Sunday, June 18, 2006

What Drives a Jewish Politician?

(Probably should be called, "What Drives a Jewish Leader?")

Probably the most interesting comment on my blog concerning the weekly Parashat HaShavua out-of-sync Israel/Chutz LaAretz disengagement, came from reader Drew Kaplan. Since Shavuot, Israel and the Diaspora read different parashot every shabbat and will only resync in July. Drew commented:

Although the Jews within the land [J@TM: Israel] and the ones in the diaspora won't currently be on the same lectionary cycle, the diasporean ones get to benefit due to having read blogs and other Torah sites with parsha stuff a whole week ahead of time.

Therefore, I offer an interesting thought on Parashat "Shlach" -- what we read yesterday in Israel and what those of you in the Diaspora will be reading this coming shabbat.

Parashat Shlach starts with G-d commanding Moshe Rabbeinu to send 12 people to tour the land of Israel. And who were these people? They were the leaders of Israel -- each tribe sent a leader, a "Nasi." These leaders all saw the miracles of leaving Egypt and the revelation of G-d at Har Sinai when the Torah was given. They saw the daily miracles of the man/manna which fell daily from the sky to feed the people, the cloud pillar which lead the Jews through the desert, the traveling well, and many others.

So how could it be that they returned with such a negative report on the land of Israel? If G-d commanded them to go, how is it that 10 gave a negative and scary report, while 2 others (Yehoshua and Calev) gave such a diametrically opposed (and positively glowing) report on the land? Not content to simply announce their report before the people (imagine a press conference setting), the midrash states that these leaders then went tent to tent to personally convince the people what a bad idea it would be to cross the Jordan and enter the land of Israel.

The Zohar gives us a frightening answer in human nature as to what drove these leaders to reach such a conculsion. ( זהר, שלח, קנח ע"א, וראה בשפת אמת, שלח, תרל"ט, שמבאר שעיקר החשש של המרגלים היה שיאבדו את מדרגתם, כהסבר המובא להלן. ראה גם: מסילת ישרים, פרק יא, עמ' קכ"ב ( אורות חיים, ירושלים תשמ"ח).

What would have happened had all 12 people given a positive report?

1. The Jews would have gone directly into the land of Israel.
a. They wouldn't have wandered in the desert an additional 38 years.
b. An entire generation would not have died in the desert.
c. According to the midrash, none of the major tragedies would befall the Jewish people on the 9th of Av -- destruction of the Jewish Temples, and more.

2. The Beit Hamikdash would be built -- without the need of a temporary mishkan

3. The immediate anointing of a king.

It was item #3 that worried these leaders the most. If a king would be anointed, then these leaders would no longer be leaders of the Jewish people. Their personal leadership status would disappear, and in today's language -- they would be out of a job.

Astoundingly (or not) , these 10 leaders of the Jewish people sacrificed the future of the Jewish people for thousands of years to come, indirectly causing the destruction of both Temples and countless deaths of Jews -- all to support their own personal agenda of continuing to lead the Jewish people for the next 38 years in the desert.

All to keep their jobs.

Obviously, this isn't an indictment of ALL Jewish leaders, and there are many who selflessly work on behalf of the Klal, sacrificing much of their own freedom and family time for the sake of the betterment of the Jewish people.

Unfortunately, in the time of the spies, it was only 16% (2 out of 12) that knew how to do the right thing.

How many of today's Jewish leadership honestly serve the Jewish people selflessly, with 100% of their dedication for the good of the Jewish people and Israel? What drives Israel's Knesset Members, Government Ministers and Prime Minister? When story after story of corruption, or alleged corruption emerge, one could think that their paradigm for leadership are the 10 spies instead of Yehoshua and Calev.

When we read about the RCA and Israeli rabbinate jockeying for the pole position -- is it really a "machloket lisheim shamayim?"

When the OU leadership writes an open Op-Ed piece to Prime Mister Ehud Olmert in the Haaretz newspaper (Big hat-tip to JoeSettler who discusses this entire issue here) -- is that really about what is best for Israel as a whole? There's not one mention of the Gush Katif displaced families -- how most of them do not have real housing, welfare or employment solutions.

First the article states why the OU is a force to be reckoned with:

While a minority within the U.S. Jewish population, the Orthodox are unsurpassed as those closest to and most supportive of Israel. We travel to Israel more frequently than our less observant brethren; our children study in and emigrate to Israel in higher percentages; in participatory terms, we contribute more broadly to Israel-related charities and institutions; and we consistently poll as those most highly affiliated with Israel. We also identify closely with the settler community.

Then they demand that Olmert discuss the issues with the OU to gain their support.

No, Prime Minister Olmert must engage religious Zionist Americans directly and appeal to the community's deep commitment to Israel in the context of its modern role in world Judaism

I would like to think that the Israeli Rabbinate, RCA and OU are among the 12% that are exclusively thinking about the good of the Jewish people.

Back then in the desert the results were terrifying.

What drives our Jewish Leadership today?

Food for thought.

Jameel's after thought: If the 10 spies back then went from tent to tent trying to dissuade the Jews from entering the land, it is crucial that we do exactly the opposite today, even going from home to home, blog to blog, and actively encourage as many people as possible to visit the land, move to the land, and appreciate the report from Yehoshua and Calev: טובה הארץ מאד מאד
The Land is Very, Very Good!

Source links from here and here.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


JoeSettler said...

Strange though that the OU is asking Olmert to convince them that Jews are like grasshoppers in Israel so that we should disengage from our morasha for whatever reason. It's not even the spies going house to house, but l'havdil, the people inviting the spies to visit them.

JoeSettler said...

After watching all the aftereffects of the expulsion (and Oslo) and not jsut the homeless people, but also the Kassam missiles, isn't just a "bit" naive on the O-U Rabbis' part to think that the results of Olmert's misalignment will be any better?

kasamba said...

I love it!!!!!

I'm going to start going from tent to tent saying the same thing!

Fabulous post!

westbankmama said...

Great post Jameel. Do you know who sharvul is? I usually ignore everyone who starts off in a nasty way - and his comment on my post was unnecessarily sharp.

Irina Tsukerman said...

And I can attest to that!

Anonymous said...

The OU is setting us up for another betrayal. What are they going to do if Olmert does enagage them as per their request? Toe the line and decide once again that it wouldn't be appropriate to oppose the elected government of Israel? Believe me, if the government would decide to disengage from recognizing the OU certification in Israel, their leaders wouldn't have any problem rallying masses of protestors. Money talks to the OU, not Israeli lives.

bluke said...

R' Goldvicht has a great p'shat about the meraglim, I posted it What was the חטא of the meraglim?

YMedad said...

But there's also an Or HeChayim somewhere which refers to the need for התעוררותה דלתתא - the swelling up from below of the pressure on leaders.

Anonymous said...

dvar Torah tova me'od me'od.
Hopefully the OU IS just speaking euphemistically,but underneath is a warning.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of being impudent let me ask What Drives a Jewish Blogger?
Less than a week ago you were "flattered" to be joining a prestigious group of Jewish bloggers.
3 of the 4 you mentioned no doubt would think it a good thing if you and your family were escorted from you home. And one of those three would no doubt shed tears of joy as he did last summer when 8000 Jews were evicted from their homes. (And he assured us that Al Qaeda had no interest in Gaza.)
Why are you cozying up to people who wouldn't regret seeing you hurt?

Anonymous said...

Jameel - And in an ironic twist, Yehosua and Calev, who acted without regard for their "jobs", ended up inheriting the leadership positions (by default, perhaps, because, all the competition was dead).

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

anonymous 7:25:

Well now, that's an interesting question from left field.

If you read the "Start here" from my blog, you'll see that I started blogging during the hitntkut. And yes, it really killed me to see so many mainstream JBlogs who were pro-hitnatkut, as I was "in the trenches" trying to prevent Gush Katif...and in Chomesh.

Actually, I would like to think that over the past year I have had some influence on the JBlogosphere, albeit it minor, and perhaps even a change of thought among the "3 of the 4 bloggers" you noted.

Yes -- they may have been pro-hitnatkut last summer, but none of them danced for joy.

As for "cozying up" -- I have no problem criticizing viewpoints -- and I still offer my criticism to these blogs. Yet having friendly and civil discourse is imperative to maintaining a sense of unity, to the JBlogosphere and Am Yisrael in general.

We can even agree to disagree.

And I can promise you that none of those 4 bloggers would dance if I G-d forbid, got kicked out of my home -- or would enjoy seeing me hurt.

Why don't you ask them if you're so sure?

Anonymous said...

Tell me how you'd interpret this.
I only mentioned one of them being joyous on the occasion of someone in Yesha being forced from his/her home chas v'shalom.
Two others, I would say, would approve of such a decision. They might feel bad for those forced from their home but, in the end, they would believe that it was necessary to ensure that Israel remain both democratic and Jewish.
How would you interpret this?

My quibble is not with you. It is with them. My comment came across a lot more strident than I intended.

I'm all for dialogue and understanding. But I do think that there are those beyond the pale.

JoeSettler said...

I would reapply what DovBear said properly. The dismantling of the homes is an act of contrition and tshuva to help the rest of the nation; just like the Temple was destroyed to prevent the destruction of the entire Jewish people so was Gaza destroyed to prevent the destruction of the rest of Am Yisroel.
Of course, that's not what he meant.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

anonymous: What exactly is your problem with them? DovBear was only echoing the opinion of what many people say here in Israel. The difference is that while there are many in Israel who couldnt care less about the Jews of Gush Katif, I would go out on a limb and say that DovBear does care about them -- and probably thinks that Israel's treatment of them is horrendous. (and DovBear can correct me if I'm wrong)

What do you expect? What is sold to American Jewry as a good idea, can make perfect sense 6000 miles away. Heck, there are plenty of Jews in Sederot that think the Hitnatkut was a good idea -- and even voted Kadima.

As for Orthomom's comment; do you know of ANY Israeli MK who gets up and says publically that he wants to see an Israel from Cairo to Damascus? Even if many of us do want that, political expedience demands that we don't make comments like that if they don't really serve any purpose. There is a time to yell and scream, and a time to not say anything, and keep your mouth closed.

I am not an apologist for DovBear or Orthomom; yet what's the big deal if they have a viewpoint which differs from yours or mine? They also care about Jews, Judaism, and Israel...and forging lines of communication with them (and others) is crucial for Jewish unity.

Isolationism will get us nowhere...and it probably contributed to much needless antipathy in the first place.

Go out and talk to people! You won't convince anyone by sitting at home and moping how people are beyind the "pale."

Anonymous said...

Frankly I think that referring Jews living Yesha (or now Yesh) as perpetrating 'Jim Crow' against the Palestinians is way beyond the pale. He didn't throw out the term 'Jim Crow' accidentally. He knows damn well the implications of what he wrote. (And I don't believe that he's ever written sympathetically about the plight of the Jews who were forced from Gaza, especially since he subscribed to the cruel views of Leon Wielseltier.)

As far as OrthoMom's criticism of Hoenlein goes, I agree with you. No one would state what Mr. Hoenlein as a serious policy position. Clearly there was some nuance here. And yet she just attributes it to "right wing" sentiment. Her view is no different from that of Rabbi Blau (or Rabbi Lamm for that matter) who believe that any decision undertaken by the Israeli government is necessarily invested with some sort of sanctity. Does it matter that the right wing's critique of the peace process has been proven correct over the past 13 years? Nope. The critics are right wingers.

Yes that's more a standard American Jewish position. But does that make it right?

You're criticizing the OU (or two members thereof) for asking for an opportunity to give a Hechsher for Olmert's future plans. (Unless I'm reading you wrong.) But OU's position is conflicted. It must advocate as best as possible for Israel on behalf of its constituents but it also can't turn its back on support of Israel either. So however awkwardly Diamant and Savitsky are trying to navigate a course between these two inconsistent positions.

On the other hand you entered into a business arrangement with a number of people. One of whom views your choice of residence as utterly immoral. ('Jim Crow'.) Two others probably feel that it would be best for Israel if you were forced from your home. They might regret the human cost, but still must be convinced that you must be removed from your home for the overall good of Israel.

I'm just bothered that you give these 3 a pass that you're not giving the OU.

JoeSettler said...

I'm not excusing Jameel's behavior when it comes to accepting Leftists as suitable colleagues in Jameel’s jblog(o)sphere universe. He certainly has a point that without dialogue he has no chance of convincing others of his beliefs. (Nor would he be able to collect names and addresses so he can continue to the master of Jewish Geography).

One of the fundamental rules of negotiating though is that the negotiator usually has someone above them defining and maintaining the goals as well as firm predefined redlines for the negotiator. This is because dialogue influences both ways. (That is why Israeli negotiators always fail when negotiating with Palestinian negotiators, or in simply in defining how much water must remain in the Kinneret before an emergency is declared).

Unfortunately, we are seeing this with Jameel as of late, with his new open arms policy of accepting radical leftists as having values and principles different than his own but acceptable in the marketplace – something he would never have done before he compromised himself.

I’m afraid that I may need to step in and bring Jameel back on to the derech. A difficult and disagreeable task, though I may be the only one up for the job.

DovBear represents the position of the liberal left who will let his heart bleed dry to its last beat, but he is at least consistent (while foolish) in his views. The OU on the other hand are saying straight out, our people don’t like this Israeli policy, it goes against our traditions, training, beliefs, outlook, and everything else, but Ehud Olmert, please, please, come and visit us and tell us how to be quiet and not rock the boat for you.

That’s the difference.

YoelBA posted on my site: "Hopefully earlier rather than later diaspora Jewry will start understanding the nature of the illusion of democracy we have over here, and come to recoginize that supporting the State of Israel is not necessarily analogous with supporting the Jewish People in the Land of Israel."

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous: The JBlog ad network has zero connection between the bloggers. For more info on it, I suggest you contact Steven Weiss directly.

My main issue with the OU is -- (at best) the appearance of "Maarit Ayin". It seems from their op/ed piece that they are telling Olmert "We're an Important American Jewish Organization, and if you want us to keep quiet you had better talk to us as well."

They claim their politics are (Israeli) right wing, their constituents are right wing, are connected to settlers, the settlements and the rest of AYOSH...yet it's not clear to me at all what they are asking for. Why is demanding that Olmert speak to them so important for the future of Klal Yisrael? The point of my posting was (and is), what is the motivating factor behind the OU's op-ed piece? Was it to show Olmert that he must talk to the OU or else they will be a thorn in his side? Or was it really a message that the OU cares about the settlers in Israel and the security concerns of the country? I would hope the latter, but its not clear to me at all from their op/ed piece.

And that was the point I was trying to make -- what was the driving force behind the meraglim? Some had personal interests at heart and some had the interests of Bnei Yisrael at heart.

I'm simply questioning the driving force behind the OU's article...and the Israeli Rabbinate...and the RCA...

Unfortunately, even the most upstanding leaders have the wrong intentions in mind.

(What immediately comes to mind is Isi Leibler's incessant hounding of Rabbi Israel Singer. Is that truly a machloket lisheim shamayim?)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

JoeSettler: I think you've had one too many momopolitans to drink today.

You should take it easy when you comment - people may think you're serious.

JoeSettler said...

I was thinking of adding smileys to all my sentences so people can differentiate between
biting cynicism :#
tongue-in-cheek humor :%
outright sarcasm :{}
and deadly seriousness :|

Anonymous said...

Pardon me then on the account of arguing that you had a business arrangement with them.

I think that the OU position is more defensible than you give it credit for. And so, when former prime minister Ariel Sharon announced and then implemented his Gaza withdrawal, the Orthodox community in the United States was riven with disappointment, if not feelings of betrayal analogous to those felt by religious Zionists in Israel. At the end of the day, while most American Orthodox personally objected to Sharon's plan, most were not prepared to protest publicly out of deference to the government of Israel.

But, as has already been said by so many so often, the withdrawal Olmert has outlined for the West Bank is a much more weighty undertaking than Gaza's. Not only does it entail moving many more people and greater cost, but it is handing over the heart of the biblical homeland.

This isn't an explicit reference to the plight of the Jews forced from Gaza, but certainly refers to them.

And what I get of it is that it is warning that if Olmert decides that he must throw Jews out of their homes and he demonizes them in the process he will not get the support of large parts of the American Orthodox community.

This might be the most that the OU can demand at this time.

There is a difference of opinion in the Gemora whether or not Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was right to ask for so little from Vespasian. This may not be as clear cut as the case of the meraglim.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous: But the OU didn't request that Olmert NOT throw Jews out of their homes, nor request that they not be demonized, nor that they should be given adeqate reparations -- all they are asking is for Olmert to MEET with them!

Look, I'm acutely aware of the difficult position that those settlement-supporting US Jews find themselves in; torn between supporting the State and supporting the interests of the Jewish people (which unfortunately are not always in alignment)

The difference in the gemara's opinions concerning R' Yochana ben Zakkai do not question his underlying reasoning for the doing the right thing, but only if he asked for enough.

For example, the OU could have demanded that if Jews have to be evicted from their homes (G-d forbid), that they be treated with dignity and compassion, without the same villification and apathy as expressed by Sharon's government.

Instead, the OU chose to say, "talk to us" to ensure our support. Even if I'll be dan lekaf zechut, the OU doesn't come off looking like a powerful organization that it claimed to be (a few paragraphs earlier) -- and no one in Israel could say their "demand" was out of place.

It's common decency and what one would expect of the Jewish State.

The fact that the Jewish State doesn't always live up to our expectations doesn't mean they are free from critique.

Anonymous said...

And I see the demands for dignity implicit in the article. Talk to us doesn't just mean talk to us, it means use language that will assuage our fears that we're looking at a repeat of last year.

FrumGirl said...

to answer the question originally put forth as the header?

Ego mixed with blind ambition. Of course somewhere deep down... there was an idealist in there once.

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