Wednesday, January 25, 2017

“In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man,” meaning “a mentsch.”

"Trump could betray Israel as easily as he betrayed Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie, who supported his campaign, only to be abandoned. Trump could “Romney” Netanyahu, courting him, encouraging expressions of fealty, then double- crossing him if Netanyahu ever disagrees with him."
Center Field: Sage advice- The Ethics of the Fathers vs. Donald Trump 
These aren’t predictions, but caveats for responsible leaders in a treacherous world, during unstable times, facing a boorish president. 
 Edited by me....
Donald Trump 
Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton could have delivered most of President Donald Trump’s inaugural address. Who disagrees that “the nation exists to serve its citizens?” Even the controversial “American carnage” line is in line with many presidents who offered “A New Deal.” Ultimately, the only thing wrong with Trump’s inaugural address was the address itself.

The speech lacked grace. Trump was who he is, the scrappy New Yorker with Twitterrhea.

The speech was supposed to transition, transform, elevating him – and us – from the political swamps to the peaks of American nationalism, history, destiny. Traditionally, inaugural addresses are like the new presidents, gussied up for the occasion in top hats and morning coats. But while you can dress Trump up, he still talks down. The new commander-in-chief remains the Twitterer- in-chief; he sits in Washington’s chair, but stews in the gutter.

Trump already needs an intervention – a kick in his Brioni pants to become a statesman.

Without grandeur, without moral authority, the president – and the nation – wither.

Reading this 1,900-year-old book ( Pirkei Avot), you’d think it was rushed into print after November 8.

The sages teach: “One who tries to inflate his reputation, loses his reputation.” A wise person “does not interrupt the words of his fellow, and does not rush to reply.... He concedes to the truth. With the boor, the reverse... is the case.” We learn that “one who is easily angered and is difficult to appease, is wicked.”

“If you are boorish and crude, you will not realize how roughly you are treating people.”

Wonder “who is strong?” The sages answer: “One who controls his impulses.” “Weak people bear down on others whom they perceive to be weaker than they are.”

The sages celebrate silence as “a fence for wisdom.” Silence “enables listening,” our rabbi notes, while “speaking less means that one is less likely to say foolish things.”

The sages advocate restraint, humility, respect, understanding that less can be more, leading through distance. Underlying this advice is the realization the Perek articulates when explaining why “keep away from a bad neighbor” that “people often unconsciously imitate the behavior of those with whom they associate” – and whom they follow.

America’s president sets the nation’s tone – his behavior is contagious, for better or worse.

Following the rabbis, Trump should have used his inaugural to mollify the millions who voted against him. He would have been secure enough to ignore Congressman John L. Lewis’s questioning of the election’s legitimacy.

And he would not have harmed his reputation by appearing so protective of it that he couldn’t “concede the truth” that more Americans attended Obama’s inauguration.

The sages’ wise if seemingly contradictory advice for Trump’s opponents suggests: “Be yielding to a leader... and receive every man with joy.”  “Be flexible and bending with a superior, who is more powerful than you.” Accepting everyone “cheerfully... is a form of respecting and honoring the other.”

Yet, “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man,” meaning “a mentsch.”
“It is especially urgent to step up in a moral crisis situation when no one is standing up for what is right. Take responsibility.”

In short, opposition should be measured too. Rage backfires; handwringing paralyzes.

“Disputes are rarely a matter of black or white,”  “Any judge who is absolutely convinced that he is right beyond question in his rulings... is either a fool or a wicked person.”

Centuries before Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, the sages understood that a social contact protects people from one another.

“Pray for the well-being of the government,” they preached; “for were it not for fear [of its power], every man would swallow his fellow alive.” All Americans must accept Trump as president – respecting authority.

This disciplined humility produces ideological fluidity, rejecting partisans’ polarizing, categorical claims. Such noble suppleness would have pro-Obama Democrats nevertheless critiquing his final, obsessive Israel-bashing.

Similarly, religious Jews weaned on these ethics would critique Trump’s boorishness, even if he supports Israel. Today’s rigid, unforgiving, haughty partisanship repudiates the sages’ modest, self-critical, mutually respectful vision.

Finally, some sage warnings for Trump’s allies – including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Be very careful of the governing people,” the rabbis cautioned. “They befriend a person only for their own interests.

They appear to be loving friends when they are benefiting from a person, but they do not stand by a person when he is struggling.”

Trump could betray Israel as easily as he betrayed Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie, who supported his campaign, only to be abandoned. Trump could “Romney” Netanyahu, courting him, encouraging expressions of fealty, then double- crossing him if Netanyahu ever disagrees with him.

These aren’t predictions, but caveats for responsible leaders in a treacherous world, during unstable times, facing a boorish president.

Ultimately, this sage advice trusts humans as creatures blessed with free will, constantly evolving, changing, choosing and, becoming “even more responsible for bringing God’s love and care to all creatures.” Could a 70-year-old amateur president with gutter instincts transcend his flaws and grow into the grandeur of his new position? Let’s hope.

The author is professor of history at McGill University and the author of 11 books. Twitter @GilTroy.



Lev Melochim byad Hashem said...

Anyone could suddenly turn on Israel c"v. Pat Buchanan was a big Israel supporter for many years until he was ausgechapped by a ruach shtuss to believe that Israel is no longer a strategic interest. And from the flipside Dick Cheney turned from a big sonei Yisroel to a big ohaiv Yisroel.

I am not sure btw that Trump was not nice to Giuliani & Gingrich. There was talk that shtellers he had in mind were not considered choshuv enough by the two. They are making big money as consultants so it would take a lot to draw them back into govt.

Trump became disgusted with Christie, and rightly so. The lying coward let a soccer mom take the fall & go to jail for him regarding Bridgegate.

Clarity said...

I never understood the sex abuse charges against Bodenheimer, until now, after reading a heated exchange that Lopin had with some Beis Mikroh alums. They were arguing ok the guy is a violent bastard but you Lopin are a fraud for claiming there was anything of a sexual nature in his behavior as well as his plea bargain. Lopin kept insisting that a reporter present for the court proceedings confirmed to him that Bodenheimer had to admit to something sexual. When they questioned whether the reporter is also dishonest, Lopin finally provided a deeper explanation that a slap on the tuchess is legally considered sexual assault.

While that may be technically true in State law, what is UOJ's opinion on an irregular slap to the tuchess in the heat of a violent fit with no apparent sexual intent ... does that make someone a sexual deviant?

Paul Mendlowitz said...

Re: Trump. I did not vote for him, but in a way I preferred him to Clinton. I did not vote for her either. The man has no loyalty to anyone but himself! Christie is a ferd, but he dumped him because of his calculation that Christie was an enemy, which may or not be true. But the others that he threw to the gutter, was because he no longer had any use for them. Mark my words, the majority of his present staff and cabinet picks, will not be there in 4 years, including Kushner.

Re: Bodenheimer. According to the people that contacted me, he was a violent maniac that physically tortured his pupils, but they were surprised that he was accused of sexual assault. That does not mean, that it did not happen, or that it did.

Anonymous said...

Lopin wrote on the same page as the Bodenheimer exchange that as of 6 months ago Leib Tropper is still receiving kibudim in his shul in Monsey. Where does he daven? Schlesinger's?

Paul Mendlowitz said...

R' Leib shlita :-) has not been in contact with me lately.

Anonymous said...

Over the summer a blogger named RTK was making noise that Tzvi Feuer (grandson of Rav Gifter), who was rosh yeshiva of Mesoras Mordechai, an American yeshiva in Beit Shemesh before it abruptly closed in 2009, was chased out of the city. RTK is not clear if Feuer was a child molester, womanizer, or both. RTK does lump him together in the same paragraph with 3 womanizers. He is also known as Tzviki Feuer.

Any truth to this story?

Paul Mendlowitz said...

What am I the molester police captain? Oh, yeah, I forgot that I am :-).

I know nothing about Feuer. (yet)

Zvi Belsky said...

One second!


How many womanizers from Telz can there be already?

Anonymous said...

Considering what I know about various Telzer scions it is no surprise that the place is so dysfunctional & only barely keeping their doors open with Rechnitz life support.

Tzviki was so disruptive in Lakewood that he was competition for the combined achim Pfeffer. His final act was a rendition in main beis medrash of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, including the guitar which he mimicked both with finger motions & vocally. Rocky Stefansky who was supposed to be his chavrusa just ran and wouldn't go near him again.

His brother was running a toilet paper gesheft out of the Irvington dorm. This is not a joke. It was geared to toddlers with animal pictures on it. But vaiss Ich nit if Belsky's father gave his hashgocho on it like he gave hashgocho to the toilet paper made by the ShabbosLamp company. It took the roshei yeshiva a long time to figure this out & get rid rid of him. What caught their attention is when Proctor & Gamble sued him for trademark infringement on their Puffs label. Then they realized why he was on the Irvington payphone instead of in beis medrash.

Another potential heir to Telz was in my opinion even weirder than this. Among other things he was going around asking bochurim a strange question after he couldn't remember his own behavior. When one bochur was smart enough to give him a clue he suddenly remembered, refusing to talk anymore. Put it this way, it is not 100% certain that this is what happened but it is highly likely that he had been calling a porno line from the yeshiva phone booths & then couldn't figure out what the number was when he got the bill.

I could go on about others too.

Lakewood said...

Never mind these bozos that once floated around the dorm.

What is UOJ going to do about CEO Aaron K acting like Fidel Castro Jr. to prohibit anyone complaining out loud about the overconstruction & traffic jams which he is directly doing through the Cedarbridge developer arm of the yeshiva? Not only have bloggers been threatened about their kids and grandkids standing in the chadorim & Bais Yankevs but he supposedly even called in Pinny Lipschutz & one of his columnists to threaten them. Yankel Applegrad's wife was screaming very loudly about this by the way for all of ONE DAY. Boy did she ever shut up very quickly being that her husband no longer works for Margo. He has been working for the last while in Aaron K's office.

Miami Vice said...

Joint announcement just issued by Rabbi Yosef Blau & Meyer Seewald:

Putz-thief David Shapiro who was JCW's CEO was arrested today by North Miami Beach Police for grand theft, identity theft & scheme to defraud, internally at JCW. His particular access to the org's money did not give him access to abuse victim files.

BDE said...


Skverrorists drive another person to their death.

Paul Mendlowitz said...