Return of the Brownshirts–the Face of Leftist Fascism

Protesters opposed to Donald Trump took to the streets of Miami on Friday. (Francisco Alvarado for The Washington Post)


Rudy Giuliani pointed out in an interview, anytime protesters block streets, as we have seen, it is only a matter of time before somebody dies because an ambulance cannot get to a hospital. If people want to protest, it must be done peacefully and on the sidewalks—and never the streets.

Yet, many arrests have taken place and the violence is expanding. The Los Angeles Times writes that the police union criticized Mayor Eric Garcetti’s support of the demonstrators. The head of the Police Union, Craig Lally summed up the problem, “When officers are being physically assaulted, when property is being vandalized, those are words of encouragement to those who intend on breaking the law.”[3]

Still and all, the essential questions I originally raised remain unanswered. Why are our leaders not condemning the violence and vandalism?

As I mentioned earlier, in Jewish tradition, it is sinful to be silent in the face of a crime,  “Whence do we know that if a man sees his neighbor drowning, mauled by beasts, or attacked by robbers, he is bound to save him? From the verse, ‘You shall not stand by the blood of your neighbor’ (Lev. 19:16).

Bernie Sanders’ remarks are undeniably real and demonstrates why Bernie Sanders is a mensch. Of all the political leaders on the Left, only he showed the moral courage to say what needed to be spoken. Sanders said one day after protesters brawled with supporters of Donald Trump outside of a rally in nearby San Jose, “Violence is absolutely and totally unacceptable…If people are thinking about violence, please do not tell anybody you are a Bernie Sanders supporter, because those are not the supporters that I want.”[4]

Surprisingly, President Obama and Hillary Clinton have yet to condemn this violence. For a man who is concerned about preserving his moral legacy as a leader, I find Obama’s moral cowardice troubling. As a rabbi, I find it equally troubling that so many of my colleagues have not condemned the rioting, though they condemn Trump’s hateful rhetoric…”

Is there a hidden orchestrator encouraging the violence? In other words, who is prodding the violence? Reuters points out that the billionaire financier George Soros and other backed organizations are fermenting this trouble.[5] Incidentally, Move, Working Families, the Advancement Project are all supported by George Soros.

According to the Washington Times (an important newspaper)  the Working Groups made this statement after Trump’s victory:

  • “Today has been a day of mourning for many of us as his toxic blend of bigotry, racism, sexism and xenophobia pose a very real threat to communities across the country and world. But we will not be defeated,” read a message from Working Families advertising the vigil. “All across the nation, people are gathering tonight to affirm to ourselves and one another that despite the outcome of this election, we will not give up.”[6]

So speaketh the resistance…. But resistance cannot take the law in its own hands–regardless how noble its followers believe there cause happens to be.

While many people are not happy with the election results, in a democracy there will always be spirited controversies and lots of dialectical tension. Let us hope that the clash of ideas remains exactly that—a clash of ideas. Our leaders should not tolerate violence or the abrogation of the rule of law, nor should we ignore it when it takes place.

[1] Kudos go to Todd Wallach, who brought this to my attention. Note the ABC News URL ends in .co, not .com.

[2] It is not listed on the Snopes fake news sites, See also





From election’s dissonance, perhaps comes a pathway



Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel

Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel

CHULA VISTA, California — After everything that has been said and done, this election will probably be remembered as one of the most acrimonious elections, full of mudslinging, accusations of improprieties, and personal attacks that our country has ever seen.

The brilliant French political thinker, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) wrote to Ernest de Chabrol on June 9th, 1831, the following famous words, “In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.”
It is an unfortunate fact that the best candidates don’t always run for office.
Neither candidate  has the statesmanship of an Abraham Lincoln, or the personal moral integrity of a Mother Teresa, or a Martin Luther King Jr. But such people are not running for office.
For better or for worse, Donald Trump is our new president. In a democratic republic such as ours, the voice and choice of the people is inviolate. I listened to the post-election speeches given by Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. Here is some of what they had to say:
  • Trump said in his acceptance speech, “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats, and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all Americans, and this is so important to me.
  • Hillary Clinton said, “Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.” Clinton, who was composed and dignified even as she admitted how painful her defeat was in her first public comments on the result of the election.
Most interestingly, President Obama’s remarks, in my opinion, were especially apropos, and maybe offered the best wisdom to leave us with:
  • You know, the path that this country has taken has never been a straight line. We zig and zag and sometimes we move in ways that some people think is forward and others think is moving back ….The point though is that we all go forward with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens, because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy. That’s how this country has moved forward for 240 years. It’s how we’ve pushed boundaries and promoted freedom around the world. That’s how we’ve expanded the rights of our founding to reach all of our citizens. It’s how we have come this far.
In a democracy, unanimity is not always desirable. If it were really the goal, what incentive would there be for new interpretive ideas? Conversely, dissent is not necessarily indicative of a communications breakdown. Dissent can be beneficial, and often leads to new discoveries and ideas. Moreover, dissent ensures that there will be some sort of accountability on the part of the originator.
Our American political system demands there be dialectical tension. No leader has the right to rule by fiat, but when we differ with the ruling status quo, there must be elasticity and a willingness to compromise, to “make the deal” as Trump is fond of saying.
The issue of Obamacare is an excellent case in point. Bright minds—regardless of one’s political proclivity—can and must reach a new consensus. Obviously, there will be bitter arguments, but this kind of dialectical tension is necessary to ensure the strength and vitality of the American democracy. To Obama’s credit, he pushed us toward a nationalized health insurance plan, but the real work on improving this plan is now in our hands.
If Trump’s new ideas lead to a dramatic reduction of our national debt, and if his plans to bring jobs back to the United States proves successful, or if his New Deal proves to be helpful in helping the black inner cities, we might realize that many of our fears were unfounded. Bringing back factories jobs will lead to a revitalization of cities like Detroit and other cities that look like ghost towns since our jobs have vanished.
Thomas Sowell is a conservative has been critical of both candidates, but his remark on Trump’s “New Deal” with the African-American community is surprising. He writes:
  • Who would have thought that Donald Trump, of all people, would be addressing the fact that the black community suffers the most from a breakdown of law and order? But sanity on racial issues is sufficiently rare that it must be welcomed, from whatever source it comes…
In addition, if Trump’s populist movement leads to term limits for all members of Congress, and the banishment of lobbyists, we will rid the country of one of the most serious problems that undermine our faith in Congress. Most of us—regardless of political affiliation—would love to see that occur.|

 In terms of foreign policy, giving support to old but recently chastised countries like Egypt, Jordan, and Israel can only make our country and Western world stronger in its battle against Radical Islam. Trump will not tolerate the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the godfather of Hamas. Their access to the White House will be a thing of the past.

Iran, Algeria, and numerous other Jihadist countries will be returned to the list of pariah nations who threaten the world with their vision of religious dystopia.
Trump often has been described as a Democrat in Republican clothing. I predict that Trump will create a feasible pathway for Hispanic integration, a Reaganesque amnesty program, while getting rid of the drug cartel criminals from Mexico that threaten the stability of the United States and Mexico.
Walls surrounding a country’s border are common in most countries around the world. Even Mexico has walls protecting its border, and in an age of terror, it is very prudent to err on the side of caution. The world at this time of its history is not ready for a borderless society, as globalists would like to see.
Every government has a “social contract” with the populace to act morally and ethically in how they treat the people.
Let us pray that President Trump will not squander the good will he has at this juncture in time.
In short, we need to give the new President-elect the benefit of the doubt. 

Samuel is spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shalom in Chula Vista.  He may be contacted via

Book Review: God and Politics in Esther-


Yoram Hazony:  Title:  God and Politics in Esther 2nd Edition. Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2nd edition (2015)

ISBN-10: 1107583454; Price $18.27 on Amazon.  Rating ***** out of 5 Stars.

Reviewer: Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel

Yoram Hazony’s exposition of the Book of Esther is priceless.  In my Judaism 101 class, everyone read a little bit from God and Politics in Esther and the discussions that ensued made the time move so quickly . . . All my students quickly ordered their copies; they are all having an exciting time discussing it with their friends.

The Book of Esther has always been one of the most enigmatic books of the Bible. The absence of God’s Name in this charming book gives it a unique distinction among all the other biblical books. As Hazony points out in his introduction:

  • When the rabbis spoke of the giving of Torah to the Jewish people, they argued that it had been accepted not once, but twice: Once at Sinai at the beginning of the Bible, and then again at the end, in the time of Esther.  (p.2).

The nexus of Sinai and Esther provides a remarkable contrast. The theophany (revelation) at Sinai is replete with what moderns describe as “special effects,” the background and sensory images overpowered the people. But the acceptance of the Torah in Esther’s time marks an absence of the Divine Presence. God is hidden, and Esther’s name intimates a very different kind of reality, Hazony argues, one where the voices of the prophets are no longer discernable:

  • Esther describes a world in which the Jews are distant from their land, their tradition, and their God . . .(p.2)

Like a master artist, Hazony describes Jewish vulnerability at this point in history, where the Jews are no longer master of their own destinies; they exist at the whim of a Persian King who with the power of a word, could decree life and death—as Queen Vashti quickly discovered. He notes:

  • In exile, the Jews must live in dispersion, their institutions weak, their concerns wandering far from Jewish things, and their politics alienated from every obvious source of cohesiveness, direction and strength.  It is clear at the outset that under such conditions, there is no possibility of freely seeking and implementing any Jewish ideal …  (p.2).

Esther reveals the fragility of the Jewish people who are a minority living in a powerful empire that can scarcely notice its Jewish subjects. The Jewish people themselves are not sure where and how they fit; their ambivalence can be seen even in how Mordechai and Esther regard their Jewish heritage by assimilating to their new home. Mordechai’s message to Esther, when she is taken to the harem, “ Just fit in!”

Most Orthodox friends I know might not agree with Hazony’s view that Mordechai and Esther were assimilated Jews (p. 1). However, a similar argument certainly could be made about Joseph, who takes on a completely new identity once he becomes the viceroy of Egypt (Gen. 41:41-45).

Reminiscent of Malbim’s commentary on the Book of Esther, Hazony points out that King Achashverosh never regarded his wife Vashti as a life partner and mate. He viewed her as  yet another, “accoutrement in his demonstration of total power: The empire is to admire her object beauty and to be impressed that the king has—as the Talmudic scholar Rav depicts Achashverosh as saying—such a “vessel” for his “use” (p. 11).

Although there is an almost surreal quality to the Book of Esther, modern readers often fail to take its message seriously. The old Jewish joke about the common theme of most Jewish holidays, “They tried to kill us but failed; let’s eat!”  But Hazony’s Esther reveals the serious issues pertaining to our people’s minority status in a superpower that would have been scarcely aware of our existence, had Haman not scapegoated us.

Haman is a descendant of the warlike Bedouin people of Amalek, and the hatred of the Jew for him comes quite naturally. In his treatment of Amalek, Hazony shows that this once ancient marauding people of the Sinai had one simple objective, namely, terrify the Israelites and strike fear into the hearts of their foes so they will not approach their land (Exod. 17:18)

  • Damaged enough in early rounds of applied terror, even the most physically powerful opponent may be made to feel that control is lost and that further engagements will bring worse—even that capitulation “and peace” are preferable to further confrontation. The most basic method of terror even today is just this: the use of applied cruelty against innocents, the more efficiently to forestall the need for military engagement.   (p. 65).

Excellent points!

Hazony goes on to develop a relevant distinction between Amalek and Israel. Amalek has no “fear of God” which manifests itself in his contempt for life; in contrast, God beckons Israel to always show a “fear of God” through reverence. By treating the widow, the poor, the resident alien along with the more vulnerable members of society—with respect, justice and with dignity, we individually and collectively demonstrate a respect for God, Who is always triangulated in every human relationship we encounter.  The absence of this reverence for God makes every conceivable evil deed possible (see pp. 67-68).

(Buber has already written much on this subject as well.)

At any event, Haman is out to get Mordechai because he fears that the King will wake up to Haman’s real goal and political objectives. Mordechai is constantly campaigning daily against Haman and manages to influence the King “to reevaluate the wisdom of relying upon Haman” (p. 186).

In the end, Esther and Mordechai succeed in raising serious doubts to the King about his loyal vizier’s hidden agenda.

Hazony makes his most dramatic point toward the end of the book:

  • Esther is written so as to ensure that the following teaching cannot be missed: God’s salvation is not a thing that exists in the world without reference to the actions of men and women. God’s salvation is emergent upon the salvation that Esther and Mordechai bring about through their own efforts in the policies of Susa. If one looks for it anywhere other than in political endeavors—for example, if one’s eye is fixed on fasting and the sackcloth—then one will still have witnessed a wonder and a miracle, for one will still see that the Jews have been spared, when the warrant for their destruction had already been sealed and delivered. But one will not have understood what this miracle was, or what is that God did for the Jews. (p. 206).

His observation is certainly true. Throughout the pages of the Bible, redemption and salvation never occurs in a vacuum. There must be human actors in every biblical story of redemption. For there to be an Exodus, there must be a Moses, an Aaron, a Miriam, a Shifra and Puah. And this pattern is visible in every story of how our people managed to survive. A thought from the Zohar captures much of Haznony’s theology succinctly and clearly, “Blessings from above descend only where there is some substance and not mere emptiness” (Zohar 1:88a). And from this perspective, Esther serves to remind us that we must do everything that is politically possible within our own means to survive and hope that God will do the rest.

Had some of our European Hassidic leaders realized this important lesson about political activism during the Holocaust, many more people might have been rescued.

France Finally Wakes up…

Islamic State terrorists routinely pose with their victims. It


“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, thinking it will eat him last.”–Sir Winston Churchill

The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy is well known. The crocodile he is referring to is Adolf Hitler. For decades, Europe had no problem sacrificing Israel to the legions of Radical Islam. Perhaps in their naivete, they believed that feeding Jews to their enemies would somehow keep the crocodiles of Radical Islam from attacking them–but you can rest assured this illusion has been laid to rest in Europe–especially after the ISIS attack of Paris.

It is surprising how a number of European ministers and leaders are speaking about the Paris attack as the beginning of WWIII. Nation states are starting to express the need for all the Western countries to get together and form a game plan on how to defeat ISIS and thwart the attempt of radical Muslims to convert Europeans to Islam. Radical Islam knows how to take advantage of our weaknesses as a society. They know that in the Western world, their speech is “protected” by the law. They also know that when they deluge us with millions of refugees, our countries will do everything to be accommodating. More seriously, they perceive a weakness and lack of resolve in our countries when it comes to fighting them.

Watching the French and Russians jets bomb the ISIS capital of Raqqa ought to be celebrated. Yet, we must ask ourselves, “Why has it taken so long?” The French attack of Raqqa would not have been possible without the information that the United States gave to the French regarding Raqqa. This raises an obvious question: Why didn’t we bomb ISIS like the French—especially since we know where they live?

The answer has a lot to do with the rules of engagement. The current Administration is of the view that no American may bomb ISIS if there is so much as a noncombatant in the area. To anyone who is familiar with the history of warfare, this strategy is not how we win wars. If the United States took that kind of attitude in WWII, the Nazis and the Japanese would have won the war.

Until this year, many people thought that ISIS was only a Middle East problem. Yet the recent barrage of Radical Islamic attacks may have finally woken Europe to the problem that it is facing, namely, as it faces the possibility of its own existential demise.

The great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides writes about how people often walk around as if they are in a trance—totally oblivious to their environment. He writes, “Awaken from your slumber and examine your behavior and change your behavior for the better.” One would have thought that the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11 would have served as such a wake-up call. As a side note, I would add that the symbolism of 9/11 equally 911 could hardly be more portentous. In our desire and wish to live in a peaceful world, we allowed ourselves to be blinded by our own delusion. Maimonides’ dictum applies no less to modern nation states.

Still, defiant and determined, President Obama and his supporters refuse to acknowledge that Radical Islam are still as virulent and dangerous as ever.  It seems to me that his reluctance to seriously engage ISIS is predicated upon the belief that he does not wish for the United States to appear as though it is at war with Islam. This would explain the non-impact our military has had on ISIS and our lack of willingness to engage this enemy has directly contributed to their emboldened spirit, which looks to expand its influence and presence throughout the world.

Of course, everyone ought to know that the United States is not at war with Islam, but Radical Islam is at war with Western Civilization and it has demonstrated that it has a mighty resolve to achieve its goal unless we make a conscious and earnest effort to prevent it.

When a person has a disease threatening his or her health, knowing the name of a disease is essential in prescribing the proper kind of treatment. When the disease has no name, everything becomes a matter of guesswork and a person can die in the meantime since the disease has no known identity.

Yet, certain politicians remain too fearful when it comes to even pronouncing the Radical Islam word, as if the name had were as unmentionable as the secret pronunciation of God’s Name, or Rumpelstiltskin.  How is our country or world ever going to defeat a determined and fanatical foe if we cannot even define who and what this enemy is?

So how can we win the war with Radical Islam? We must call it what it is. Facebook is perhaps one of the most remarkable vehicles for people from all around the world to exchange ideas in a thoughtful and creative manner. Yet, politically incorrect speech is often censored—despite the fact that ISIS, Al Qaeda use Facebook and Twitter to help attract more fanatics to their particular vision of Radical Islam.  I shudder to think how successful Hitler or Stalin might have been had Facebook and Twitter existed in their time.

Prior to Paris attack, the Europeans did not have a problem demanding labels on tomatoes, olive oil, honey, eggs, and wine coming from the West Bank of Israel. Yet, when it comes to naming the threat of Radical Islam, Europeans and many American politicians and leaders (e.g., we will not mention their names for now), are fearful of being accused of Islamophobia—the mortal sin of today’s multicultural ideologues. All of a sudden, the French and other nations are rethinking their former positions. Yes, when Radical Islamic forces explode a Russian passenger plain or shoot people in Paris  just because they happen to be having a fun time at a sports event or a theater—suddenly that AHAH moment occurs.

Let us hope that this moment of clarity leads to taking the steps that are necessary in eradicating today’s spiritual successor to the scourge of Nazism—Radical Islam. In this battle, it behooves all peaceful peoples of the Middle East together with the West to work together in solving creating a spirit of peacefulness and tolerance for all people.

If Looks Could Kill…

Much has been said about the Netanyahu’s alleged “breach of etiquette” regarding his plans to speak to Congress concerning the Iranian nuclear quest for nuclear weaponry. President Obama is obviously feels that his negotiations may (pardon the pun) “go up in smoke” if the United States imposes greater sanctions on the Iranian mullahcracy. In fact, one senior Obama advisor put it in the blunt terms:

  • “Netanyahu spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.” [1]   

Regarding “breach of etiquette,” let me point out that Obama has done this on several occasions with respect to Israel. For example, in March 2013, Israel invited the American President to speak before the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament). Past presidents such as Bill Clinton (in 1994) and George W. Bush (in 2008) politely accepted the offer while they were serving their presidency.

However, President Obama declined and chose to speak to some Israeli students from some of the Israeli universities.  Now, based on the political etiquette civilized nations demonstrate to one another throughout the year, you ought to be asking some simple but direct questions:

  • Why President Obama’s rejection of Israel’s invitation was not considered a breach of etiquette?  Not only did he deliberately slight PM Netanyahu, more importantly—he insulted the entire country of Israel.
  • Why did he choose instead to address the students of Israel?
  • More importantly, does Obama have any respect for Israel’s democratic process?
  • Why are some Jews in this country so willing to overlook Obama’s shabby behavior in Israel but are so willing to heap scorn on Netanyahu for insulting the President by speaking about a topic concerning Israel’s welfare and nuclear?

In President Obama’s speech to the Israeli students, he even made a joke about not speaking to the Knesset on Israeli television:  “Any drama between me and my friend, Bibi over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet (an Israeli comedy show”).

Frankly, I am amazed the President went to Israel at all, but while he was there—not only did he insult the chosen democratically elected Israeli leader, he snubbed the entire country.

In my opinion, this is hardly the first time the President has shown a lack of etiquette when it comes to international behavior. His conspicuous absence from the French funeral after the terrorist attack on the  French journalists and the four Jews murdered by Islamic gunmen showed  a complete disinterest in an the world community. Why do Jews in this country accept insulting behavior as if it is perfectly normal when it comes to belittling the Jewish people and Israel?

Then again, at the seventieth year Auschwitz commemoration, not only didn’t the President show up to express the importance of remembering the Holocaust and its legacy—he didn’t send the Vice President or the Secretary of State. When we consider how the Iranian mullahcracy is threatening to wipe Israel off the map in one mighty attack, don’t you think Obama’s presence alone would have sent a powerful message to the Iranians that the United States will not tolerate any threat to destroy Jews living in Israel again?

So, as you can see, I have some very serious problems with the President’s lack of etiquette when it comes to the Jewish people—and the nation state of Israel.[2]

I hope you do too.

Lastly, the President’s official promised there would be a cost exacted if Netanyahu dares to speak to Congress.

Is this how allies speak to one another?

It is time for us to have a reality check.


[2] Beyond Israel, President Obama has frequently broken the rules of etiquette in many international settings. For example, “As Barack Obama appeared in the home of Myanmar pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon of Burma, the U.S. president planted a platonic, but very affectionate, kiss on her cheek (to which she appeared to slightly recoil in embarrassment). This act has surprisingly elicited little or no comment in the global press thus far – quite unusual since public displays of affection represent a grave breach of custom in virtually all Asian countries”;  “President Obama was caught committing a funeral faux pas — snapping a selfie during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British PM David Cameron,” wrote the New York Daily News. “The threesome smiled as the Scandinavian beauty held her smartphone out to capture the moment but Michelle Obama sat at a distance, as if in disapproval of the digital display.” And the list goes on…

A Contrast in Leadership: King Abdullah and President Obama



Some of us have short memories and some of us have long memories. This writer in particular will not ignore two noteworthy events that occurred in the last six months. Both of these events involved ISIS executing its hapless captives. Both of these events present two very different kinds of responses–as different as day and night.

President Obama took to the podium and said some appropriate remarks for the tragic death of the American journalist Tom Foley.

  • They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people. So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.[1]

What happened next proved to be more important than anything the President said at the podium.  In short, if a picture could tell a thousand words, the images that ensued within four minutes after the President’s speech could fill ten thousand volumes. Within four minutes after leaving the podium, Obama teed-off and could be seen laughing with friends and fist-bumping them during a five-hour round at Farm Neck Golf Course on Martha’s Vineyard  – his seventh 18-holes in ten days.

I cannot recall a president in recent memory who was so oblivious to the pain and shock that the entire nation felt, yet the game of golf had to go on! I can only imagine the European heads of states shaking their heads in disbelief. Putin and ISIS were probably laughing derisively at our President, who forgot about the “optics” of how he looked on camera.

Yes, Mr. Obama, we know why you detest the press.

After discovering how his popularity plummeted in the next several days, President Obama reluctantly admitted, “after the statement that I made, that you know, I should’ve anticipated the optics,” he said.

The second reaction was that of King Abdullah II of Jordan to  news that the Jordanian pilot Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh, 27, had been burned alive while confined in a cage.

  • Jordan’s King Abdullah, himself a former general, angrily vowed to pursue ISIS until his military runs “out of fuel and bullets,” in a closed door meeting with U.S. lawmakers that followed the release Wednesday of a grisly video showing a captured Jordanian airman being burned alive in a cage by the terrorist army.[2]

Such resolve, such courage! Who would expect little tiny Jordan to act like the mouse who roared while the most powerful leader of the free world got upset that the world did not see him at his best.

Interestingly, King Abdullah II of Jordan was in the United States when ISIS released the video on the Internet. What did he do? The King immediately cut his trip short in order to return to Jordan to comfort the family of the lost pilot.

Can you—the reader—appreciate the difference between Obama’s and Abdullah’s reaction? I do not think for a minute that King Abdullah worried about the optics—his place was with the victims and with his people.

Winston Churchill has never been one of Obama’s heroes. When Obama first took the White House, one of the first things he did while he was in office was to remove the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and send it back to the British Embassy. The British probably felt surprised at this sign of presidential disrespect, for one never unilaterally returns a gift from a foreign leader!

In retrospect, it is not hard to see why.  Churchill once said: Continue reading “A Contrast in Leadership: King Abdullah and President Obama”

No Mas Hamas!

Ismail Haniyeh (R) with Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal


Yasser Arafat’s estate was worth almost one billion dollars by the time he had died.[1] It wasn’t because he was an enterprising capitalist. However, he did manage to take a substantial cut of money from the billions of dollars that the Western countries of Europe and the United States gave since he became the leader of the PLO.

This past week, the United States sent another forty-seven million dollars to Gaza. When a people like the Gazan Hamas Jihadists resort to using children as human shields, why should we think that the Hamas leadership will ethically care how they spend the money?

Yet, for all the suffering that has taken place in Gaza, they have a most unusual and surprising accomplishment: there are over 1700 millionaires living in Gaza.[2]

Pretty impressive, no?

How did they do it? Was it through American Express or Schwab, or E-trade investments made in the stock market? In a country that has no natural goods to sell, they have made money through the promotion of terror.

Yes, terrorism pays big dividends—even if it means the people must and will continue to suffer for the near future.

Mahmoud Abbas has declared, “Hamas is a corrupt leadership that doesn’t represent the Palestinian people.” Most of the Gazan Palestinians certainly agree with this statement. Unfortunately, they live in a mobocracy where the rule of thugs is supreme. Worst of all, the West continues to keep these people in power.

One might think the West would not simply send a blank check to the thieves who are robbing their own people. In many ways, the West has created this problem through their cowardice and stupidity.

When President Obama insists upon an “unconditional ceasefire” from the Israelis, the Israeli Prime Minister would be wise to say, “No mas, Hamas.”

What the Palestinians need is not sympathy; they need tough love. It is time for the people to take complete responsibility for their collective misery. Israel has a golden opportunity to help create a new future for the people of Gaza.

Let us do our part in telling the President, Israel must finish the job it has started. Otherwise, the next Hamas missiles  hurling into Israel will be nuclear. This time is a moment to seize a victory and put an end to the thugs who exploit their own people in a manner that would make Genghis Khan blush.

[1] Gideon Alon,; Amira Hass (14 August 2002). “MI chief: terror groups trying hard to pull off mega-attack”Haaretz. Retrieved 21 July 2007.



As the Middle East Explodes, Someone Is Asleep at the Wheel

The world is in a state of crisis.

As Americans, we do not have to look very far. Our own border situation with the influx of nearly 300,000 people entering into our country since April of this year reveals a moral and human problem of epic proportions. Our “allies” south of the border are actively exploiting the lives of so many people coming  into the Southern part of our country.

While he was in Texas meeting with Gov. Perry, one would think that the President would have gone to some of these centers to see exactly what chaos is ensuing without any specific game plan for the near future. Symbolic gestures are psychologically and morally important for people working to protect our borders. It is even good for the President to show his solidarity with the children, assuming he wants to appear as someone who is “concerned” and “involved” in solving this crisis.

As if this crisis wasn’t enough, we have the conflict that is taking place in Israel. The Jihadist consortium of ISIS and HAMAS are trying to target the Israeli nuclear reactor in Dimona.

Consider the following scenario.  The Jihadist consortium succeeds in blowing up the reactor; nuclear radiation spreads throughout the Middle East. Ironically, the radiation not only affects the Jews living in Israel, but also the Muslims living in Israel and the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, not to mention every country within the entire Middle East, e.g., Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and so on. Let’s not forget the European countries of Greece, Turkey—in fact, the entire European continent.

Stupidity, like hatred, knows no bounds.

Where is our President while all of this is happening? You might be surprised to know that he is planning his next vacation in August at Martha’s Vineyard.

By now, any logical person ought to be scratching his/her head.  How can anyone go on yet another vacation while the world is going to hell in a hand basket?  Note this is not the first time the President has gone on vacation during an international crisis.So far this year, the Obamas have spent 44 million dollars on their vacations.

Just imagine how many soup kitchens and people 44 million dollars could feed. . .  I can almost hear the ghost of Mel Brooks say, “It’s good to be king, oops! I meant to say, ‘It’s good to be the President!'”

June 14th, 2014, the President goes golfing while the Russians invade the Ukraine and the Crimea; in the interim, Iraq is falling apart at the seams as ISIS begins its conquest of Syria and Iraq, with a goal of expanding the Caliphate.

What is wrong with this picture? When Hurricane Katrina brought great devastation to the Southern part of the country, the media blamed President Bush and his administration for not doing enough to help the victims of Katrina.

Are we witnessing President Obama’s “Katrina moment”?

If our country did not tolerate President Bush’s display of apathy, why should we tolerate it with President Obama?

Isn’t time for us as a nation to demand a more attentive reaction to the tragedies occurring in the world?

The last thing the civilized world needs is a President who is asleep at the Presidential wheel.

The Power of a Handshake: When Obama shook hands with Raul Castro

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Human behavior and animal behavior resemble one another in so many interesting ways. When an animal approaches the territory of another, it is commonplace for one creature to growl or make noise whenever it perceives its space is invaded. A dog will characteristically bark whenever it hears another dog walk by its territory. Cats will hiss when a new kitten is introduced as a new family pet. Species of birds will utter their squeaky territorial song and fly directly at the intruder, chasing it way from its territory.

The fear of strangers is universal and greetings reflect the ways human beings have tried to de-hostilize someone approaching their turf. The custom of the handshake goes back at least to Grecian times in the 5th century B.C.E., as seen on a funerary stele. People believe that the handshake demonstrate that one comes in peace without holding any weapon.

Although it is a simple gesture, a simple handshake can dissolve walls of animosity that have been in place for decades. President Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro at the Nelson Mandela funeral created shockwaves in the international diplomatic community. Many pundits have criticized him for showing a gesture of respect to a political adversary of our country. This writer takes umbrage with such a narrow attitude.

The news story about reminded me of wonderful story from Yaffa Eliach’s excellent book, Hassidic Tales of the Holocaust. The story tells how a sincere greeting to a Nazi officer saved a concentration camp prisoner’s life.

  • Near the city of Danzig lived a well-to-do Hasidic Rabbi, scion of prominent Hasidic dynasties. Dressed in a tailored black suit, wearing a top hat, and carrying a silver walking cane, the rabbi would take his daily morning stroll, accompanied by his tall, handsome son-in-law. During his morning walk it was the rabbi’s custom to greet every man, woman, and child whom he met on his way with a warm smile and a cordial “Good morning.” Over the years the rabbi became acquainted with many of his fellow townspeople this way and would always greet them by their proper title and name.
  • Near the outskirts of town, in the fields, he would exchange greetings with Herr Mueller, a Polish Volksdeutsche (ethnic German). “Good morning, Herr Mueller!” the rabbi would hasten to greet the man who worked in the fields. “Good morning, Herr Rabbiner!” would come the response with a good-natured smile. Then the war began. The rabbi’s strolls stopped abruptly. Herr Mueller donned an S.S. uniform and disappeared from the fields.(*) The fate of the rabbi was like that of much of the rest of Polish Jewry. He lost his family in the death camp of Treblinka, and, after great suffering, was deported to Auschwitz.
  • One day, during a selection at Auschwitz, the rabbi stood on line with hundreds of other Jews awaiting the moment when their fates would be decided, for life or death. Dressed in a striped camp uniform, head and beard shaven and eyes feverish from starvation and disease, the rabbi looked like a walking skeleton. “Right! Left, left, left!” The voice in the distance drew nearer. Suddenly the rabbi had a great urge to see the face of the man with the snow-white gloves, small baton, and steely voice who played God and decide who should live and who should die. His lifted his eyes and heard his own voice speaking:
  • “Good morning, Herr Mueller!”
  • “Good morning, Herr Rabbiner!” responded a human voice beneath the S.S. cap adorned with skull and bones. “What are you doing here?” A faint smile appeared on the rabbi’s lips. The baton moved to the right – to life. The following day, the rabbi was transferred to a safer camp.
  • The rabbi, now in his eighties, told me in his gentle voice, “This is the power of a good-morning greeting. A man must always greet his fellow man.” [1]

There is one quote from Rabbi ben David’s book Shalom Aleichem that I really liked that the author attributed to Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein.

  • A person might belittle this simple act. He might think that nothing is accomplished by simply saying “Good Morning” respectfully to someone he passes on the sidewalk instead of looking the other way as if he does not exist. You never know, however, how much that person is looking forward to a warm greeting from another human being (p. 123).

Zilberstein is correct. A handshake and a greeting expresses more than just words, but a willingness to communicate with the Other.

The Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas has written extensively about the power of the human face. When we see a face staring at us, behind that face is a human being like ourselves that commands respect—even if that person happens to be an enemy. The power of a greeting has the ability to transform human relationships.



[1] Yaffa Elliach, Hassidic Tales of the Holocaust (New York: Avon Books, 1982) pp. 129-30.

Today’s Version of “The Wise Men of Chelm”


The Wise Men of Chelm have an iconic and legendary status in the history of Jewish storytelling. According to traditions to have emerged from Eastern Poland, the town of Chelm had a dubious reputation for being incredibly foolish. Whenever the townspeople were confronted with any kind of common everyday problem, its leaders always demonstrated a penchant for overlooking the obvious solutions. Instead, they proposed silly solutions that never worked.

Here are a few stories that illustrate their problem-solving skills:

One day, the townspeople of Chełm decided to build a new synagogue. The leaders sent their strongest men to a mountaintop to gather heavy stones for the foundation. The men put the stones on their shoulders and trudged down the mountain to the town below. When they arrived, the town constable yelled, “Foolish men! You should have rolled the stones down the mountain!” The men agreed this was an excellent idea. So, they turned around, and with the stones still on their shoulders, trudged back up the mountain, and rolled the stones back down again.


The shammes (caretaker) of the synagogue decided to install a charity box so that the fortunate might share their wealth with the needy. On Shabbat eve, he announced to the congregation that a new opportunity for a mitzvoh was available. “Not so fast, my clever friend! Surely having a charity box will prove to be an easy target for all would-be thieves! The shammesthought long and hard that night, and announced the next day that he had found a solution. Pointing upward, he showed, the poor box was now suspended from a chain at the ceiling, high, high, high overhead. “But now how do we put money in the box?”


A beggar came to somebody’s door asking for food. The host asked the man if he would like some cold chicken soup to which the man responded that he is so hungry that he’ll even have some cold chicken soup. “OK”, responded the man, “I’ll go put the soup in the ice box. Come back in a half hour, the soup is hot now.”

One of the things that are so striking about the Chelm stories is that its wise men are incredibly arrogant in their wisdom. They always take immense pride in finding unusual solutions that never work. The wise men of Chelm are stubbornly foolish and show contempt for logical and common sense solutions.

Lest you—the reader—think that the Chelmites are sui generis, think again. They exist in our halls of justice and government.

The endless debate over gun-control is an excellent example of Chelmite thinking on the part of our spineless political leaders. The recent shooting rampage by Aaron Alexis reveals a man who grappled with his own inner demons and psychosis. He had been treated on numerous occasions for psychological issues, e.g., sleep deprivation, paranoia, and anger issues. Had psychological testing been required as an a priori condition for owning a  firearm, perhaps lives could have been saved.

Personally, I have nothing against responsible and psychologically fit people choosing to own a gun for protection.

Over the last decade and a half, more and more states are starting to require psychological testing as a condition of hiring any full time police officer. Given the immense stress of the job, this decision makes perfect sense. In fact, schools across the country now require psychological testing for its faculty members. Even Wal-Mart requires psychological testing for its workers—perhaps because they sell firearms at their stores.

Now, it seems to me that the recent Washington shooting might have been avoided had the state required psychological testing for anyone wishing to own a gun. In fact, if every state required psychological testing, we might be able to cut down the number of accidental shootings, or even willful shootings that seem to occur every year in our great nation.

One cannot expect a family to recognize or, for that matter, even be willing to admit that their son may have deep-rooted psychological problems requiring professional help. In addition, I think the question of machine guns, semi-automatic weapons, assault-rifles, and similar type weapons ought to be banned except for the military or police. Private individuals do not need to act like Rambo when a vagrant is breaking into their home. [1]

In Judaism, safety is a religious concern. The Bible requires that a roof be properly gated, in order to prevent people from falling off of it (Deut. 22:8). One precept in particular is especially important, “You shall not curse the deaf; you shall not put a stumbling block before the blind, but you will fear your God; I am YHWH ” (Lev. 19:14).

This verse includes two types of prohibitions: (1) placing a stumbling block in front of the blind for sport or entertainment, (2) taking advantage of someone’s ignorance–especially for pecuniary gain. The verse stresses that a God fearing person will not take advantage of anyone for any reason.

In the parlance of Scriptures,  “God fearing,” is the biblical way of describing a moral person who acts with a reverence toward life. God-fearing also indicates that Creator and Judge of the world will hold all such offenders accountable for disrespecting human life. Authentic piety is best reflected by acts of compassion and consideration–especially toward individuals who suffer from a serious disability–whether physical, emotional, intellectual, and psychological. [2]

It is also instructive that Maimonides asserts that enabling someone to commit a crime, (e.g., the individual who offers a bribe, or offers to pay interest on a loan) violates the above biblical dictum.[3]

I would argue that we apply the same standards that exist for other professionals in our country also be applied to anyone wishing to own a gun. The time has come for the gun-lobby to start leading the campaign to protect the country from individuals who endanger public welfare. Ultimately, such a responsible move will not diminish the constitutional rights of owning a gun–but such sensible legislation will enable all of us to breathe easier.

The gun lobby has a powerful presence in our country, but even they ought to support psychological testing. Owning a gun is a responsibility, and it is to society’s interest that irresponsible people not be given unfettered access to guns that have a long history with psychosis and other psychological abnormalities.

Denying the obvious makes it clear that both our leaders in government and those defending the right to own a gun—any gun—reveal a myopic view of reality that can only best be described as Chelm-esque.



[1] Notwithstanding the biblical verse,  “If a thief is caught in the act of housebreaking and beaten to death, there is no bloodguilt involved” (Exod. 22;1), rabbinical tradition recognized early on that if a son attacked and killed his father when he broke in, he would be guilty of manslaughter. Similarly, if it was clear the thief had no weapon on his person, killing him would constitute an act of murder on the part of the homeowner.

[2] One could further argue that this proscription has a variety of other business applications restricting sellers from selling inferior or defective merchandise  (e.g., Lemon laws), not to mention products that are harmful such as cigarettes, liquor, drugs, poorly constructed toys, properties, in addition to selling dangerous weapons to individuals who are too irresponsible to properly  use them.

[3] Maimonides,  MT Sanhedrin 23:2; cf. Hoshen Mishpat 9:1. See BT Avoda Zara 6a-b; BT Bava Metzia 75b; BT Kiddushin 32a for other examples of how the Sages understood this important ethical biblical proscription.

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