This past week, the Torah community suffered some immense losses. Rabbi Yaakov Busel, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yaakov Yosef (RJJ) in Edison, New Jersey, was niftar early last week. Then, on Friday, the Poseik HaDor in America, Rav Dovid Feinstein, was niftar. On Shabbos, we suffered the loss of former British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, one of the great thinkers, writers, and orators. It was too much for us to bear.
It seems almost sacrilegious to discuss politics at this time; it’s like mentioning a baseball score in the middle of a funeral. But this was not a usual week of politics either. The fate of the country, the Jewish people, and the State of Israel were in the balance.
As of this writing, the apparent victors in the presidential race are Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. To those of us who learned to love and appreciate President Trump, warts and all, to say this is a disappointment is a huge understatement.
One of my sisters in Israel sent me a text message over the weekend stating, “President Biden?! Are you kidding? You are more than welcome to move to Israel.” I texted back that we need to consider moving to Israel for all kinds of reasons. But I’m afraid that the material difference between Trump’s presidency and Biden’s will be felt more in Israel than here.
In America, the issues are mostly social and economic. In Israel, it’s survival. Trump was without question the best president Israel ever had. He defunded the PLO, defunded Pay for Slay, moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, was an uncompromising champion for Israel in the UN, and created the broadest and most sweeping peace deal in the Mid-East. Arab terrorism in Israel dropped dramatically. For those of us who love Israel, it was a dream come true.
Biden, on the other hand, wants to restore funding to the PLO, look the other way with Pay for Slay, revisit the disastrous Iranian Nuclear Deal, and plans to return to the failed idea of the Two-State Solution, which sounds great on paper. That is exactly why Democrats, who live by slogans and sound bites, are for it. But Trump, ever the non-politician, knew better.
Biden also put on his “to do” list for his first day in office, an end to Trump’s travel ban from countries harboring terrorists. That means, G-d forbid, that America could look like France, with the uptick in anti-Semitism throughout the country.
In Mishlei (Proverbs 27:21), King Solomon tells us, “A refining pot is for silver, a crucible is for gold, and a man according to his praise.” Rabbeinu Yonah, in Shaarei T’shuvah (Chapter 3:148) understands this to mean that a man is assessed according to whom he extols. If he praises good people, that speaks well of him; if he extols evil people, that speaks poorly of his own values. By the same token, it is also worth noting who extols a person. That should tell you much about that individual.
Who is extolling Biden? None other than the wicked “Squad” of AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Presley. They are chomping at the bit to get the next administration going. It should tell you a lot about what Biden represents. Please do not tell me that white supremacists were pushing for Trump. Whether true or not, remember that they are not elected officials in their party, and certainly not embraced by Republicans.
There are three men from Queens who have been big critics of Trump and supporters of Biden: one a current rabbi in a nearby community, one a retired rabbi now living in Israel, and one a columnist for this paper. I guess they are now clinking their wine goblets in a big “L’chayim!” and even have a kohen amongst them to lead the m’zuman (I do not mean Rabbi Oppenheimer). I hope they are very satisfied with what they have helped accomplish.
One of the scariest political results of this election is the question why a candidate needs to cater to Jewish interests. If he is a Republican like Trump, and before him D’Amato, no matter how good you will be to the Jews, they will not abandon the Democrats. If you’re a Democrat, why bother catering to them, since they’ll vote for you anyway? The only difference would be in a heavily Orthodox community, which does vote based on Jewish values and interests.
Although it ain’t over till it’s over, it will take a miracle to reverse the election results. It will take an even bigger miracle to reverse the trends in society today that let this happen. It is difficult to grasp why a president so benevolent to the Jewish People did not coast to victory, and why so many Jews do not care as much about themselves as they do for all their liberal causes.
In the final analysis, we live by our bitachon, our faith. Again, in Mishlei we are told, “The heart of a king is in the hands of Hashem.” If Biden and Harris prevail, we know their hearts will be under the control of the Ribbono Shel Olam. Without that core belief, we are living in a world that we cannot fathom.
May the z’chus of the aforementioned who passed last week serve to enhance Hashem’s mercy on His people here on Earth.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.