Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Isaac Covenant part IV: Time to Stand up for ourselves

My children have been declared criminals.  And I couldn't be prouder.

 It was truly a watershed event, when the President of the United States reversed five decades of policy and allowed a resolution to pass in the Security Council that, under international law, criminalized any “settlement activity” in any area that was captured by Israel after June 5, 1967, very specifically including East Jerusalem.   This means that my daughter, who lives in the East Jerusalem neighborhood "settlement" Neve Yaakov (population 25,000), and my son and daughter, who live in the city "West Bank settlement" of Betar Ilit (population 50,000), are criminals, who had best stay away from The Hague, lest they be arrested and tried in the International Court of Justice (sic).

 The (Dis)Honorable Mohammad Abbas is already licking his chops, salivating about the possibility of proclaiming Israel’s illegitimacy in every possible forum and at every turn, while preparing to prosecute every Israeli they can at the International Court of Justice [sic], having made absolutely zero concessions to receive this long sought prize. As our outgoing Nobel Laureate President savors this hopefully last stab at Israel (the despicable ex-President Jimmy Carter has been urging him to recognize a State of Palestine before he goes), many have written, and will write about the tremendous damage that has been caused.

   Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon,  remonstrated to all present at that very meeting about the hypocrisy of this and so many General Assembly resolutions singling out Israel, in the midst of the massive abuses of human rights otherwise ignored, predicting that this resolution will have the opposite effect of bringing not peace, but more terror and war. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been scathing in his criticism (more about that later). But much of the commentary has revolved around trying to predict what President-Elect Trump (who deserves enormous credit for stopping the resolution, only to be thwarted by Obama) means when he tweeted “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.” 

   Some have offered suggestions on how Trump can reverse the resolution. Some have said it is irreversible, but Trump can help Israel in other ways, and if his selection of David Friedman as Ambassador is any indication, he will do so tremendously. (I think that many Jews, whether they would admit it or not, would echo the sentiments of a friend of mine who said that they have moved from #NeverTrump to #ThankGodforTrump). 

   Personally, although I previously wrote about my non-support for Trump, I am greatly heartened to see the direction he has taken post-election – particularly regarding Israel – but nevertheless remain wary. We say in the Pesukei D’Zimra every morning
             אַל תִּבְטְחוּ בִנְדִיבִים בְּבֶן אָדָם שֶׁאֵין לוֹ תְשׁוּעָה
Do not trust in gracious donors, nor in a human being 
for he holds no salvation  (Psalms 146:3).
 Relying on Trump alone to make things better may be a recipe for (to use one of his favorite words) disaster. 

 The Haftarah that we will read for Shabbat Chanukah is from the prophet Zecharya (Chap 2-4) who lived at the beginning of the Second Temple era, and it contains a famous paradox. It begins with a glorious picture of the future: 

:רָנִּי וְשִׂמְחִי בַּת-צִיּוֹן כִּי הִנְנִי-בָא וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְתוֹכֵךְ נְאֻם ה
 וְנִלְווּ- גוֹיִם רַבִּים אֶל-ה' בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא וְהָיוּ לִי לְעָם 
:וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְתוֹכֵךְ וְיָדַעַתְּ כִּי-ה' צְבָאוֹת שְׁלָחַנִי אֵלָיִךְ 
:וְנָחַל ה' אֶת-יְהוּדָה חֶלְקוֹ עַל אַדְמַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ וּבָחַר עוֹד בִּירוּשָׁלָם 
:הַס כָּל בָּשָׂר מִפְּנֵי הֹ' כִּי נֵעוֹר מִמְּעוֹן קָדְשׁוֹ 

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for, behold! I will come and dwell in your midst, says Hashem. And many nations shall join Hashem on that day, and they shall be My people; and I will dwell in your midst and you shall know that the Lord of Hosts sent me to you. And the Lord shall inherit Judah as His share on the Holy Land, and He shall again choose Jerusalem. Silence all flesh from before Hashem, for He is aroused out of His holy habitation.

   Clearly, this time has not yet come, and it describes the Messianic period, may it come speedily in our days בב"א.

 the central theme of בהעלותך, as well as the central theme of the Second Temple era as a whole, is that of a missed opportunity

But then the rest of the haftarah, including the beautiful image of the glowing menorah, seems to refer very much to the contemporary period of Zecharya and Yehoshua Kohei Gadol, and Zerubavel . . . it is like suddenly Zecharya is snapped away from rapture about the future to a not very pleasant present, a time when Jerusalem, the אוּד מֻצָּל מֵאֵשׁ (an ember plucked from the fire) is yet under threat . . .a time that even the High Priest is very imperfect and has to remove his uncleanliness . . . and the great vision recedes to the distant future. 

    Space does not permit a full treatment of this magnificent Haftarah, familiar to us not only from Shabbos Chanukah, but also for בהעלותך (Numbers Chap 8-12). As my Rebbe in Eretz Yisroel taught, the reason for the shared hafarah it is not only due to the mention of the menorah in both Torah readings. Rather, the central theme of בהעלותך, as well as the central theme of the Second Temple era as a whole, is that of a missed opportunity. 

    In בהעלותך , we read of the time that  Am Yisrael finally left Mt. Sinai and was on the road to Eretz Yisrael when . . . the nation seems to fall off the spiritual cliff.   We meet kvetchers (מתאוננים), complainers about the food (קברות התאוה) and other nudniks leading to Moshe almost giving up on them, followed by the disaster of the Spies (מרגלים) when their doom was sealed. They had a golden opportunity to go and inherit the Land, but they blew it. 

   Similarly, the Second Temple era has been described with great pathos by Rav Yehuda HaLevi in the Kuzari (2:24) [1]. After a rapturous description of the special nature of Eretz Yisrael, and how the Torah can only be properly kept there, the King asks him, “Excuse me . . . why do you not live there?” Here is an excerpt of his answer: 
This is a severe reproach, O king of the Khazars. It is the sin which kept the divine promise with regard to the second Temple, viz.: Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion' (Zachariah 2:10), from being fulfilled. Divine Providence was ready to restore everything as it had been at first, if they had all willingly consented to return. But only a part was ready to do so, whilst the majority and the aristocracy remained in Babylon, preferring dependence and slavery, and unwilling to leave their houses and their affairs. . . Divine Providence only gives man as much as he is prepared to receive; if his receptive capacity be small, he obtains little, and much if it be great. . . When [in our prayers] we say: 'Worship his holy hill-- worship at His footstool--He who restoreth His glory to Zion' (Psalms 99:9, Psalsm 99:5), and other words, this is but as the chattering of the parrot and the nightingale. We do not pay attention to what we say by this sentence, nor others, as you rightly observe, O Prince of the Khazars . . .
  In other words, the beginning of the Second Temple was a missed opportunity, and thus it ended badly.  And we still have not learned the lesson; we don't really want to seize the opportunity that Hashem gives us to live in Eretz Yisrael, and when we pray for its restoration we are just chattering words like a parrot.  [2]

    The story of Chanukah  in the midst of the Second Temple era is not only part of the larger picture painted by the Kuzari, but a particularly poignant example of a great missed opportunity.  The Hasmonean victory  a moment of true renewal of Avodas Hashem and national pride  was followed very rapidly by a descent into deep corruption and debasement.  When it got so bad that the grandchildren of the Hasmoneans actually invited the Romans into Eretz Yisrael to settle their internecine disputes, the Divine verdict of our long expulsion into Golus was sealed, closing off that grand opportunity for a very long time.  

    A more extensive read of the book of Zecharyah (particularly chapters 8, 12), will show predictions of the war at the End of Days, where Jerusalem be under attack from all the nations.  There will be no one to help us, and it will lead  into the war of Gog and Magog.   Of course, I make no claim to knowing anything at all, and certainly not when prophecies will be fulfilled. But it has seemed to me for a long time, and this week’s events only confirm that trend, that history is leading into a vortex concerning Israel. 

   On the one hand, more and more of the Jewish people (close to 50%) are already living in Eretz Yisrael, and experiencing miraculous, unprecedented growth in a vibrant, wealthy, powerful, nation that is leading the world in many areas afer existing such a short time.   On the other hand, Israel is being isolated ever more  politically and economically, and the diplomatic, military and nuclear threats from Iran, ISIS, and the international community are growing exponentially. Her “great friend”, the United States, has shown this week that it is not as trustworthy as once thought, no matter what may happen in coming administrations. 

   The vortex seems clearly to be leading to the time predicted by the Gemara (Sotah 49b) [3]
 In the (Ikvesa D’Mashicha) footsteps of the messiah chutzpah will increase and honor dwindle . . . the government will turn to heresy and there will be none [to offer them] reproof. . . the fearers of sin will be despised, and the truth will be lacking; youths will put old men to shame, the old will stand up in the presence of the young. . . a son will not feel ashamed before his father. So upon whom is it for us to rely? Upon our father who is in heaven. 
The prediction at the end, that we will have no one to rely upon at the end except our Father in Heaven, is often cited as proof that we will ultimately be brought to a place whereby we will be forced to understand that we can only rely on Hashem, and only then will the Redemption come. That, of course, is true. But there is more to the story. 

    In a surprising twist, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (and similarly the Brisker Rav) said that this final prediction is not a blessing, but rather, a curse. 

   The negative predictions cited in that Gemara grow progressively worse.  Not only chutzpah will be rampant, but the econom will be terrible and ... and .. and a son will not be ashamed before his father, and – worst of all we will feel that we are able only to rely on Hashem.  That, said the Rebbe, is the worst of all, as people will use that feeling of helplessness as an excuse for inaction. 

We were brought into this world to do and accomplish.  On the verse in Bereishis (2:3)
אשר ברא אלוקים לעשות
That G-d had created to do

Rashi quotes the Midrash, saying that the word  לעשות (to do) means לתקן (to fix and correct).   We were brought into an imperfect world, and Hashem wants us to take action to fix and correct that world.    It is famously said that הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים, that All is in the hands of Heaven, but the Fear of Heaven.  When it comes to something that we can do to increase our own Yirat Shamayim or that of otheres; when there is something that needs to be done to bring the world closer to Fear of Heaven, we are not to look to Hashem arranging for it, but it is in OUR hands, with G-d's help to endeavor to accomplish it.

"Enough of this exile (mentality)
 There is no political wisdom to being obsequious"

Included in this is to seize the opportunity we have in living in such a remarkable time.  A time when history is so clearly being made, when our people have been given the gift of leaving the exile behind and living once again in our homeland.  A time of the Isaac Covenant, when we no longer need to live in fear of "what will the Goyim say", and we can with Hashem's help – move forward in actualizing the gift of our unfolding redemption. 

I congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu for having exactly the right response. After taking several strong actions which showed his contempt for the UN resolution, he said, 
"This morning I read in several newspapers that the aggressive stand I took with the countries that voted against us has been accepted. Israel is a country with national pride, and we do not turn the other cheek. Our response was rational, resolute, and responsible. It was the natural response of a healthy country which makes clear that the United Nation’s action is not acceptable to us . . .” "Enough of this exile (mentality),” said Netanyahu. “There is no political wisdom to being obsequious. Not only were our relations with the countries of the world not hurt by this event, but they will actually improve over time. Countries respect strong states that stand on their own and do not respect weak states that are obsequious and bow their heads. Israel under my leadership is a strong, proud country. We will continue to defend our country and we will continue to develop our country.” 
   This, he said, after proudly lighting the Menorah in newly declared criminally occupied territory, i.e. the Kotel HaMaaravi. 

   Continuing a theme I have been developing, Netanyahu’s response was in keeping with our time – the time of the Isaac Covenant. A time when we may be hated and vilified by the Nations of the world, but one in which we can and must stand up for ourselves, given the new found power and ability and opportunity we have. We need to strive to liven in Eretz Yisrael, build Eretz Yisrael, stand up for Eretz Yisrael, and seize this enormous opportunity that G-d Almighty has given us. 

Happy Chanukah!

[1]   Text of Kuzari

כד. אמר החבר: הובשתני מלך כוזר, והעון הזה הוא אשר מנענו מהשלמת מה שיעדנו בו האלוקים בבית שני, כמה שאמר: [זכריה ב' י"ד] "רני ושמחי בת ציון", כי כבר היה העניין האלוקי מזומן לחול כאשר בתחילה אלו היו מסכימים כולם לשוב בנפש חפצה, אבל שבו מקצתם ונשארו רובם וגדוליהם בבבל, רוצים בגלות ובעבודה, שלא ייפרדו ממשכנותיהם וענייניהם. 

ושמא על זה אמר שלמה: [שיר השירים ה' ב] 'אני ישנה ולבי ער', כינה הגלות בשינה והלב הער התמדת הנבואה ביניהם. 'קול דודי דופק', קריאת האלוקים לשוב. 'שראשי נמלא טל', על השכינה שיצאה מצללי המקדש, ומה שאמר: 'פשטתי את כתנתי', על עצלותם לשוב. 'דודי שלח ידו מן החור', על עזרא שהיה פוצר בהם ונחמיה והנביאים, עד שהודו קצתם לשוב הודאה בלתי גמורה, ואמרו כשל כוח הסבל (נחמיה ד, ד) ונתן להם במצפון לבם, ובאו העניינים מקוצרים מפני קיצורם, כי העניין האלוקי איננו חל על האיש אלא כפי הזדמנותו לו, אם מעט - מעט ואם הרבה - הרבה. ואילו היינו מזדמנים לקראת אלוקי אבותינו בלבב שלם ובנפש חפצה, היינו פוגעים ממנו מה שפגעו אבותינו במצרים. 

ואין דיבורנו 'השתחוו להר קדשו', ו'השתחוו להדום רגליו', ו'המחזיר שכינתו לציון' וזולת זה, אלא כצפצוף 
הזרזיר והדומה לו , שאין אנחנו חושבים על מה שנאמר בזה וזולתו, כאשר אמרת מלך כוזר

[2] It is important to note that those words were written when travelling to Eretz yisrael and living here were "just a little more difficult" than today, when one can fly there on a luxurious airplane and live wih all the comforts of modern life ...

בעקבות משיחא חוצפא יסגא ויוקר יאמיר הגפן תתן פריה והיין ביוקר ומלכות תהפך למינות ואין תוכחת בית וועד יהיה לזנות והגליל יחרב והגבלן ישום ואנשי הגבול יסובבו מעיר לעיר ולא יחוננו וחכמות סופרים תסרח ויראי חטא ימאסו והאמת תהא נעדרת נערים פני זקנים ילבינו זקנים יעמדו מפני קטנים בן מנוול אב בת קמה באמה כלה בחמותה אויבי איש אנשי ביתו פני הדור כפני הכלב הבן אינו מתבייש מאביו ועל מה יש לנו להשען על אבינו שבשמים

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Isaac Covenant Part III: Menorah:Symbol of Exile or Redemption?

The thrill of Chanukah is upon us as we once again have the privilege of lighting the Menorah.  As the symbol of Chanukah par excellence, it brings to mind both the story of religious revival (the one pure flask which miraculously lasted eight days) and the national/military victory of the Maccabees (who overcame overwhelming odds to push out the Syrian/Greek Tyrants and restore Jewish sovereignty) with which we are all so familiar.

But, of course, the Menorah is not only the symbol of the Hasmonean Chanukah. It is also a central symbol of the Bais Hamikdash in general, even though the Chanukah menorah has eight lamps instead of the original seven.   Moreover, it is a symbol all of the Chanukahs in Jewish History [1] .  What is fascinating, however, is that it is also the symbol of the Exile.

On a recent trip to Israel with my family, we had a long stopover in Rome.  Far from being displeased, I was thrilled to be able to fulfill a lifelong “bucket list” dream – to visit what is perhaps the greatest symbol of the Diaspora (with the possible exception of Auschwitz/Birkenau), the Arch of Titus.  This edifice was constructed in honor of the evil Titus upon his completing the defeat of Judea and Jerusalem, after taking over for his father Vespasian.  He was particularly monstrous; killing thousands while ransacking and abusing and burning the Bais Hamikdash (Gittin 56a), and returning to Rome with an enslaved Jewish people and the spoils of war.   

Famously and prominently depicted on the arch is the Menorah being triumphantly carried off to Rome, along with our other treasures, (where they may or may not still be in the catacombs of the Vatican).[2] A famous symbol, erected in Rome, of the final and crushing end to our national sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael and the beginning of the dreadfully long and painful Exile that we have suffered for over two thousand years. 

Since that time, we have been under the boot of the Romans and their successors, very much including the Church.  As the final Rashi in Parshas Vayishlach takes pains to tell us, Rome is the prime descendant of Eisav, the one who we had to be protected from via the Jacob Covenant.

One of the most inspiring stories I have ever heard was of the time that Rav Yosef Kahaneman zt”l, the Ponovezher Rav, visited Rome on a fund-raising trip.  As described yibodel L’Chaim by Rabbi Berel Wein who knew him well, the Rav arrived in Rome late on a miserable night with his companion Dr. Moshe Rothschild from Israel.  Dr. Rothschild looked forward to a warm hotel room and some hot tea after their journey, but the Rav had something else in mind.  He insisted on immediately being driven to the Arch of Titus; it could not wait for the morning.  Upon arrival, he got out of the car, stood in the freezing cold rain, and stared at the Arch for a while, and then adjusted his Kapota and hat, and shouted:
"Titus! Evil Titus! Take a good look at what has occurred. You dragged my hapless people out of our land two millennia ago and led them into an exile from which they were never to return. You went home to Rome - the most powerful nation on earth - in glory and triumph. But Titus, where are you? What has become of the glory that was Rome? What has become of the infallible empire that was supposed to last forever? The Jewish people however are still here and continue to flourish. Titus, Mir Zenen noch do…Avu Bist Du?  (We are still here! Where are you?")
Coming from that place, and that story, made for an incredible feeling upon touching down at Ben Gurion airport a few hours later.

This aspect of the Menorah on the Arch of Titus, truly the symbol of the Exile, was a very hot topic on 11 Shevat 5709 (1949), when a committee was formed to determine what the symbol of the new State of Israel ought to be.  The well-known symbol chosen was the Menorah flanked by two olive branches, similar to the famous Menorah standing outside the Knesset building.

A sharp protest to this choice was voiced by then Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi Herzog zt”l.  He objected on several grounds: (a) The Menorah depicted there has a stepped base, while the Menorah in the Bais HaMikdash stood on a tripod of legs, (b) The menorah on the Arch has dragons and other creatures that may have been idolatrous, and therefore “our government made an unfortunate choice today in choosing the picture of the Menorah on the Arch of Titus which apparently was crafted by foreigners, and not made B’Taharas HaKodesh (in Holy Purity)”.  Rav Herzog opined that the solid base that was depicted was surely due to damage that occurred to the Menorah in transport, and the Romans had thus replaced it. 

Other scholars, notably Daniel Sperber [3], proposed that the menorah had already been altered from its original design before Titus' arrival. Perhaps, he suggests, the new pedestal was the brainchild of someone eager to introduce a pagan motif into the Temple while at the same time remaining nominally sensitive to Jewish concerns.   The most likely culprit in this regard would have been King Herod, who greatly enhanced the beauty of the Bais Hamikdash, while attempting to make it pleasing to the Romans as well.  In an interesting article on the subject, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik wrote, “Herod’s relationship with the Temple was a complex one. On the one hand, all contemporary sources, including the rabbis of the Mishnah, agree that he oversaw a stupendous refurbishing of the Temple Mount, elevating its architectural status into an eighth wonder of the ancient world. On the other hand, the contemporaneous historian Josephus recorded the king’s efforts to Romanize the Temple, as well as the outrage this sparked among his subjects:

For the king had erected over the great gate of the Temple a large golden eagle[symbol of Rome], of great value, and had dedicated it to the Temple. Now the law forbids those that propose to live according to it to erect images or representations of any living creature. So these wise men persuaded [their followers] to pull down the golden eagle; alleging that although they should incur any danger which might bring them to their deaths, the virtue of the action now proposed to them would appear much more advantageous to them than the pleasures of life.
Be that as it may, (and there is a great deal more scholarship on the subject) it seems abundantly clear that the Menorah on the Arch of Titus was truly a symbol of the Exile, and it is curious that the Zionist government would take that Menorah as the national symbol.

The late Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l took this a step further.  It is well-known that the Rebbe insisted, based on the Rambam’s opinion, that the original Menorah – and by extension the Chanukiah – was composed of branches that came out of the stem in straight diagonal lines, notwithstanding all of the ancient depictions of the Menorah, particularly the one on the Arch of Titus, that had curved branches.  Besides rejecting the curved Menorah based on  issues of authenticity, the Rebbe wrote that, in addition… 

“the image on the Arch of Titus was specifically created for the purpose of emphasizing the authority and supremacy of Rome over the Jews, so much so that the words Judeo Captiva were placed there.  There were times that they would forcibly bring Jews there to witness their subservience and subjugation, etc”. 
Sifting through these thoughts at Chanukah, and in thinking about our time, it seems clear to me that although he disagreed with the Rebbe about the original menorah had diagonal branches,  Rav Herzog agreed that the decision to enshrine the Menorah from the Arch of Titus as the symbol of the nascent State of Israel was ill-advised.  I assume that they both saw our time as the beginning of the Isaac Covenant.    A time when the Jewish people would no longer be defined by the Tituses of the world; a time that we are past merely focusing on survival of the Diaspora, (as demonstrated by the Ponovezher Rav), but are beginning to reverse the damage and move towards the ultimate Geulah.

Chanukah, as generally celebrated in Israel is certainly still far from achieving its true purpose as commemorating the rededication of the pure Light of Torah as our national guide and joy.  For too many, it focuses on only on a military victory  and prowess, hence Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabee Beer, and Maccabiah games.  

Nevertheless, let us celebrate how, בימים ההם בזמן הזה, we see many parallels coming true, in our time, of witnessing where

“You, in Your abounding mercies, stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, defended their rights, and avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah. You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and effected a great deliverance and redemption for Your people Israel to this very day”.  

May we learn to appreciate the gift we have of living in such a time, and look forward to the Avraham Covenant, a time when once again, 
“Your children will enter the shrine of Your House, clean Your Temple, purify Your Sanctuary, and will kindle lights in Your holy courtyards, and institute new days of Chanukah to give thanks and praise to Your Great Name."
May the new light over Zion that has begun to shine only increase in its’ strength, so that soon “we will all merit together to appreciate its illumination”

Happy Chanukah

See Part IV
1 Cf. Rav S. R. Hirsch “Chanukah Through The Ages”, Collected Writings Vol II, Feldheim Publishers, NY 1985 pp213-32
2 Cf. Steven Fine “Art History and the Historiography of Judaism in Roman Antiquity, pp.63-86.
3 Sperber, Daniel "Minhagei Yisrael" Vol. 5 , Inyanei Chanukah

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Isaac Covenant - Part II - A time for Renewed Jewish Pride

In a previous essay, I introduced the notion that, of the three Avos (Patriarchs), Yitzchak (Isaac) was the Av whose life story mirrored our time more than his holy father or son.  Central to that analysis was the deeply insightful explication by Rav Samson R Hirsch of the verse “Then will I remember My covenant with Yaakov; I will remember also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham; and I will remember the land”.  (Vayikra 26:42).

He argued that each of the Avos represented a different era of Jewish history, not only in the past, but in the stages of the future redemption.  In particular, there was a difference between the Jacob era – where he was buffeted by troubles, hated, attacked, and persecuted – and the era of Isaac, who was not loved by his neighbors but tolerated, who was successful financially not by engaging in subterfuge (as Jacob had to in order to counter the mischievous thievery of Lavan and murderous intent of Eisav), but rather by acting forthrightly and receiving the blessing of Hashem, much to the consternation of his neighbors and competitors.  He earned their grudging respect and admiration, and he lived as an equal among them.

In the context of the verse in Bechukosai which discusses the end of the Exile, i.e. our national future, Rav Hirsch predicts that the time of the Isaac Covenant will come when “they will suffer the envy of the nations. . . In the midst of growing prosperity, living among nations wavering between humaneness and envy, they will have to preserve their unique character as did Isaac.  They will have to employ their resources, ampler and less restricted than before, for a more perfect and multifaceted fulfillment of their unique mission in the Golus. . .”.

Rav Hirsch hoped that in the post-emancipation bourgeois openness of Western Europe of the nineteenth century, the time had come that “Now we are facing the test of the second stage Isaac Covenant; to walk, free and independent among the nations, not to fear to be different, and to remain undeterred by envy. . . a test we still have to pass.”  Clearly, with the hindsight of looking at what emanated from twentieth century Germany, the Rav’s hope was tragically premature.

It speaks to the essence of how the Jewish people should see themselves internally . . . The paradigm has changed . . .  We are no longer in the era of the Jacob Covenant; we are now living the Isaac Covenant

Nevertheless, I have no doubt that with the success, power, influence and stature of the Jewish people the world over, and – most tellingly – with the incredible gift of Hashem that is the State of Israel (notwithstanding all of its flaws . . . more about that later), we have truly entered into a new level of interaction with and relationship to the world around us – an era that I am sure Rav Hirsch would identify as “The Isaac Covenant”. [1] This idea, I deeply believe, is far more than an interesting commentary on Chumash or side-note to history.  It speaks, or ought to speak, to the essence of how the Jewish people should see themselves internally and vis a vis the rest of the world: we are living in a new era.   The paradigm has changed.  We need to see ourselves and the world around us differently than our predecessors in Eurasia and North Africa.   We are no longer in the era of the Jacob Covenant; we are now living the Isaac Covenant.

As this way of thinking affects literally everything, there are infinite examples of where this should be applied. I will limit myself in this essay to only two. 

First – in Parashat HaShavua .   Vayishlach begins with the encounter between Jacob and Esau upon his return, for which Jacob prepared assiduously in three ways, with prayer, appeasement, and if necessary, for war.  A famous Midrash Rabba states that when Rabbi Judah the Prince would go to the foreign government (Rome), he would first review Parashat Vayishlach, to gain insight as to how to deal with our enemies.  We read of the incredibly large gift that he prepared for Esau, and of the incredible obeisance that he showed by prostrating himself before Esau many times while calling himself the servant of Esau the master.  This all had the desired effect; Esau was overwhelmed by Jacob’s subservience, and almost like an animal who will refrain from attacking another animal that lies prostrate and helpless before it, Esau magnanimously offered friendship and brotherhood to Jacob, who politely declined the offer, avoiding confrontation until the distant future.

While this was apparently[2] the correct course of action for Jacob to take at that place and time, I admit to feeling uneasy when reading it.  I believe this is because it was a prime example of the Jacob Covenant.   In such times, one avoided confrontation with the Gentile at almost all costs, and sought to appease and show subservience.   It was a time of Golus, a time when we were in disfavor, and had to see our place as accepting the low national status, and subservience that went with it.  It was a Jacob time, and I, as a child of the Isaac covenant, find it hard to relate to. It pains me to think of Jacob groveling before that scoundrel even given whatever legitimate complaints Esau might have had against him.  But I know that Jews from previous generations, for whom a subservient attitude to the Poritz (Feudal Landlord), Czar, priest, Cossack, or whoever else we had the misfortune of living with, would relate to this far more naturally.

I enjoy singing zemiros on Shabbos.  In the older zemiros books there is a long zemer which begins “Ma Yofis”.   With the exception of the barely singable chant that my father z”l knew from Frankfurt, I have never heard of any nigun for this lengthy zemer, although it contains many beautiful and interesting lyrics. I have always wondered why “no one sings that”, (other than the cynical “it’s too long” . . .)

And then, in my reading, I encountered the term, a “Ma Yofis Jew.   According to the Dictionary of Jewish Usage [3] a mayofisnik is a Yiddish term “used pejoratively to describe a Jew lacking in dignity or pride, especially one who is given to servile flattery of gentiles . . . According to legend, the Sabbath song Ma Yofis was sung with a special melody [4] by Polish Jews, and the nobles they worked for often requested that the Jews sing ma yofis for their entertainment; hence ‘to sing ma yofis’ to a gentile came to mean to serve him obsequiously or slavishly.” At long last the light went on for me. Perhaps Jews no longer wanted to be Ma Yofis Jews . . . the feelings and associations with that beautiful nigun belonged to the past. An Isaac Covenant Jew is a mayofisnik no longer; he recoils at the thought of being a servile flatterer of the gentile overlord.

Some of our leaders begin with the notion that, “Remember, we are in Golus. We have to be subservient. Better not to engage in any confrontational behavior. . . we have to remember our place”.  Others, however, recognize that we live in a time that . . . not only is there nothing wrong with advocating for our needs and issues from a place of strength and self-respect, it is incumbent upon us to do so!

This, of course, has major implications for the way we relate to the non-Jewish authorities and governments of the world.

Some of our leaders seem to begin with the notion that, “Remember, we are in Golus. We have to be subservient. Better not to engage in any confrontational behavior, no matter how right our cause, because we have to remember our place”.  Others, however, recognize that we live in a time that we have been given unprecedented power, wealth, influence and stature in society, and not only is there nothing wrong with advocating for our needs and issues from a place of strength and self-respect, it is incumbent upon us to do so! [5] The advocacy that some of our national organizations, notably the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel, have undertaken in furthering our community’s interests have this mindset when they are at their best.  They argue effectively and forcefully, while at the same time politely and non-confrontationally for our rights and privileges, and more power to them.   I only wish that they would be able to articulate their work in a manner fully consistent with the Isaac Covenant time we live in, which would be so helpful in influencing the community conversation on so many issues and moving from a focus on smaller concerns to the broader Isaac Covenant, pre-Messianic times that we have the exciting privilege of living in.

Another example of how this way of thinking should inform us is in regard to a topic I have written extensively about before, namely our attitude to the Har Habayit (Temple Mount). Briefly, I argued that while there is a legitimate Halachic dispute about the propriety, for now, of visiting certain sections of the Har Habayit in our state of Tum’ah, there should be no dispute about our national right and need to strongly assert that it is OUR national shrine, and WE own that holy place, and not the contemptuous Islamic Waqf.  It is literally up to us to actualize Gen. Motta Gur’s prophetic words “Har Habayit Biyadeinu” – The Temple Mount is in our hands – it is in our hands to either assert our rights, as Isaac Covenant Jews, or to say that since Mashiach has not come yet, we have no rights there at all.

There are many more examples of applying the Isaac way of thinking …relating…   There is much that I still hope to address, including our relationship to Medinat Yisrael, how we await the coming of the Mashiach, how we negotiate the tension between insularity and openness to the world around us, and much more.

I will end with a thought that struck me while thinking about this. An amazing passage in the Zohar[6] predicts that at the End of Time before the Mashiach, the descendants of Ishmael will try to prevent Yisrael from returning to their homeland, and cause wars and hostilities the world over until the descendants of Eisav will begin to fight them, leading to the War of Gog uMagog (Armageddon).  It has become clearer and clearer, as history develops, that our main battle today is no longer the one between Jacob and Esau, but rather the one between Isaac and Ishmael.   It is during this time, perhaps, that we need the zechus, or merit of our Father Isaac, to protect us even more than the other Avos, (as mentioned in the previous essay).  We need to live in this consciousness, to leave the Ma Yofis attitudes to the past, and to embrace the thrill of the exciting time in which we get to live – the time of the Isaac Covenant.

Part III

[1] The antagonistic attitude of Rav Hirsch to Zionism while living in the mid nineteenth century is interesting, but mostly irrelevant to a very changed world today.  Fuller discussion of that topic awaits a later essay.

[2] This is far from settled.  There are major disputes in the Midrash and among the Rishonim between those who view these actions of Jacob positively and those who criticize him severely, going so far as to say that this was the cause of many later problems with Rome.  Cf. Bereishis Rabba 75, Ramban 32:4.

[3] Steinmetz, Sol Dictionary of Jewish Usage: A Guide to the Use of Jewish Terms, Rowman & Littlefield 2005, pp106-107.,

[4] Interestingly, when researching this essay i came across an old instrumental recording entitled Ma Yofis.  I know this tune well; but in our family we would sing it to Libi UveSari.

[5] One of the greatest influences on this way of thinking in our time, IMHO, was Rav Meir Kahane, HY”D.  While he was a controversial figure partially due to some of his pronouncements and mostly to the way he was unfairly criticized and maligned in the press, his basic message – which I believe is crucially important – was that we ought to have self-respect and Jewish Pride, doing what we need to protect our own interests, unafraid of “what will the Goyim say”.  His much-misunderstood slogan of “Never Again” was a call to never repeat the impotent, meek, abashed response of the American Jewish community during the Holocaust, who should have instead taken to the streets and badgered their elected officials demanding that the US government bomb the tracks to Auschwitz, etc.   He was a Jew who lived every day in the spirit of the Isaac covenant, and had no patience any longer for the Jacob covenant.

[6] Va’era 32a

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Isaac Covenant - Part I : The Covenant for Today

It is wonderful to revisit our ancestors as we once again contemplate Sefer Bereishis.  We are constantly reminded of the great Avos (Patriarchs), mentioning them in our prayers thrice daily, and are motivated to attempt to be worthy bearers of their great traditions.  Interestingly, I daresay that most of us relate far more to the first and the last – Avraham and Yaakov – then to the middle Patriarch, Yitzchak.    There are many reasons for this, as we will examine.   Nevertheless, I contend that perhaps Yitzchak ought to be the Av we relate to the most in our day and age.

Why do we tend to focus more on Avraham and Yaakov?  Clearly, they get a lot more “stage time” in the Torah.   We read about Avraham from the end of Noach, through Lech Lecha, Vayera, and Chayei Sarah.  We meet Yaakov at the beginning of Parshas Toldos, and he is the central character throughout the rest of the Sefer.   By contrast, Yitzchak is mentioned passively in Vayera and Chayei Sarah, and the only Sidra where he is sort of the central character is Toldos, and even there, not really.   Most of the Sidra is about the struggle between Yaakov and Eisav and Rivkah’s input in procuring the blessing, with Yitzchak a royal presence who is not the center of action.  He never says very much. The only time that he really takes center stage is in Perek 25, which is a story about him digging wells, his neighbors filling them, moving and digging elsewhere; being financially successful, coming to a pact with Avimelech.  That’s it.   In comparison to the great dramas in the lives of Avraham and Yaakov, it seems somewhat ho-hum.  How can we relate to and learn from Yitzchak?

Yitzchak ought to be the Patriarch we relate to most in our day and age

A fascinating Gemara (Shabbos 89b) comments on the verse in Yeshaya (63:16) “For You are our Father; for Avraham did not know us, and Yisrael (Yaakov) does not acknowledge us” (Isaiah 63:16) that the glaring omission of Yitzchak teaches us of the role Yitzchak will play in defending his descendants. In the future, G-d will approach Avraham, saying that his children have sinned. Yet instead of defending them, Abraham will respond, “Master of the Universe, let them be destroyed for the sanctification of Thy Name”. G-d, apparently “startled” by this response, will then approach Yaakov, as “he knows the difficulty of raising children; perhaps he will ask for mercy for you”. And Yaakov’s response? “Master of the Universe, let them be destroyed for the sanctification of Thy Name”.

Clearly dissatisfied, G-d exclaims, “There is no reason in old men, and no counsel in children!” and moves on to Yitzchak. Immediately, Yitzchak challenges G-d’s premise: “my children, and not Your children? Have you not called them, ‘My children, My Firstborn’ (Shemos 4:); and now, they are my sons, but not yours?”

Yitzchak then proceeds to minimize any actual sinning of the Jewish people. A person lives for 70 years, he argues; the heavenly court does not punish until the age of 20, leaving only 50 active years, of which he sleeps 25 (oy vey).  Of what is left he spends half (according to Yitzchak) of his time in prayer, eating and going to the bathroom; so how much sinning can one actually do? “If You will bear them, great; if not, I will take half and You take half. And if You say it should all be on me, I offered myself to You [at the Akeidah].

There is much commentary on this fascinating passage. Suffice it to say that a time will come, perhaps ours, when Yitzchak will be the only Patriarch prepared to be our defender in Heaven.   Which, given that Yitzchak, who is usually seen as the Father who represents Judgement (דין) as a counterpart to the Compassion (חסד) of Avraham, seems out of character and, I daresay surprising, to say the least.

At the end of the long Tochacha (Admonition) in Vayikra, a verse that we are quite familiar with from the Rosh Hashanah Mussaf appears:

וְזָכַרְתִּ֖י אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֣י יַעֲק֑וֹב וְאַף֩ אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֨י יִצְחָ֜ק וְאַ֨ף אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֧י אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶזְכֹּ֖ר וְהָאָ֥רֶץ אֶזְכֹּֽר  (ויקרא כו:מב)

Then will I remember My covenant with Yaakov; I will remember also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham; and I will remember the land.  (Vayikra 26:42)

A quick analysis of this verse results in two obvious questions. (a) Why the reverse order from the usual, chronological and ancestral one? (b) Why are there seemingly three separate covenants listed, rather than just “I will remember my covenant with Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov”?

In a masterful treatment that I can only briefly excerpt here, Rav SR Hirsch ZT”L explained that there were, in fact three separate covenants, and “the names of the Patriarchs represent not individuals, but historic archetypes through which the power of the Divine covenant becomes manifest”.   Avraham was recognized as “You are a Prince of G-d amongst us”.  Universally recognized as the supreme citizen of his time, object of admiration near and wide, he was beloved in his ability to bring the message of G-d to the world.   Yaakov famously led a life of unremitting hardship and trouble, from Eisav, Lavan, Shechem, Joseph…. a life which had little respite from difficulty.  Yitzchak was unsurprisingly somewhere in the middle.

In Parshas Toldos, we see Yitzchak as a paradox.   Persecuted, but very successful financially.   Driven from place to place, dealing with the intransigence of his neighbors, being told “Leave us, as you have become mighty from us (from somehow taking our wealth)!”  He emerges unscathed, with their grudging admiration.  Avimelech and Fichol come to him to make a non-aggression pact. Yitzchak asks, “Why do you come to me; do you not hate me?”.  And in a statement worthy of the UN they say “Let there be a pact between us, so that if you do us no harm, as we have not harmed you (WHAT????) and we did only good and sent you in Peace (Are you Kidding???), for after all (We gotta admit) you are blessed by G-d” (Bereishis 25:28-9).  Yitzchak lives a life in which he is grudgingly tolerated and respected, not loved.   A life in which he has both financial success and the enmity and envy of his neighbors; without the crushing difficulties of Yaakov, but far from the glory of Avraham’s social status.

Which brings us to the three reversed “covenants” at the end of the long and frightful Golus period.

Now we are facing the test of the second stage Isaac Covenant; to walk, free and independent among the nations, not to fear to be different, and to remain undeterred by envy. . . a test we still have to pass.  Only then can we look forward to the last stage of Golus, in which we will win the respect of the Nations not although we are Jews, but because we are Jews . . .

First and foremost, (note placement of the אתנחתא) a time will come that it will be evident that Hashem remembers the covenant with Yaakov.  “I will be with them through all the long, long nights of their exile.  I will transform even the darkest night of their exile into a shining revelation of Divine Guidance.”   We will make it through; bloodied, but very much alive.  When the time will come that “their measure of suffering is full, when they have inscribed their loyalty to the Torah with their heart’s blood upon the pages of world history” it will be time for the covenant of Yitzchak.

“During the Jacob period, they had to endure the hatred of the nations.  Now, like Isaac, they will suffer the envy of the nations. . . In the midst of growing prosperity, living among nations wavering between humaneness and envy, they will have to preserve their unique character as did Isaac.  They will have to employ their resources, ampler and less restricted than before, for a more perfect and multifaceted fulfillment of their unique mission in the Golus. . .”

Rav Hirsch then goes on to describe a later stage of the Covenant of Avraham, and of the Land, which we can surmise will be at the time of the coming of the Mashiach.

In a tragic comment which we can look back at through the prism of terrible hindsight, Rav Hirsch further wrote of his time in Nineteenth century Germany regarding the Covenant with Yaakov, “This stage is – perhaps – already behind us.  As Yaakov, we have proved ourselves brilliantly”.  In recognition of the opening of the ghettos and the unprecedented freedom and opportunity that Western European Jews, he felt that “Now we are facing the test of the second stage Isaac Covenant; to walk, free and independent among the nations, not to fear to be different, and to remain undeterred by envy. . . a test we still have to pass.  Only then can we look forward to the last stage of Golus, in which we will win the respect of the Nations not although we are Jews, but because we are Jews . . .

It is so bitter to know in hindsight that this hope was premature, specifically in Germany.

Nevertheless, it is clear to me that in our time, we truly are living in the Yitzchak age.   With the unprecedented wealth, power and influence of Jews throughout the world, with the amazing resurgence and rebirth of observant Judaism, and most of all, with the great gift that is Medinat Yisrael, we have definitely passed into a different relationship vis a vis the Nations of the world.

This essay is long already, and I will  write a follow-up to fully develop this theme, but my prime contention is this:  There are not only two binary states, namely Golus and Geulah, Exile and redemption.   It should be clear to anyone with a clear view of the amazing times that we live in that we are in an intermediate stage.  Some call it Ikvasa D’Meshicha.  Some call it Aschalta D’Geula.  Rav Hirsch says that Hashem called it “Bris Yitzchak” – the Isaac Covenant.   It is a time when we must follow the way of our Patriarch Yitzchak, and only thus get through this singularly exciting, promising, and yet difficult time.  It requires strength, courage and fearlessness to face the unbelievable opportunities that we have, and not to run from them.

More about that, next time.  (Continued Here)

Friday, November 11, 2016

The new President -- Better than Alfred E Neuman?

Hail to the New Chief

It is truly a historic week: Donald J. Trump has been elected President of the United States.  Millions upon millions of words are being written about “perhaps the most stunning political story in American History” according to one pundit.  Nevertheless, I would like to share my “Middle of the Road” thoughts for what they are worth.

Briefly, I am not happy that Donald Trump won the presidency.  At the same time, I am thrilled that Hillary Clinton was defeated.  Seems contradictory, but I know that there are many people like me, who voted more against Clinton than for Trump.

I will not focus here on the great policy differences between them.  According to my colleague Rav Avrohom Gordimer, these differences are the only things that mattered since the deep flaws of both candidates cancelled each other out. But there was more at stake, and given the awesome power and responsibilities of the position, I could not discount the character of the candidates.

Donald Trump is a deeply substandard choice, in far too many ways.  He is arrogant, egocentric, and at times crass and vulgar.  He revels in chutzpah, blurts out foolish and hurtful things, and too often has placed his mouth in motion before his brain is fully in gear.  What scares me most about him, however, is his mercurial short temper and need to lash out at any critic, no matter how petty the issue.   It is truly frightening that he will be in a position to use the immense power of the federal government -- and even to send our soldiers off to war -- with few obstacles to make him stop to reconsider.  Needless to say, I found it very difficult to vote for such a man for President.

The other choice, however, was even more “deplorable”.   Hillary (and Bill) has a long history of corruption, lies, deceit, and telling the people what they want to hear, while at the same time actively promoting an opposite agenda.  She postured as a loving, caring, Godmother; sensitive to the needs of minorities, women, and the impoverished.  In actuality she engaged in an unprecedented amount of lies, corruption and deceit while doing little to actually help people.  The abuse inherent in the “pay to play” scheme selling access to the former President and to herself (and their vast network of powerful friends and ability to influence government) while enriching themselves to a shocking degree was only the latest in Clinton scandals.  This followed  decades of ever greater corruption and avarice, making her a lowly hypocrite, and completely unfit to be our country’s leader.  In fact, had she been elected, the imbroglio concerning the ongoing investigation into her corruption would have consumed our country far more than what followed the relatively small bungled burglary and subsequent cover-up that destroyed Richard Nixon in the Watergate years.

Given this Hobson’s choice, and the fact that it was clear that in the People’s Republic of New York State my vote was meaningless, I cast a write-in vote for Alfred E. Neuman, who ran on the slogan “There are even bigger idiots running”.  At the same time, I encouraged friends living in states that were in play to hold their nose and vote for Trump.

As we all know, despite all the predictions of the media, pollsters and pundits, Trump won.   Endless commentary  attributed it to Trump’s alleged pandering to the white males' hatred of political correctness and latent racism, xenophobia, hatred of women, bigotry and prejudice.  The intelligentsia and liberal elites are crying and lamenting, liberal professors are offering “triggered students” grief counseling to help them get through this terrible trauma, as mobs of “progressives” storm the streets cursing Trump and his supporters, vowing vengeance and assuring themselves that the “correct” values will re-assert themselves when America awakens from this “nightmare”. . . I feel confident that they have it very wrong.

The reasons Trump won were several.  First, millions of people were tired and offended by the snobbery and bias of the media elites who saw it as their role to tell the unwashed masses what and how to think.   When Trump railed about a “rigged” political system, it was primarily this issue that he was referencing.  He had to overcome not only his opponent and her policies, but also the overwhelming negativity that was spewed against him in virtually every news, media, and entertainment outlet.

Second, most people knew deep down that Trump is not a bigot, anti-Semite, or racist.   While he spoke foolishly and hurtfully about the qualifications of a Mexican judge, over-generalized about Muslims, and made crude and vulgar comments about women, most people understood that while shameful, they did not reflect his core values.  Rather, they shared his exasperation about illegal immigration, the way the border with Mexico has been handled, and the coddling of illegal foreign criminals in sanctuary cities – this does not make one a racist.   They agreed that Obama was very wrong in not naming and confronting Radical Islamic Terrorism, and that is a huge domestic threat, and that the United States would be foolhardy to follow the European example and allow hordes of un-vetted Muslim immigrants from radical countries to foment the same problems they are causing there – that does not make one a racist.   It is true that he has made crude and vulgar comments about women – as unfortunately many men do – that does not make him a hater of women.

And so on.

As Bill O’Reilly put it, “when left-wing zealots masquerading as journalists pounded Trump without mercy, the voters grew numb to it”. The People were smarter than the talking heads who tried to sell this narrative, and they rejected it.

Third, the People are tired and angry about the policies of the Obama administration, such as Obamacare, the bungled Iran deal, the economic hardship, the over-regulation by Executive Orders, the lessening of America’s stature in the world and the feebleness of our foreign policy, and particularly, for those of us who care deeply about Israel, the way in which the Israeli government has been treated.  They wanted a change, and Mrs. Clinton represented not only continuity but an intensification of those policies.

Finally, the People have had enough of the shenanigans of Hillary Clinton.   The unending lies, half-truths, corruption and permitting for herself what others would be incarcerated for simply became too much.

Given the Torah readings of this time of year, I cannot help but thinking of our father Avraham, the quintessence of Chessed (Lovingkindness) coupled with Emes (Truth) who had to try to further his mission among the power brokers of his day.   We find him confronting the Pharaoh, who pretended to be a person of integrity while personally corrupt; finding a way to protect his wife and survive while getting through the dangers of a society that destroyed anyone who was different.   We later find him standing up to the Great Powers of his time (the Four Kings), in order to save his morally and ethically challenged kinsman Lot, managing with the help of the Almighty to prevail while avoiding being tainted by taking graft from Sodom.  Later we see him deal with Avimelech, who presents himself as a saint and paragon of virtue, while hiding his corruption and abuse of women and of the poor.  In all of those cases Avraham recognized that – unlike Noach – he had to engage as best he could with a depraved, corrupt society, find the good in people, look beyond the way that they presented, focus on his mission of bringing light to the world while avoiding any hint of corruption, and ultimately was recognized as a Prince among men and the supreme citizen of his time.

We have no Avraham in our midst.  We have plenty of Pharaohs, Sodomite kings and Avimelechs.   Ultimately the greatest values that we must follow are those of Truth and Kindness, and in our very imperfect world, strive to live for those values and support and encourage those around us to do as well.

As we look towards the future, we see that perhaps this whole mess of an election has given the US a rare and great opportunity.  Assuming that Trump can keep a reign on his temper and mouth, and that he listens to wise people of experience in furthering the policy agenda that got him thus far with efficiency and dignity, great things can happen.  With the White House, Senate and Congress all in the hands of his party, he can:

  • Repeal and replace Obamacare with a good and workable system that will not punish those who work at the expense of those who do not, and provide all with affordable fair health care
  • Appoint Federal judges from the excellent list that he has already provided to replace not only the great Justice Scalia, but others who likely will be retiring soon as well
  • Abolish many of the Executive Orders that unfairly hampered businesses and allow fairer competition and economic growth
  • Control the damage from the terrible Iran nuclear deal and do what he can to limit the Ayatollah’s path to the bomb
  • Secure the border, and implement fair and sensible immigration policies
  • Clean up the mess at the IRS and Dept. of Justice and the FBI
  • Find a path to peace in the Middle East based not on demanding additional Israeli concessions, but rather on the Palestinians living up to the agreements that they signed, while "crushing" ISIS and Hamas

and many more objectives.  If he accomplishes just these, he will go down as one of the great Presidents in our history; if he does more he can be transformative.

He must also find a way to ensure that in a VERY non-partisan way (i.e. staying far away from any direct involvement) the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s email issues are given a full and fair investigation, and let the chips fall as they will with due process.  Too much has happened to allow this matter to simply slip away; the American public deserves that justice be served.

From an Alfred E Neuman voter, good wishes go to the new President that he succeed greatly in his duties.  I am confident that he will want to prove to the world that he can govern in a dignified way and make his family – especially the “First Aineklach” – proud. I fervently hope that I will be able to gladly vote for him with full confidence in 2020, with an absentee ballot from Israel.