Pulpit peril

As in the past, and even more so today, rabbis have a tremendous hold and influence over their communities, both religiously and politically. At a time when we are inundated with so much information, much of it contradictory, that doubt has become a normal reflex, people are turning to their community leaders to steer them to the truth more and more. That is why I had serious trepidation this past Shabbat morning listening to the Rabbi deliver his sermon in one of America’s influential Orthodox synagogues. To begin with, and borrowing from the rabbinic style itself, a story is in order.
During my first year of yeshiva in the Old City, I walked down to the Kotel, and remembering that the past few times my belt had set off the metal detector, I took it off and put it through the x-ray machine. As I passed through and began walking from the entrance to the wall itself, I began to put my belt back on. As I got closer to the wall I was accosted by a beggar (yes there are a few there by the wall) who started screaming at me “you are taking your pants off at the Kotel, you should be ashamed of yourself!” I tried to calmly explain that I was not, but he continued to berate me, yelling “you have disgraced the Kotel, how dare you take off your pants here!” After I had finally calmed him down and explained what had really happened, the beggar, without an ounce of remorse, smiled at me and said, “oh…you have maybe some spare change for tzedaka?”
No it was not the fear of a pant-less worshiper, or anything of the sort, that frightened me this past Shabbat, it was the Rabbi’s sermon. The Rabbi, a proven ardent Zionist, spoke about the upcoming New Year and repentance. He spoke about how we must strive to “turn the corner” on our misdeeds, to lead us to the path of righteousness. However, as an example, he offered President Obama’s speech to the UN against Palestinian statehood. He suggested that perhaps Obama has “turned the corner” on his treatment of Israel. The Rabbi is far from the only person I have heard in the past week extol Obama as the new savior of Israel (I saw far too many of these declarations of salvation on Facebook this week), but he was by far the most prominent.
What the rabbi failed to mention is that roughly a month ago Barak Obama unofficially began his re-election campaign. While many of his first term policies may place his re-election in peril, Jewish support, due to his treatment of Israel, has recently been in discernable decline. In fact, he just witnessed what happened in the New York special election to replace disgraced senator Anthony Weiner’s seat. The seat was won by Bob Turner, a Republican, in a heavily Jewish district. This was the first time this district had elected a Republican since 1920! The last time a Republican held this seat, prohibition was in effect and the Yankees had just purchased Babe Ruth from the Red Sox. Most Jewish voters cited their frustrations with the Democrats in general, and specifically Obama’s treatment of Israel as their reason for voting GOP. This was not writing on the wall for Obama, it was a life-sized mural.
I do appreciate the President’s speech at the UN, and it’s understandable people feel he should be shown gratitude for it, but not only is it too little too late, it is dangerous to accept this speech and, in turn, forget the disgraceful way he has treated Bibi and Israel for the past three years. He has botched and bungled his way in attempting to resurrect the moribund peace talks and his insistence of beginning negotiations with pre-1967 borders as a precondition was not even suggested by the Palestinians until Obama mentioned it. Imagine what he will do if he is re-elected to a second and final term, and no longer has to worry about Jewish voters. It could be the most destructive blank check the American Jewish community ever issues.
The beggar at the Kotel, who had attempted to humiliate me just seconds before, had somehow remembered that ultimately he wanted something from me, and shamelessly shifted into begging mode. President Obama has done the same thing to the Jewish people and we must not allow ourselves to be that naïve.
The rabbi was correct, now is a time for repentance and “turning the corner”. President Obama got approximately 80 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008. It is time for the Jews to recognizing their real friends in this world and cut that number down significantly. We must stand up for Israel and the Jewish people by refusing to let Obama get away with his arrogant and dismissive treatment. That will be true repentance for upcoming year and that, with God’s help, will help us and the State of Israel “turn the corner”.
I wish all the readers a ketiva v''chatima tova-a very happy, healthy, and peaceful new year.