The Politics of Adar

The masses were exuberant; champagne bubbling over, shouts of victory and pride, emotions bursting forth with confidence and joyous affirmation of a smashing success. Triumph and euphoria filled the air. But the morning after, fear and trepidation gripped the celebrants, the glee and sense of security dissipating in a fleeting moment.

The ebullience of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic reelection victory soured and fizzled as the White House responded with a snub and startlingly declared the following day that the United States’ (favorable) policy toward the State of Israel pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be reassessed, reflecting an unprecedented blow. Israeli politicians and supporters went scrambling in a damage control effort to salvage the favor and grace of the State’s most powerful ally.

The irony does not stop with the unparalleled White House affront toward a world leader, and the potential pulling of the rug out from under Israeli security concerns, allowing a lone and tiny allied country to be diplomatically devoured by the pack of wolves that constitutes much of the international community vis a vis the State of Israel at the United Nations. The irony cuts much deeper, to the point of the incredulous.

The White House explains its decision to reevaluate its backing for the State of Israel at the UN primarily in light of Netanyahu’s declaration three days before the election that he no longer supports a two-state solution. It is clear that this was routine politicking by the Prime Minister designed to draw requisite numbers of right-wing voters, and it was obviously a scheme that could be easily “clarified” later, as all politicians do, in order to retain their long-term acceptance by the mainstream while temporarily appeasing a particular voting bloc. It is done all the time, and it was fully predictable that Netanyahu would immediately after the election explain what he “really” meant – that he of course supports a two-state solution, and that his rhetoric against it referred to one set of circumstances and not to the two-state goal. No politician with a modicum of intelligence would publicly and intentionally abrogate his country’s allegiance to its closest and most essential ally as part of a political campaign; the whole thing was politicking and posturing, and everyone, including the current occupant of the Oval Office, routinely engages in it before elections.

Although the White House assuredly knows that the “no Palestinian state” utterance was mere campaign rhetoric that predictably was of course explained away the day after the election, and that such was the scheme all along, the White House is capitalizing on the Prime Minister’s words as a device to radically alter Mideast policy to the detriment of Netanyahu’s country. This is the focal point, missed by many, but central to what is really happening.

As much as it is almost impossible to conceive of the United States abandoning the State of Israel at the United Nations (just as it is almost impossible to conceive of the US President publicly snubbing the Prime Minister – or any world leader – and denigrating him on previous occasions over the years), the dramatic irony of boundless elation transitioning into an abyss of doom within a single day is a foundational theme of Purim, as elucidated by Rav Soloveitchik zt”l. The Rav explained that one of the core motifs of Purim is the insecurity and vulnerability of man, as the fate of the Jews of Shushan and the Persian Empire transformed overnight from comfort and fraternal celebration to a decree for their brutal and comprehensive annihilation. Rav Soloveitchik elaborated that the antidote to man’s insecurity and vulnerability is a life of tefillah (prayer), in which man transcends the sensation of being at the mercy of a cruel and absurd universe, and man instead lives connected with Hashem and knows that he has a holy goal of consecration to the Divine Plan, rather than a fate determined by detached freak phenomena.

A day before, they had feasted, Jew and Gentile, courtier and Ish Yehudi. Together, they had drunk toasts and hugged each other. In a matter of hours, the missive was sent out with the couriers to destroy, to slay and to kill.

…Man’s insecurity lies at the very root of prayer. Without the finiteness awareness, without man’s insecurity, there would be no prayer… Prayer, whether of Biblical or Rabbinic origin, bears witness to one inalterable fact, namely, that man is always in need… The act of praying is the religious response to need, to the experience of Tzarah, of distress, of existential straits and narrowness, of Min Ha-Meitzar, when man is defeated…

Prayer in Yahadus is not just a recital. It is more than that. It is a world outlook… You translate prayer into daily life, into deeds… Prayer is the answer to the insecurity of man. When I am with God, I feel secure… Life must be saturated with the philosophy of prayer and the metaphysics of prayer.

What is the way of life which prayer reflects? The prayer life signifies first, the consecrated life. Yahadus believed that each man has an assignment in this world. A man is born, not cast, as the existentialists say, into this world in vain and for no purpose. He is burdened with an assignment. Each man, in the opinion of Yahadus, is anointed, not appointed, by the Almighty to contribute something to redemption, toward the arrival of the eschatological age, to the great redemption…

Yes, we need to exert as much hishtadlus (human effort) as possible, including masterful diplomacy and public relations work, mending breaches and opening new venues of favor and grace. But ultimately, we must look above and beyond all victory celebration and angst, and realize that our fortune lies with our real, eternal Protector, and it is with Him that we must cast our ultimate lot and find true security.

As we depart from Adar and enter Nissan, the month of redemption, let us pray that authentic security, both physical and spiritual, be eminently and speedily manifest.

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14 Responses

  1. Yossie Nemes says:

    RAG, Yasher Koach, excellent!. I so appreciate you pointing out what our main take away should be from this fiasco. I will, BL”N, share this Shabbos with our community.

    As a side point, I actually wish the PM had really meant what he said the day before the election…. Gut Shabbos

  2. joel rich says:

    The White House explains its decision to reevaluate its backing for the State of Israel at the UN primarily in light of Netanyahu’s declaration three days before the election that he no longer supports a two-state solution. It is clear that this was routine politicking by the Prime Minister designed to draw requisite numbers of right-wing voters, and it was obviously a scheme that could be easily “clarified” later, as all politicians do, in order to retain their long-term acceptance by the mainstream while temporarily appeasing a particular voting bloc. It is done all the time, and it was fully predictable that Netanyahu would immediately after the election explain what he “really” meant
    What does it mean when we accept this gneivat daat (prohibited false positive impression) as SOP (standard operating procedure)? I’m reminded of a story I heard concerning R’ JB Soloveitchik’s response to a request for a heter for a worthy organization (xxxx) to hire someone under the table (as “everyone” does) because otherwise the slot could not be filled. The response was better no xxxx then xxxx based on that.

    How should a halachic supporter of Israel react if one believes it’s not OK for either? or didn’t accept R’ Gafni’s threats of reprisals against hesder yeshivot as “heat of the moment reactions”? The Gemara says one sees the true personality bkiso, bkaso ubkoso ($,anger and drinking). How should a supporter of Israel react ?


  3. Tal Benschar says:

    Another mussar haskel from this latest fiasco:

    “Akati avdei Achashveirosh anan” — “we are still servants of Achashveirosh.”

  4. Micah Segelman says:

    I disagree with trying to whitewash and justify this. Netanyahu should not have said what he said about the Palestinian State or the Arabs voting. It was wrong even if it helped him with the right wing. Furthermore, he should have foreseen the consequences vis a vis the White House and American Jewry. His mistake certainly does not justify the US weakening Israel – but unfortunately that may be the consequence.

  5. Yossie Nemes says:

    Reb Joel, for the record I am not a supporter of Mr. Netanyahu, he is not enough hawk for my taste.

    The PM would argue that his opponents, with foreign money and advisors and with help from skewed polls, were about to steal an election, by spreading misinformation andby attacking him and his wife personally. Well he beat them at their own game.

    I don’t like this excuse but we need to cut him some slack, it is not as if everybody was acting in a dignified manner and he lowered the bar. Outside of Buzy, who is a gentleman, his opponents were slinging mud they scooped in the gutter. Now the media is complaining how undignified and racist his tactics were…PLEASE…

  6. Avrohom Gordimer says:

    I am thankful for the kind feedback.

    I was is no way passing judgment on the propriety of Netanyahu’s remarks. My focus is how the remarks are very inappropriately being used as a vehicle for punishment.

  7. Reb Yid says:

    Does anyone honestly think it’s only because of those remarks?

    My goodness, it’s simply the last straw among a whole stack over the past 6-7 years. For it is Mr. Netanyahu that has continually insulted so many around the world (including, but certainly not limited to, President Obama).

    Thanks to Bibi’s historic track record here, Israel will become increasingly naked diplomatically. The uncritical US support for it in so many ways will come under attack. Bibi does not seem to realize that most Americans from all walks of life supported the cause of Israel since, and even before, its creation. Bibi has kissed large portions of that support good bye.

  8. Yossie Nemes says:

    I want to clarify something and then I will move on, not wanting to take away from the profound lesson that RAG brought out.

    I would not vote for Bibi. Why? because I want my vote to go to someone who is honest and has scruples. Realistically, I expect that from Rabbi Gafni, Shas, Yachad, Bennett and both sides by the Litoim. They claim to be Charedim Lidvar Hashem, they learn Shmiras halashon, then I expect them to live and to politick according to Torah values. They should know that the ends don’t justify the means…

    I am not losing sleep over Netanyahu’s Gneivas daas, after every thing that was done to Ba’shmutz him. I am losing sleep, however, that he may go back to negotiate a two state solution, a true Bechiya L’doros and a potential new gaza, Hashem Yishmor. Gut Shabbos to all!

    As far as our administration, it is my view that their outrage over his comments are but a pretense, they have been fighting against him for years.

  9. dr. bill says:

    Let’s see.

    I have always been suspicious and I had contempt for you, but I gave the people you represent the benefit of the doubt. Now, your true colors come out; I will no longer give your people that benefit.

    Or, support was always sought on a bi-partisan basis. Rightly or not I feel that was changed; yet you expect bi-partisan support?

    Forget about right and wrong for a moment. There are consequences even when acting against those who you consider and may actually be wrong, evil and misguided.

    To right things, expect the unexpected. The coalition may have strange bed-fellows, unneeded concessions may become needed, etc.

  10. Crazy kanoiy says:

    The fault for this mess lies with Netanyahu and the Israeli voters who foolishly voted for him. It is Netanyahu that has caused the affront to world leaders and they only respond in kind. When you publicly undermine a sitting President and make him out to be a naive fool there are going to be consequences. When you anger European leaders by calling on all of European Jewry to move to Israel there will be consequences. When you thumb your nose at the world and build settlements there will be consequences. When you dumbly assail Arab citizens exercising their right to vote there will be consequences. When a country votes for such a foolish and dangerous leader we can only daven to Hashem to protect us from the consequences.

  11. Toby Bulman Katz says:

    When you Jews insist on living in Israel there will be consequences. When you insist on living on Planet Earth, there will be consequences. When you refuse to die and you insist on living, there will be consequences.

  12. Crazy kanoiy says:

    Toby Katz – Such a paranoid mindset is what enables people to stop thinking rationally. If the whole world hates us anyway, than our actions make no difference, and we bare no responsibility for them. Such an attitude is foolish and untrue. Most of the world recognizes Isreal’s right to exist within internationally recognized borders and most countries are happy and proud to have Jewish residents and citizens. French PM Valls words and actions are but one excellent example.

  13. Bob Miller says:

    A lot of the recent output from Jewish liberals, frum or not, reads like “baruch Haman, arur Mordechai”.

  14. Moshe Dick says:

    I must say that I had to read your column twice and read all the misguided comments again to realize how much on the wrong side you all are. I don’t know who your interlocutors are in the Israeli political sphere (Labor? Yesh Atid?) but to describe the victory of Bibi and the continuation of a right wing, nationalist government as a tragedy and to mention handwringing all around is not only a travesty of the truth but gives the wrong impression to our enemies. if you think that the Likud and the nationalist voters in Israel are losing sleep over Obama’s snub, then you have no clue who the modern Israelis are. They have survived four full fledged wars, numerous “operations”, many deaths due to terrorism and the hostility of the world before. Do you think that a snub of a megalomaniac President will make them panic? What drivel! Of course, there are worries, as there have always been, but “gam zu jaavor’. This too, will pass. If nothing else, your belief in the Almighty should have tasought that.

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