by Bracha Goetz
It was almost time for Shabbos.
There were a number of things I still needed to do, but it was hard for me to stop reading the stories that were just then being collected about Rabbi Meir Schuster, who, in his late sixties, had become very ill with a degenerative illness known as Lewy Body Disease, which combines the symptoms of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. The stories collected are all about what Reb Meir did with his own life, and the many, many lives that he helped transform. An intensity in my heart was building with each word I read, and I was transported back, over thirty years ago.
It is 1976. The man who was to become my husband was praying at the Kotel. Larry had finished his time in a kibbutz ulpan, and was still volunteering in a development town in the Negev, when he decided to spend the weekend in Jerusalem. He was scheduled to return to the States a few weeks later, with no clear plans. Larry put a note in a crevice in the Wall and then prayed sincerely to find his path in life. When he finished, there was a tap on his shoulder. It was Rabbi Schuster, asking him, “Do you have the time?” Thank G-d, Larry did have the time, and he followed Reb Meir to a yeshiva for baalei teshuva where he began the process of finding his life’s path. After nine years of learning and teaching at Yeshiva Aish HaTorah, young wandering Larry became Rabbi Aryeh Goetz.
It is 1978, and after completing my first year of medical school, I was volunteering on the oncology ward at Hadassah Hospital, visiting with patients who were dying, while my secret mission was to learn the purpose of living. During my first few days in Israel, I went to the Kotel, and Reb Meir Schuster found me there. His purity and his sincerity came right into my heart. I began to study with Rebbetzin Denah Weinberg, and at the women’s division of Ohr Someyach, as the process of understanding the purpose of living began for me as well.
It is 1979, and every torch is lit on the Menorah beside the Kotel, as it is the eighth night of Chanukah. My soon-to-be husband is sitting near me on a bench in the Kotel plaza. He tells me that on the eighth day of Chanukah, the spiritual potential for dedication is at its greatest. He wants to know if on this night full of the power of dedication, I will agree to be his partner in life, so we can continue our separate journeys together.
Reb Meir is there, too, on the night when my husband asked me to marry him. We both see him at the same moment. He is looking for more and more lost neshamas, waiting to be found, including those who, like us, will be blessed to find each other too.
Reb Meir has been with us ever since, as well, helping us raise our children to strive for the simple purity that he offered both of us. From our oldest son who has opened the Yeshiva High School of Arizona, to our youngest daughter, who was a madrecha in the Heritage House that Reb Meir established, Reb Meir’s pure idealism has gotten infused into our children’s lives. His gentle tap has even come to be felt by all the grandchildren that have also now blessed our lives, thank G-d.
And we were only two of the tens of thousands of neshamas that Reb Meir helped lead to the spiritual wellsprings craved. The ripples spreading out from all the neshamas he effected, are not possible to count. Not in this world. The reach of this one humble man is endless.
From what I learned from reading about Reb Meir, his parents were survivors of the Holocaust from Poland, and they were not observant, although Reb Meir’s grandmother still was. Stanley, as he was known then, was brought up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and attended public school there. When Rabbi Abraham Yehoshua Twerski opened a Talmud Torah in Milwaukee, through his bubbie’s gentle urging, her grandson, Meir Tzvi, known to everyone else as Stanley Schuster, became one of its first students. Rabbi Twerski was devoted to being m’karev Reb Meir, and he helped young Meir Schuster catch up in his Hebrew studies.
Rabbi Twerski recalled Reb Meir’s tremendous thirst for learning about Judaism, and he said that he used to daven and bentch with such tremendous fervor, soon after he learned how, that it inspired all around him. He remembered when “Stanley” at the age of 14, with his parents’ consent, went off to learn in yeshiva in Skokie, Illinois. He had already become a masmid (very devoted Torah learner) and from there, he went on to learn in Yeshiva Ner Israel in Baltimore, Maryland, where he studied for seven years, and got semicha.
At Ner Israel, he was known for being an extremely dedicated student and for doing a semi-speech fast on Shabbos, only speaking words of Torah. According to his friends, Reb Meir was an excellent listener, but a very quiet person who spoke very little, not wanting to speak one superfluous word. He was just about the last person any of them would have imagined going into the field of kiruv.
Reb Meir was always on the look-out for ways to do chesed and help others, and always with his great big, warm smile. Reb Meir also took on a job that was definitely not sought after, of going around to awaken his fellow students. He would faithfully walk through the dorms every morning, calling in Yiddish repeatedly and with such pure earnestness, “Wake up, Wake up – it’s time to serve Hashem.”
After Reb Meir got married, he and his wife, Esther, moved to Eretz Yisroel in 1968. They came with two suitcases , and intended to stay for a year, while Reb Meir learned in the Mir Yeshiva. He never went back to America until many years later, after he had established the Heritage House, and needed to raise funds for it. (No wonder he was able to encourage thousands of others to stay in Eretz Yisroel longer too!)
Continue reading → Rav Meir Schuster: The Man at The Wall, zt”l
by Steven Pruzansky
The controversy du jour deals with the high school girls and their tefillin, and it has prompted the usual litany of responses. Once again, what passes for psak in the Modern Orthodox world is little more than cherry-picking the sources to find the single, even strained, interpretation of a rabbinic opinion in order to permit what it wants to permit or prohibit what it wants to prohibit. The preponderance of poskim or the consensus in the Torah world matters little; fables – like Rashi’s daughters wearing tefillin – carry more weight.
No honest reading of the sources could ever give rise to a statement such as “Ramaz would be happy to allow any female student who wants to observe the mitzvah of tefillin to do so.” Happy? Tell it to the Rema or to the Aruch Hashulchan. And what about the prohibition of lo titgodedu – of not having contradictory practices in the same minyan (e.g., some girls wearing tefillin and others not)? And what of the statement being made to the traditional girls – that their service of G-d must somehow be inferior to that of their peers who are on a “higher” … Read More >>
by Yaakov Rosenblatt
A couple of weeks ago, while visiting family in New Jersey, I picked up a copy of The Lakewood Voice (Dec 25), a hand-out magazine comprised of news and advertisements. The cover story was about Lakewood Mesivtas. There was an informative article about why entry bechinos are delayed until Tu B’Adar. And there was a description of three types of bechinos an 8th grade boy might receive. The first option is a bechina in which the boy is asked to prepare a piece of Gemara. The second, considered more difficult, is where the boy is questioned at random on the Gemara he learned year to date. The third type of bechina, considered most challenging, is where the boy is asked questions he cannot answer. In that case, the tester isn’t expecting an answer, but is probing to see how the young man’s mind works.
I was surprised that there wasn’t a fourth option: a written test with questions on the entire body of information learned, middle school to date, including gemara, chumash, halacha, and yedi’os klalios. This would give the school a clear recap of the boy’s academic level.
Philosophically, a coming-of-age transition which … Read More >>
by Rabbi Yair Hoffman
It is well known that the Gedolim of both Eretz Yisroel and America are rightly concerned about the devastating effects of exposure to pornographic images through rapidly developing technologies. And there is no question that even filtered access to the internet has no guarantees that a person may fall or stumble into the abyss. The internet and Smartphones are clearly a game-changer in terms of nisyonos, spiritual challenges to Klal Yisroel.
And as in many other venues in Judaism, organizations have arisen in order to assist in combating this new scourge. In Eretz Yisroel, these organizations are known as Amutahs, roughly equivalent the 501 C3 organization in the United States. Some organizations are of questionable legitimacy, but the vast majority of these organizations are genuine and justifiable.
Not everyone, however, will agree with the approach and mindset of those people who are involved in the day to day running of the organization. In order to gain a more universal legitimacy the people who run such organizations attempt to get letters of approbation and approval from leading Rabbis.
There may be another dynamic as well. Some of the people who run these organizations, well … Read More >>
By Sharon Rais-Tessler
[Editor’s Note: OK, I have a weakness for creative writing]
I am a doctor I am not G-d I know I’m not But I was taught That man is G-d What I decide What I do What I did Is always right Because I am G-d I know I’m not I am a lowly messenger Shelechus is all I do A sheleach is all I am G-d’s will flows Through my head Through my heart Through my hand Each day I rise And pray That today My shelechus will be right I will be a sheleach For only good Only good decisions Will I think Only compassion Will I feel Only with steadiness Will I perform I am not G-d I know I’m not All I know All I need to know Is Hashem is with me
Dr. Sharon Rais-Tessler is a mother, grandmother, and OB/GYN in Brooklyn
by Yossi Huttler
[Editor’s note: I met a friend at a chasunah recently, whom I had not seen in a while. The conversation turned to a topic that I hear more frequently these days, at least among my chevra. It is the disappearance of the creative element in contemporary Torah commentary. This is not to denigrate the quality and quantity of many recent works, which are often either sweeping in their breadth of information, or inspiring. But we have not seen real creativity since Rav Hutner zt”l. (The just-published Mesoras HaRav Chumash of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l does include many creative pieces, written, of course, in the same epoch.)
Those who appreciate poetry will appreciate this submission on the Parsha. Those who don’t ought to consider where creativity lodges in the human personality, and what a frum poet and frum darshan have in common. ]
and so after that first bris were you now known as Avraham ben Avraham a Patriarch to yourself and all that would follow
By Dovid Landesman
Many tell me that I am too critical, constantly finding fault [and regrettably it doesn’t take a sophisticated search engine] within the observant community in Eretz Yisrael. Their criticism has had its effect; although I still peruse the blogs, my fingers are reluctant to go to the keyboard to comment or contribute because I am uncomfortable in constantly harping on the shortcomings I perceive. Thus, it is with a great sigh of relief that I pen these words, sharing observations about the perceived state of our people.
Last Thursday night, Erev Yom Kippur, my wife and I drove to the Old City to attend a presentation at the Aish ha-Torah World Center. Our youngest son, who recently completed three years of army service in the Netzach Yehudah brigade, works there and we were curious to see what it was that made him such an enthusiastic supporter of the program. Cognizant of the ever present parking problems near the Old City, we left our car in Sanhedria and hailed a cab to take us to the kotel. We made it as far as French Hill; all roads leading to the Old City were closed so we transferred … Read More >>
by Chaim Saiman
A Jewish boy¬— lets call him Tuvia Mendel— is walking home one night. Maybe he is a bit drunk, maybe not. Tuvia attracts the attention of a non-Jewish neighborhood watchman who describes him as wearing a dark suit, white shirt, black hat and white strings hanging out of his pants. The watchman calls the police, who advise him to hold back. Activities ensue and Tuvia is shot by the watchman. The watchman maintains that he was acting in self-defense and the jury so finds.
Other than changing Tuvia’s name and identity, lets try and hold all the other elements of the Trayvon Martin case constant, simply replicating the debates about the facts and the inferences to be drawn from them from the real case into our own. True, the trial brought out wildly different accounts of what happened, but if it was Tuvia rather than Trayvon, is there any doubt the Orthodox community would resolve these ambiguities differently?
The response would not be monolithic. Some would say the system is outright anti-semetic, drawing a straight line from the horrors of the European past to the American present. Others would hold that this serves as … Read More >>
by Yakov Horowitz
[Editor’s Note: Once again, Rabbi Yakov dares to publish what others won’t even say aloud. He reviews the harm caused by kane’im/zealots, and calls for help in ousting them from the community, any way possible. Those who wish to take advantage of the links in the original version can go to his website here.]
While the bulk of the ire and anger from the charedi community over the “Sharing the Burden” initiatives are directed at Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, many of us who work with the teens-at-risk population feel strongly that some of this resentment should be redirected toward the radical kanoim (zealots) who have been contributing to the charedi-secular divide in Eretz Yisroel for decades now. Why? Because over the years, they have employed tactics of intimidation and violence to antagonize our non-observant brothers and sisters, and to disrupt the efforts of our gedolim (sages) in Eretz Yisroel to make the type of changes that are now being forced upon the charedi community. –>
In the late 1990’s the leading gedolim of North America met to discuss the pressing need to find appropriate placements for the dozens of young men who were in … Read More >>
by Steven Pruzansky
[Editor’s note: I came across a short “insider” bio of Rabbi David Lau, who was elected earlier today as the next Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. Rabbi Pruzansky wrote it two weeks ago, but it became more important today.]
“…The primary alternative candidate now is Rav David Lau, Chief Rabbi of Modiin, with whom I have developed a very warm relationship over the last few years. Son of a former Chief Rabbi, Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, whose life story should be read by and inspire all Jews, Rav David should nonetheless not be perceived as a legacy candidate, driven to higher rabbinic office by the effects of nepotism. He is an exceptional human being – warm, friendly, engaging, personable and dedicated to Torah and Klal Yisrael. By the standards of the Israeli rabbinate, he is unique. I have personally witnessed Rav Lau walk miles on Shabbat morning to participate in the smachot taking place in a variety of kehillot, only because as the city’s rabbi he deems it appropriate. (Few, if any other chiefs, do the same – Rav Shlomo Riskin in Efrat being the exception, but an exception that proves the rule.) That approach, more typical of … Read More >>
by Yaakov Rosenblatt
It was not my finest hour. Looking back, it was one of my worst.
My wife and I moved from Lakewood, NJ to Dallas, TX to join a Kollel in February, 2000. After two year of learning, we moved to an up and coming neighborhood, charged with adding vigor and verve to a small but growing community. At the time, we had two young children and were expecting a third. Contrary to the area in which we lived, there was no eruv in that neighborhood, which meant that my wife and kids would have to spend Shabbos at home. There was also but one shul to attend, a remodeled home which used folding chairs in its Sanctuary; a room that also doubled as a social hall. At the time, the average age in the community was 50 and the average hair-color was gray.
There was, however, a practical challenge to the move: the Kollel budget didn’t allow for a paid position in that neighborhood. It was willing to pay about 50% of my salary for this endeavor, but I would have to supplement my income with other work. A job opened – that of … Read More >>
by Yossi Huttler
[Editor’s note: I am once again going to indulge my weakness for the poetry of Yossi Huttler. It is hard to get through Kinos without mourning for the lost art of responding to poetry as an evocative language. The various authors of the kinos took for granted that their audiences would be moved through meter, alliteration and assonance. We react to them by glancing at our watches, and counting off the minutes till the ordeal is over. Perhaps appreciating some contemporary frum poetry can give us a glimpse of how kinos once touched every reader’s soul.
I am leaving intact the comments of the poet.]
The first poem concerns inyana d’yoma inasmuch as the Shoah is a part of what we mourn during the Three Weeks:
at the far end of the prozdor standing on the lip of a self-dug grave or the doorway to a gas chamber stripped of all chatzitzot between them and their Creator as at birth souls ready to tread the next step
About the second poem: After talking last week to a friend who recently turned thirty while still unmarried, during which conversation I recalled my own dating experiences before … Read More >>
by Shaya Karlinsky
There has been a lot of talk about how, ten years ago, the Charedi leadership intentionally picked a less-than-ideal candidate to undermine the credibility, authority and ultimately the institution of the Chief Rabbinate. I think there was another, more subtle yet significant motivation for the Charedi support of Rav Metzger’s candidacy against Rav Yakov Ariel. Understanding the underlying dynamic can add more context to the push-back we are witnessing against Charedi society, as well as the continued politicization of the Chief Rabbinate.
One of the main issues that seems to have motivated Rav Elyashiv was Rav Metzgers agreement that as Chief Rabbi he limit, as much as possible, the reliance on “heter mechirah” for the shmittah year. This led to a much more stringent approach in issuing Rabbinate Kashrus certificates throughout Israel, followed by legal challenges, and a hearing before the Supreme Court. The court’s verdict opened the door for Tzohar to begin providing officially sanctioned Kashrut supervision. It led to serious – unwitting – shimittah violations by the public at large, probably even by readers of Cross-Currents. And it was an example of Charedi power being exerted in way that. while based on good intentions, … Read More >>
by Rabbi Shneur Aisenstark
[Editor’s Note: Rabbi Shneur Aisenstark, an extremely well-regarded veteran educator in Montreal penned an article in last week’s Mishpacha Magazine that created some confusion among readers. “Unconditional Love Has Its Limits” seemed to be both a contradiction in terms (by making unconditional love very much conditional) as well as quite dangerous in the estimation of professionals who have dealt for many years with off-the-derech (OTD) children.
One day, people will begin writing not only about OTD children, but the related phenomenon of the great number of those children (at least anecdotally) who return to Torah observance. If there is one factor that is important in producing the BOTD (back on the derech) child, it is the unconditional love of his or her family. Professionals warn not to scrimp or be sparing on the love shown to the errant child. Love needs to be unconditional; it is not synonymous with acceptance, which may allow for setting expectations and limits.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is no stranger to these pages. Also a veteran mechanech, he heads up Agudah’s Project YES. His creativity in curricular areas is famous – but he is perhaps most famous for his … Read More >>
by Moshe Hauer
This week the Jewish world will celebrate the 46th anniversary of the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem in the Six Day War. This miraculous event restored unity to the city that symbolizes Jewish unity, described by the Psalmist as “the city that is united together” (Psalm 122). In fact, King David only established Jerusalem as Israel’s capital after mending the divisions within the Jewish People and gaining their unified support (Samuel II, chapter 5). As such, and with keen awareness of all that continues to divide our People – especially in Yerushalayim – I would like to share three quotes from Rav Avraham Yitzchak haKohein Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Palestine. The quotes present a concept and a strategy of Jewish unity.
The Concept The quote below comes from Rav Kook’s “Ayn Ayoh” commentary to the Aggadaic passages in TB Berachos (64a), and is also found in his “Siddur Olat Riyah” (quote translated by Chanan Morrison). It presents a concept of peace and unity that clearly guided Rav Kook’s communal thinking and activities.
“Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rabbi Haninah: Torah scholars increase peace in the world. As it says, “All of Your children … Read More >>
An anonymous submission in honor of Purim — Adapted from Michtav M’Eliyahu Vol. I p.75
The casual observer of the story of Purim will often overlook and/or misunderstand some of the most crucial aspects of the narrative. Take, for example, the chronology of the story. Although the tale of the Book of Esther is often told inside of a quarter of an hour, the actual story spanned more than nine years.
The Book of Esther famously begins with the feast of Achashverosh, which occurred during the third year of his reign. Our sages reveal (Megilla 12) that Mordechai prohibited the Jewish People from attending this feast. However, this was not due to restraints of the Jewish dietary law, as many assume. Strictly kosher food was available, and one of the two chief butlers at the feast was none other than Mordechai himself (Rashi ibid). Yet, Mordechai prohibited the Jews from attending. The Jewish People did not heed this directive from the generation’s Torah Leader and they attended, facing no repercussions.
Then, nine years later, in the twelfth year of Achashverosh’s reign, Mordechai refused to bow to Haman because of the idol Haman would wear on his neck. … Read More >>
by Rabbi Meir Goldberg
I wrote this article in December as a response to the Klal Perspectives Kiruv edition, and specifically the article by Rabbi Ilan Feldman. I first sent it out to Kiruv Rabbis via listserves, and after hearing much positive feedback, I submitted a condensed version to Mishpacha Magazine, which was more understandable to those not involved in Kiruv.
I prefer the original since it touches on many important issues relating to Kiruv, and it is more passionate as well.
The older generation of kiruv (Jewish outreach) professionals often waxes poetic of the kiruv glory days, which began sometime after the Six-Day War and ended in the early 90s. Rav Noach Weinberg’s dream of changing the world was, to a large extent, successful: tens of thousands became frum, and so many more were reconnected in some meaningful way to their heritage. Over the last 15 years, the secular Jewish landscape and the kiruv response has changed. As a result, the editors of Klal Perspectives, an online magazine, asked 17 kiruv leaders to write about current outreach efforts, how success is measured, and whether kiruv has run its course due to assimilation and the … Read More >>
By Yoel Finkelman
[Editor’s Note: As mentioned a few days ago, Dr. Yoel Finkelman submitted a thoughtful but challenging reaction to an earlier piece that spoke of an anonymous Torah Voice. Others will certainly disagree, but I firmly believe that we fail in our mission if we cannot listen to tough criticism couched respectfully. We need either to refute it, or to concede and change when problems are pointed out to us. The best criticism often comes from people outside our arba amos. I hope to find the time in a few days, BEH, to pen a response, unless readers beat me to making whatever points I plan to make.]
Dear Rabbi Adlerstein,
Once again, I find myself impressed with your writing and with your recent post about the significant Torah personality who took his community to task. A young observant man, an amateur boxer and Israeli champion, refused to take part in a Shabbat weigh-in and was disqualified from an international tournament. Rather than appreciate the mesirut nefesh, some lambasted him for ever getting involved in boxing. That Torah personality challenged the community’s small-mindedness and lack of bein adam lechaveiro. He boldly insisted that God has granted people … Read More >>
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Imagine entering a nearly deserted shul one morning and seeing a fellow taking a number of dollar bills from the pushka (charity) box. Would you suspect that he was stealing charity money? Well, it depends. If the person is attractive, well-dressed, and “your type,” you will probably assume he had put a large-denomination bill in the pushka and was merely taking change. However, if it was an unsavory character, you would be quite certain that he was helping himself to some of the charity funds.
The logic that drove your thinking was coined “The Halo Effect” by Edward Thorndike, former president of the American Psychological Association, in an article published in 1920, where he described it as, “A generalization from the perception of one outstanding personality trait to an overly favorable evaluation of the whole personality.”
He based his findings on a study conducted on two commanding officers who were asked to evaluate their solders in terms of physical qualities (such as neatness and bearing), intellect, leadership skills, and personal qualities (including responsibility, selflessness, and cooperation). He discovered that once a soldier was given a high rating in his physical qualities, he was far … Read More >>
by Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz
[Editor’s note: Presumably, CC readers are not interested in sitting in judgment about events they have neither the knowledge nor the authority to judge. Many of us, however, do need to learn much more about the parameters of abuse, and the possibility of witness intimidation. A high-profile trial (with others waiting in the wing) in the frum community increases our awareness of problems with death-dealing consequences. Since I have the pleasure of speaking at times with Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, who possesses a rare blend of experience, professionalism and courage, I encouraged him to submit some reaction. He first offered to submit an original piece; when that proved impracticable for him, we agreed to post the essay he published on his own blog. Here is Part One -YA]
Many of you have asked tough questions regarding my advocacy on behalf of Weberman’s victim and I would like to thank those of you who took the time to write and ask them. From my vantage point, questions are a quintessential sign of respect; it means you considered the issues to be worthy of your time and thoughts.
Here are some of the questions … Read More >>
by Micah Segelman
Socially conservative principles and strong rhetorical support for Israel, among other factors, attract many in the Orthodox world to the GOP. While in of itself this is perfectly reasonable it’s a serious mistake, too often made, to conflate Torah values with right wing politics as a whole. While the right shares some of our values they betray others. Admittedly, with the Republican Party’s current disarray following the election and years of infighting it’s difficult to define a coherent Republican platform to evaluate. But it seems that one of the defining positions of the GOP since Obama’s 2008 election – their stark opposition to health reform in 2009 – 2010 – is inconsistent with our principles.
A Jewish society run according to Jewish law would be required to provide health care for those who can’t afford it. This is apparent from the Chofetz Chaim in Ahavas Chesed (3:3) and the Tzitz Eliezer (15:40:17). The Tzitz Eliezer writes that, “…the government, which must be concerned with the health of the population as one of its top priorities, must set aside funds …” (for more background see Noam Solomon’s “Concierge Medicine in Halacha”). The degree to which someone must … Read More >>
by Yehuda L. Oppenheimer
Much has been, and will continue to be written, about the calamity that was Hurricane Sandy. Thousands rendered homeless, millions without power; an incalculable loss of money, possessions, any sense of security. . . the full extent of the suffering is really beyond comprehension. Economists claim: “There has not been such devastation affecting so many participants in the US economy before.” That is to say, even when compared to the trauma of 9/11/2001. Although there was far more loss of life at that awful time, the calamity did not directly injure as many people as Sandy has. For the American Orthodox Jewish community in particular, I am not aware of any incident that directly affected so many with serious hardship as this hurricane. In fact, as time goes on, it seems that the impact is growing, as the scope grows larger and larger.
How do we think about such a tragedy from a theological perspective? What message is Hashem sending us with such a large megaphone? Although I claim no special insight into His inscrutable ways, it would seem that Chapters 40 and 41 of Yeshayahu are particularly germane. Chapter 40 begins with the famous … Read More >>
By Binyamin Ehrenkranz
When He finished speaking with Avraham, G-d left [him]. Avraham then returned to his place. — Gen. 18:33
Frank took me to the Oval Office (my first view of it) . Henry Kissinger was also there, with Nixon, and when the exchange had gone on for about fifteen minutes Dwight Chapin (appointments secretary and dirty trickster) entered discreetly and handed the President a note.
I instantly inferred that this was the procedure by which guests were signalled to leave, and was therefore surprised when Nixon said to Chapin, “Tell him to wait just a minute,” and resumed his conversation with me. Upon the conclusion of the point he was making, I rose and said the usual thing about how busy the President was, we all shook hands, and I left. As Frank and I walked away from the White House, he told me that I had violated protocol. “The way it works is you never terminate a session with the President, he terminates it . As long as he says nothing abortive, it signifies that he wants things to continue as they are, and the tradition is that we are all there at the pleasure … Read More >>
by Erica Brown
THOMAS ARNOLD KEMP was executed this past April through lethal injection. He stole $200 from a college student in Tucson in 1992 and then murdered him. It took seven minutes for Mr. Kemp to die. His last words: “I regret nothing.”
I have been thinking about Mr. Kemp and death and regret, perhaps obsessively. Regret incites us to review and reflect on our actions; when we miss the mark, regret generates disappointment and grief. Regret would not have kept Mr. Kemp alive. But it might have kept him decent.
Regret is an essential part of repentance in Jewish law, and, as a Jewish educator, I find myself thinking about regret each year before Yom Kippur. As part of my research into the subject this year, I handed out index cards to my students from age 18 to over 80, and asked them to list a small regret and a large regret.
Here is a random sampling.
In the small-regret category:
I didn’t participate more in school.
I am sorry I didn’t take more vacations.
I was nasty to people.
I regret not trying harder in college.
I should have paused to notice a stranger and … Read More >>
by Steven Pruzansky
The most charitable way of explaining the election results of 2012 is that Americans voted for the status quo – for the incumbent President and for a divided Congress. They must enjoy gridlock, partisanship, incompetence, economic stagnation and avoidance of responsibility. And fewer people voted. As I write, with almost all the votes counted, President Obama has won fewer votes than John McCain won in 2008, and more than ten million off his own 2008 total.
But as we awake from the nightmare, it is important to eschew the facile explanations for the Romney defeat that will prevail among the chattering classes. Romney did not lose because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy that devastated this area, nor did he lose because he ran a poor campaign, nor did he lose because the Republicans could have chosen better candidates, nor did he lose because Obama benefited from a slight uptick in the economy due to the business cycle.
Romney lost because he didn’t get enough votes to win.
That might seem obvious, but not for the obvious reasons. Romney lost because the conservative virtues – the traditional American virtues – of liberty, hard work, free enterprise, private initiative and aspirations to moral greatness – no longer inspire or animate a majority of the electorate. The notion of the “Reagan Democrat” is one cliché that should be permanently retired.
Ronald Reagan himself could not win an election in today’s America.
The simplest reason why Romney lost was because it is impossible to compete against free stuff. Every businessman knows this; that is why the “loss leader” or the giveaway is such a powerful marketing tool. Obama’s America is one in which free stuff is given away: the adults among the 47,000,000 on food stamps clearly recognized for whom they should vote, and so they did, by the tens of millions; those who – courtesy of Obama – receive two full years of unemployment benefits (which, of course, both disincentivizes looking for work and also motivates people to work off the books while collecting their windfall) surely know for whom to vote; so too those who anticipate “free” health care, who expect the government to pay their mortgages, who look for the government to give them jobs. The lure of free stuff is irresistible.
Imagine two restaurants side by side. One sells its customers fine cuisine at a reasonable price, and the other offers a free buffet, all-you-can-eat as long as supplies last. Few – including me – could resist the attraction of the free food. Now imagine that the second restaurant stays in business because the first restaurant is forced to provide it with the food for the free buffet, and we have the current economy, until, at least, the first restaurant decides to go out of business. (Then, the government takes over the provision of free food to its patrons.)
The defining moment of the whole campaign was the revelation (by the amoral Obama team) of the secretly-recorded video in which Romney acknowledged the difficulty of winning an election in which “47% of the people” start off against him because they pay no taxes and just receive money – “free stuff” – from the government. Almost half of the population has no skin in the game – they don’t care about high taxes, promoting business, or creating jobs, nor do they care that the money for their free stuff is being borrowed from their children and from the Chinese. They just want the free stuff that comes their way at someone else’s expense. In the end, that 47% leaves very little margin for error for any Republican, and does not bode well for the future.
It is impossible to imagine a conservative candidate winning against such overwhelming odds. People do vote their pocketbooks. In essence, the people vote for a Congress who will not raise their taxes, and for a President who will give them free stuff, never mind who has to pay for it.
That engenders the second reason why Romney lost: the inescapable conclusion that the electorate is dumb – ignorant, and uninformed. Indeed, it does not pay to be an informed voter, because most other voters – the clear majority – are unintelligent and easily swayed by emotion and raw populism. That is the indelicate way of saying that too many people vote with their hearts and not their heads. That is why Obama did not have to produce a second term agenda, or even defend his first-term record. He needed only to portray Mitt Romney as a rapacious capitalist who throws elderly women over a cliff, when he is not just snatching away their cancer medication, while starving the poor and cutting taxes for the rich. Obama could get away with saying that “Romney wants the rich to play by a different set of rules” – without ever defining what those different rules were; with saying that the “rich should pay their fair share” – without ever defining what a “fair share” is; with saying that Romney wants the poor, elderly and sick to “fend for themselves” – without even acknowledging that all these government programs are going bankrupt, their current insolvency only papered over by deficit spending. Obama could get away with it because he knew he was talking to dunces waving signs and squealing at any sight of him.
During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Adlai Stevenson: “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!” Stevenson called back: “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!” Truer words were never spoken.
Continue reading → The Decline and Fall of the American Empire