necessity for judges to work for peace and be loyal to the truth, for the existence of the world depends on that.
This is the admonishment of the parsha: “Shoftim veshotrim titein lecha.” In order to maintain a healthy society, we must establish a system of judges and appoint people to enforce the rule of law. They must be learned, intelligent, honest, upstanding and incorruptible. They must be men whose life ambition is to pursue justice. It does not suffice to have one supreme Sanhedrin staffed with such leaders. Every town has to establish a court to ensure that its citizens have a place to turn for direction and adjudication of their grievances.
The officers of the bais din must be beyond reproach. They must be men of uncompromising honor and power, who do not cower in the face of opposition and intimidation. They must possess the skill and determination to enforce the edicts and rulings of the shoftim with strength and dignity. Anarchy and mediocrity have no place in our system of rule, lest they result in a breakdown of respect for authority and righteousness.
The Torah states that when the people choose a king, the candidate for royalty must be an individual who is not interested in enriching himself or indulging in senseless trappings of power. The posuk further commands that the king write for himself two Sifrei Torah, from which he should read and learn throughout his life.
The Torah’s priority is to encourage people to follow an honorable, humble and just path. The monarchy, the Sanhedrin and other institutions were created to foster correct behavior and ensure that society is governed by Torah norms. Today, we unfortunately no longer have a Sanhedrin, kings or shoftim, but we still must act as if our every deed is destined to be written in the Torah, and conduct ourselves with that imaginary publication of our personal lives in mind.
The parsha ends with the mitzvah of eglah arufah, the procedure to follow when a body of an unknown person is found at the outskirts of a town. The elders of the city must wash their hands over the eglah arufah and state that their hands did not kill the person and their eyes did not witness it: “Yodeinu lo shofchu es hadom hazeh ve’eineinu lo ra’u.”
Obviously, no one would suspect the elders of murdering a person. The lesson of the eglah arufah is that they must declare that they set everything in place under their jurisdiction to preclude the travesty of murder. They proclaim that they established a proper system of justice and compassionate treatment of strangers. They come to the outskirts of the city to state for all to hear that the murder victim did not die due to negligence on their part. With the kohanim at their sides, the zekeinim claim that they did everything in their ability to ensure that no person suffers abuse of any kind, especially of the kind or degree that would lead to such a tragic demise. They proclaim that they have always acted in the best interests of the community, without engaging in corruption and favoritism of any sort.
In our day, although we no longer have the eglah arufah, we still must all be able to proclaim that we have done what we can to set up institutions of jurisprudence, chesed and charity, and proper schools for chinuch and the transmission of our mesorah. We have to be able to act courageously and without fear to ensure that we can all say with complete honesty, “Yodeinu lo shofchu es hadom hazeh,” our hands did not spill the blood – both literally and figuratively – of unfortunate victims in our community.
Too many positions of power and influence are held by people who have muscled their way in by virtue of their wealth or hubris. Too many issues fester, because nobody is interested in the messiness involved in dealing with them. By holding gatherings where the same predictable boiler-plate banalities are offered, we will not succeed in attracting or energizing large numbers of our people, nor will we succeed in bringing about change.
If we seek to continue to grow and thrive, we have to be more realistic and real, allowing competent, faithful, honest people to attain positions of power, where they can influence others to follow in Hashem’s path and dedicate their lives to goodness and righteousness.
If we want to make a dent in the problems confronting us today, we have to get past the knee-jerk impulse to remain loyal to what is politically correct and safe. Lack of information and an inability to think boldly are crippling. They prompt people to offer safe and simplistic solutions, relying on “conventional wisdom,” even when dealing with serious, multi-faceted conundrums, because they fear the new and unknown.
The school year is about to begin. So many people suffer through the acceptance process and there is more than enough blame to go around on all sides. But have we ever sat down to seriously and honestly examine the roots of the problem and seek to resolve them?
A baal teshuvah couple from a secular Israeli city moved to Bnei Brak so that they could raise their daughter to be a fine, religious Jew, but the local school would not accept the newcomers. The couple discussed their problem with Rabbi Yossi Vallis, who had been aiding them in their journey towards Torah. He went to speak to Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach, seeking his advice.
Rav Shach felt the pain of the parents and their daughter. He immediately called the head of Chinuch Atzmai, the religious school system in Israel, and told him the story, soliciting his aid. The leader turned down Rav Shach, saying that the principal of the school is a very tough woman and he has a very hard time with her. He was sure that his efforts would be in vain.
Rav Shach found the woman’s number and called. When she answered the phone, he said, “Hello, this is Leizer Shach calling. I want to speak to you about a fine girl who belongs in your school.”
How would you react if Rav Shach called you with a request?
Not this woman. She turned him down.
“They are baalei teshuvah,” she said. “I can’t take the girl in. The board of parents who oversee me will never permit such a thing.”
Despite her arrogance and obstinacy, the gadol hador continued the conversation. “Give me their names and phone numbers,” he said.
There were a dozen people waiting outside to enter and speak with Rav Shach, who had many other pressing issues to deal with, but ensuring that a bas Yisroel had a school was a priority.
He sat at his table and called each parent representative one by one. “Hello, this is Leizer Shach. I am calling to discuss an issue with you…”
He discussed the matter with every one of those parents who were the class representatives and resolved the matter. The girl was accepted into the school and Rav Shach kept tabs on her development.
That is a leader. That is someone who cares. That is a shofet who is incorruptible and works with emes and mishpot to find shalom. He has departed this world, but he left us an example to emulate.
Elul is a good time to start.