Truth or Consequences


shafran1By Rabbi Avi Shafran

It is painful to publicly criticize something written by a dear friend. But improper public words require a public response.

I have known Chanan Gordon for years and deeply admire his passion to bring all Jews closer to their religious heritage. But Ami’s interview of him in a recent issue left me saddened and puzzled.

He pronounces President Obama an “intellectual lightweight,” “arrogant,” possessive of “a grandiose sense of self-importance” and “a sense of entitlement”; and asserts that his reelection would be a “tragedy.” Reb Chanan’s credentials for reaching those conclusions are that he attended Harvard at the same time as Mr. Obama, and “was close to people who were close to him.” They may even have been in one class together.

Reb Chanan considers it somehow iniquitous that, when at Harvard, Mr. Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review but wrote no articles for it. What’s more, he “heard that Obama took pains to recalibrate its ideological disposition.” Also, the man who would become president, Reb Chanan asserts, was “not popular” with others at Harvard.

“Reliable sources” are cited, one contending that Mr. Obama cut off communication with two former financial backers-a sign, in Reb Chanan’s diagnosis, “of extreme narcissism and being exploitive.”

Other “reliable sources” called Mr. Obama’s writings at Columbia University “radical at best.”

Reb Chanan kindly concedes that he “has nothing on record where [Mr. Obama] says that he’s a Muslim.” But he asserts, without any specific attribution, that “a common theme in Obama’s administration is that he is not a G-d-fearing person.”

The only accusations in the interview that even pretend to approach the substantive include Mr. Obama’s connection to a radical professor, “Derek Bell” (actually, Derrick)-whom Reb Chanan calls Mr. Obama’s “mentor.” In reality, the only connection between the men was that, as a student in 1991, Mr. Obama once introduced Mr. Bell at a rally about diversifying Harvard’s faculty.

Then there is the “fact” that Mr. Obama “suggest[ed] that Israel go back to pre-1967 borders,” which, of course, isn’t a fact at all. The president said a final peace agreement would be “based” on the 1967 lines, making clear in the very same sentence that it would include land swaps to ensure Israel’s security. The position, in other words, of the past several administrations.

Mr. Obama also, asserts Reb Chanan, “turned his back on Israel in the UN” by “not preventing the Security Council from being addressed by Nadi Pillay,” a critic of Israel. Ms. Pillay (whose first name is Navi) is the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and cannot be prevented from reporting to the Security Council.

This sort of defamation and misinformation is expected of the Breitbarts and Limbaughs and Michael Moores of our time, whose partisan stocks in trade are misrepresentation and ill will. But they are, or should be, off limits to all of us who know that the Creator’s very “signature” is emes, Truth.
Anyone, of course, can disagree with President Obama on any or all issues, even, perhaps, to just dislike him for no good reason. But to not even take into account his boycott of the Durban Conference, his rejection of the Goldstone Report, his backing of the Iron Shield and David’s Sling programs (to the tune of $315 million-beyond the $3 billion the US has given Israel annually), his blunt informing of the Arab world (twice) that it needs to accept Israel as a Jewish state, his alacrity in rescuing endangered Israeli embassy guards in Cairo, his condemnation of the Palestinian Authority’s denial of the Kosel Maaravi’s connection to the Jewish people, and his conducting of the largest joint American-Israeli military exercise in history (not to mention his willingness to kill Islamic terrorists) is to forfeit any claim to fairness-or emes.
Which is not to say that he necessarily deserves a second term. If one considers Mr. Obama’s attempts to woo the Palestinians to the peace table, or his economic policies, as outweighing the contents of the previous paragraph one should vote accordingly.

But basing one’s vote, or one’s judgment, on hearsay, armchair psychoanalysis, or incomplete information is not the way of a thoughtful Jew. And I know that Reb Chanan, who remains my dear friend, is a thoughtful Jew.

© 2012 Ami Magazine

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  1. Rabbi Shafran;
    Everything you write about Obama is unproven and new to me. Could you please back all of your truths with proof?
    I cannot accept your writings about Obama as hearsay. Just as you write that one should not base one’s vote on hearsay, I cannot in all good judgement accept your flavoring of Obama as hearsay.

  2. WOW, MAYBE I WILL VOTE FOR OBAMA FOR THE FIRST TIME and things in the world, the attitude of the world towards ISRAEL willl improve , aside from maybe even the economy world wide will improve and next time Netanyahu visits the white house he will enter through the front door and obama will wear new shoes so their would not be any dirt on the soles of his shoes when he puts them in Bibis’
    face.I find it hard to believe that you Rabbi Shafran would think that obama will do anything overtly against Israel. You should know more then me that OBAMA EMPOWERED THE WORLD TO HATE ISRAEL AND OBAMA MUST STILL put on a double talk and a fascade of being a friend of ISRAEL.
    you Rabbi Shafran hurt me.
    I pray you make teshuvah.

  3. The bottom line is:
    R ‘Shafren and Mr. Kalish are on the wrong of history. Mr.Kalish especially, supported Obama in 2008 and it takes no genius to “read ” between the line as to were Obama ‘s heart is.

  4. Rabbi Shafran, you have entered the Mike Bloomberg zone! Did you fall on your head? You are a hopless left wing Obama supporter!
    As a big fan of Matzav, I’m still waiting for an apology! You are making a total fool of yourself by defending Hussain!

  5. Reb Avi, what are you drinking? Defending Obama is the wrong way to go! Everything Chanan said is %100 true! Comparing him to Michael Moore is a Chillul Hashem & you should apologize right now! Where is your Ahavas Yisroel? Every Rosh Hayishiva & Rov that I know, will be endorsing Romney. I guess you know better than them!

  6. Yashir kocho. Considering Rabbi Shafran’s known conservative opinions, I was surprised to read an article of his which is evenhanded and fair, and brings down the fact that we are not permitted to lie and defame anyone, even people we vehemently disagree with.

    As the last paragraphs make clear, R’ Shafran is not a fan of the President. I would guess that he didn’t vote for him last time and won’t vote for him this tiee. However, as he says, you must base your opinions on emes, not what sounds good on a talk-show broadcast.

  7. Rabbi Shafran, there are differing opinions on Obama’s presidency in the realm of economics and advocacy for Israel. It is evident that you have an opinion that is not shared by the majority of people.

  8. Rabbi Shafran, I’m extremely surprized. What you saw to come out in defence of this historic ‘Rasha’ is a mystery, and the point is what? – Emes?!

  9. I can’t believe a person like R’ Shafran doesn’t know that there’s plenty of FACTUAL material that Obama is a radical comunist.

    Yes, his writings are “Radical at best”, and they are available for everyone to see.

    Did you read his book “Dreams of my father”? – I didn’t, but I saw some ‘black on white’ (???? ????) quotes from it. ‘Radical’ is being very kind. Communist-terrorist embracing is more like it…

    Did R’ Shafran forget how he couldn’t disown Rev Write???

    Oy, the list will go on forever…

  10. Dear Rabbi Shafran,

    Please bring examples of Rush Limbaugh and Breitbart that are false, defamatory, or misrepresented.
    To dismiss them with one brush-stroke is to make yourself makes you guilty of the same injustice that you claim Reb Gordon is guilty of.
    Please explain how Obama has not empowered the Arab spring.
    Please explain how referring to the 1967 borders as a starting point can be called the US policy as previous administrations. Yes, Presidents talked land swaps, but no President, at least publicly, ever referred to the 1967 borders as a starting point.
    Please explain how referring specifically to the 1967 borders does not hint (to put it mildly) that any Israeli captured/owned land on the other side is illegitimate and that Israel is an occupying force. This notion only reinforces Israel’s enemies.
    The President is calculated and his words, especially his speeches, are carefully calculated and written.
    He knew exactly what he was saying when he mentioned the 1967 borders.
    And no less an astute politician that Bibi Netanyahu agrees. Hence his speech in congress in May of 2011 that resulted in a standing ovation, not once, but several times.

    Obama’s meaning is clear. His policies are clear.

    I would have to argue Rabbi Shafran that to say otherwise is to misinform.

    Rabbi Shafran, I am a fan of your columns.
    So much so that as I was reading your article I kept saying to myself “this is fake, this can’t be real”.

    I still hope I have fallen victim to a hoax.

  11. To Rabbi Shafran:
    You seem to know better than Netanyahu & Ehud Barak. Very interesting. Even the foriegn minister of Israel disagree’s with you. But what do they know. You’re so smart. Malcolm Honliene has said the same things that Rabbi Gordon has said.

  12. Frankly, the Jewish way was not to bash those in high office because you never know what consequences you could be setting in motion.Lev Melachim Byad H-shem and whatever happens we keep a low profile under His Hand as He runs the world. The point of this editorial is clearly damage control. It’s just good to remember not all that we think should be written, and not all that is written ought to be published. (R” Yisroel Salanter)

  13. i am very surprised at rabbi shafran’s views. while he is entitled to his opinion, it’s difficult to understand the logic behind them and he seems to go out of his way to stick up for the president without giving compelling reason. there doesnt seem to be any point for the controversial remarks. closet democrat/liberal?

  14. It is tragic that smart people can lose their senses . It is imperative that we remember we are in golus and we cannot talk with such disrespect about the legally elected President. Rabbi Shafran is not writing as a politician but as a shtadlan. Those who think we can imitate the goyim by having such fanatically negative opinons expressed by frum Jews are harming our People and are totally wrong. You can vote for whichever candidate you prefer, but don’t stoop to the gutter and forget that if you tell the President you hate him, he will remember .Chachomim ,be careful of your words.

  15. Rabbi Shafran, I want to thank you for the thirty minutes of your time you gave me in your office in February, 2010. You were most kind and cordial. That being said, I must disagree with you almost completely. What upset me the most was your attack on Breitbart. There is more emes coming out of than any news organization in this country. Andrew Breitbart, A”H was a great Patriot. I’m guessing you are trying to reach out to the “other side” and that you likely believe Breitbart and his news organization really are truthful.

  16. As someone who did not vote for Obama in the past, and has no intention of doing so in the future, it amazes me that frum Jews don’t know better than to print articles insulting the President of the United States. I can understand disagreeing with the choices he’s made, but can’t imagine that it’s necessary or appropriate (or even relevant!) to discuss how popular he was in college, or disparage his intellect. Never forget that we are in galus.

  17. Oldtimer is right. Our opinions cannot get in the way of the truth.
    And all of you who wrote things you wouldn’t say to a persons face, remember not to allow the anonymity of the internet to take away your menchlichkeit.

  18. This column is a Chilul Hashem, a terrible disservice to America and a gratuitous defamation of Rush Limbaugh. This article is staggering in its ignorance and arrogant self-righteousness.

  19. I love how R’ Shafran’s whole basis for the article is that Chanan’s proofs are not good proofs and we shouldn’t say things like that, but he himself has no basis to disprove ANY of Chanan’s assertions. Chanan has actually spent time with him, so even if you don’t like the examples he brings, it doesn’t mean that his assertions are untrue and he is entitled to his own feelings on the man.

  20. You have engaged in gratuitous defamation against Israel’s greatest friend in America-the enormously popular Rush Limbaugh. I defy you to cite any “misinformation” from Rush. Do you even listen to him? I doubt it. And why the cheap shot against Breitbart? You have obviously swallowed the MSM cool-aide, hook line and sinker. For that alone, you should be ashamed. And Rabbi Shafran, why do you feel compelled to defend the indefensible marxist putting our country in mortal peril and who has shown nothing but utter disdain for Israel? A staggeringly ignorant article that is obviously a product of liberal bias. Do you think it is a mitzvah to be an Obama cheerleader. Yes, you can quibble with some of Gordon’s remarks, but your calumny of Breitbart and limbaugh is despicable and unfathomable. SMH

  21. I take what Rabbi Shafran has to say (and how he says it) very seriously. To all you armchair kanaaim, remember we’re in galus and that there are appropriate ways to express one’s thougths. R’ Shafran’s been in the trenches and knows a bit more than you or I.

    But here’s my question: what are Ami’s editorial policies? Was there a conscious decision to let it got hrough and later deal with the fallout or did this fall between the cracks?

  22. Now that the federal government has accumulated such power and so many of us want its financial aid, I suppose we ought to expect to see articles like this from time to time, that try create an impression that frumer Yidden have not seen through Obama’s facade. But it’s a false impression, and much of this piece slanders good friends of Israel including Limbaugh and Breitbart. Rabbi Shafran, come back from your parallel universe!

  23. I am greatfull to R.Shafran for making a kiddush Hashem here.Many times I disagree with his oppinions,and even more so with the Presidents.But different outlooks do not convert rechilus,motzie shame rah and libel into Jewish qualities.Check out the Netzivs intro to sefer Bereishis,where he explains Hashems true oppinion of those “tzadikim”who viewed people of different stripes as tzedukim and heretics.

  24. Rush Limbaugh – the #1 radio personality of all time and the de facto head of the conservative politics Is a staunch supporter of Israel, Torah Judaism, and family values. Breitbart represented the very best of the American media promoting conservative values, exposing left – wing radicals like Anthony Wiener. Michael Moore is a radical left- wing America- hater. By lumping them all together Rabbi Shafran has forfeited the right to be considered a serious commentator. His ignorance of who our friends are is shocking. He is regrettably stuck in the old template that we must support the corrupt democrats, no matter how toxic, because they will give money to certain organizations. Rav Miller zt”l preached for decades that “it is a very great aveira to support democrats” All the more today as they have become even more radicalized and promote Toeivah.