The story is told of a man named Yankel whose wife had just given birth to a baby boy. All excited, he decided to share the good news with his brother Berel, a butcher.
“Berel, Ich hub gehat a yingel! (Berel, I just had a baby boy!),” declared Yankel.
“Mazal Tov!” exclaimed Berel. “Viful is der vugen? (How much does it weigh?),” he inquired.
“Ziben funt (seven pounds),” responded Yankel.
“Ziben funt, zeir shein (Seven pounds, very nice),” said Berel. “Mit di beiner? (That’s with the bones?)”
Everyone assesses a situation according to his or her own preconceptions. In politics and religion, it’s the same way. Take me, for example. I know that I judge a situation according to my own political biases, I admit.
When Bill Clinton was found to be abusing women throughout his adult life, even in the Oval Office, I wondered how the feminists and the rest of the left could continue to support him when he was the biggest debaser of women around. Yet, with our current president, when I find out that he did not exactly have clean hands in this department, I still remain supportive of him. And that is because I dismiss that part of his life by saying that’s his personal problem. As long as he is good for the country and good for the Jews, it’s not my business what he does in his private life. I did not have the same generosity of judgment for Mr. Clinton, whom I loathed politically.
President Obama lied countless times to the country. “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.” Or, “I found out about it (the IRS scandal) when you found out about it.” His many lies drove me crazy. Yet, when Mr. Trump occasionally prevaricates, I tell myself, it’s only human and it’s about small stuff, not major matters like Mr. Obama.
Last week I was in a hotel in the Catskills on vacation. So, I had time to watch a good part of the Mueller hearings. I watched, riveted to the TV set. I came away with the clear impression that Mr. Mueller was exposed as detached from his own report. It was also clear to me that the Republicans nailed him by showing that his whole report was biased against Trump in every way possible. Yes, the Democrats were able to pull out a little tidbit that showed Trump had attempted to have Mueller fired, but that was nothing compared to the way the Republicans were able to tear the whole basis of the report to shreds.
Of course, what one heard at the hearing broke down to political leanings. I saw that The New York Times mentioned next to nothing on the bias issue, and focused only on the accusation of obstruction of justice issue, while Fox News focused almost exclusively on the feebleness of Mr. Mueller and the political bias of the report.
What makes me convinced, then, that I’m right and those who disagree with me are wrong? After all, we are equally convinced of our rectitude.
Well, my yardstick is by the test of time. Let’s see what happens with those on the right and those on the left. Results. You be the judge.
- Which cities or states are more crime-free – those run by Republicans or those run by Democrats?
- Which have higher taxes and tolls?
- Which are cleaner?
- Which have better race relations?
- Which allow partial-birth abortions? Infanticide?
- Which have more homeless?
- Which respect their police?
- Which party is more solidly in support of Israel?
- Which party is more obstructionist in getting things passed?
- Which one has brought us the blurring of the lines between male and female?
- Which one embraces/tolerates anti-Semitism their midst?
- Which one tolerates lawlessness by citizens and illegals?
How did you score them? I know how I did. That’s how I know I’m right, if I must say so myself.
It’s the same with religion. Most Jews are not Orthodox. They are largely Conservative, Reform, or unaffiliated. The Reform and Conservative were as convinced as the Orthodox that their approach was going to save Judaism in America.
So how do we know which sector is right? Can Orthodoxy be right if they are so outnumbered by the others? Let’s see what time has taught. Here’s the test:
- Which branch is the most observant of their religion?
- Which is able to pass their traditions to the next generation?
- Which has the most intermarriage? Which the least?
- Which stands most likely to disappear as Jews in the near future? Which the least?
- Which sacrifice in order to give their children a Jewish education?
- Which is the most supportive of Jewish causes?
- Which is the most loyal to the State of Israel under all conditions?
It doesn’t take a genius to know how this stacks up. It only requires honesty to admit it.
There are also sobering lessons of time within the Orthodox community to assess what is the likelihood of the above issues eating their way into our homes and family without a solid Torah education. Think about that very hard.
Yes, most of us are biased in one way or another. But we have the benefit of judging by time. Pardon my slip (I did graduate high school in ’69), but wasn’t that a theme in a Beatle song (“Only time will tell if I am wrong or I am right”)?
And, boy, were they wrong!
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.