September 8, 2005

by Reb Yudel
Edah and Brain Death; or: Quck, someone pull the plug!

Hmmm. Maybe Rabbi Tendler is right, that Edah is full of lies. I'm going to do a bit of fisking of What Edah Wants Us to Learn from Katrina, an oped distributed by Edah and written by by Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, the spiritual leader of Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem in Montreal, Quebec, and is a member of Edah's editorial board.
The images of suffering are overwhelming. Watching TV coverage of Hurricane Katrina, you can feel the anguish of the victims of this awful disaster. An unpredictable confluence of circumstances brought about a "perfect storm" that killed thousands and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Katrina is a true human catastrophe.

As unpredictable as this hurricane may have been, the human reactions to it are all too predictable. Immediately, there is finger pointing. On the political front, President Bush is blamed for a variety of failures ranging from a slow response to the disaster to having caused the global warming which lead to the hurricane. Religious authorities with agendas of their own come to speak in God's name and blame the catastrophe on their opponents.

Thank you, Mr. Canadian Rabbi, for spreading the President's lies. Storm was predictable. Bush promised that keeping Americans safe was his highest priority.
These finger pointing explanations are not only deeply flawed, they are also deeply insensitive. The Talmud says that anyone who gives a grieving person an explanation that the victim's sins caused his own suffering has violated the prohibition of verbal abuse.
Look, Chaim: Don't conflate blaming the victims -- as done by many government officials -- with blaming the perpetrators. When I see Bush grieving -- over a single goddamn thing -- I'll ease up on him for a bit. I've spent too many of these past five years grieving -- for neighbors orphaned, for local national guardsmen going off to fight a senseless, unwinnable war, for my wife's home town destroyed and babies and grandparents left to die by an unfeeling, lying government -- to care for the heartless, brainless, cowardly man in the White House.

Really, Chaim, if you feel so much for him, maybe we can swap citizenships. Because I would really love to be in a country whose government doesn't seem intent on waging a war on its people.

As you proceed to quote Rav Soloveitchik, I have to wonder: Were you ever in the Rav's class?

Because I was a student of the Rav, for a few months, in his final semester. And having been a student at the end, when the requirements for admission to the Rav's shiur had been greatly relaxed; and having been the least studious and serious person in the class, I have always assumed that for all of the decades that the Rav held court, that I was the most sorry excuse for a student he ever had.

Until now.

To R. Solovietchik, the real question that has to be asked is: How do I respond to tragedy? Our obligation in the face of a catastrophe is to act: to comfort and aid those who have suffered, and to use human creativity to prevent future catastrophes. The only Jewish response to tragedy is to restore human dignity and rebuild the world.
Amen to that, brother. But alas, in your final conclusion, you prove either your total ignorance, or you total submission to the Party slime machine.
The response to this tragedy is to join hands in rebuilding the world, rather than point fingers. The most important lesson of any large scale disaster is the commonality of all human beings; we have all have the same vulnerabilities and the same aspirations. Most importantly, we are all created in the same image of God. It is up to us to learn how to live together as brothers and sisters, and help each other with their burdens.
Where to start?

If we're going to quote the Rav: Well, the Rav was not known to suffer fools gladly, the age and disease-induced mellowness that enabled me to garner a few crumbs of wisdom from him excepted. I can't imagine him tolerating George Bush. He ridiculed Reagan as a Pharoah-like, out-of-touch figure -- and American citizens and American cities weren't dropping like flies on Reagan's watch.

Might I suggest that if you wish to restore human dignity, the response of those of you north of the border should not be to defend the callous caliphate in Washington, but to petition your own government to invade the United States and try President Bush for crimes against humanity?

Might I suggest as well that the rule of malchut harasha is a perpetual rebuke to malchut shadai, and that any efforts of tikkun olam which do not involve a renunciation of malchut harasha -- which is to say, that Caesar who fiddled while his people starved -- is as hollow and empty as the fasts for which our ancestors were rebuked?

Can there be any tikkun olam which ignores the command of m'dvar sheker tirhak -- and can there be any courage when one fears to speak truth to power, and to call a tepid, cowardly, callous response what it is?

How can we think of "rebuilding the world" when the government that has watched as two cities were destroyed stays on, putting all of its powers in defending its image and lies and none in help the people?

Edah boasts of "the courage to be modern and Orthodox." Let me tell you, buddy, it takes no courage to follow the modern Party line of Orthodox fidelity to the latest Party propaganda points, and decide that the Dear Leader is above criticism, that it's not his fault, and that the Great Leader loves each and every one of us.

But, yea, verily, it is as the Torah taught us you many centuries ago: ad matai ha Edah harasha hazeh.

Harachama hu y'varech et midinatenu arzot habrit, v'yagen alehah m'oyveiha, sareiha, v'hanifei sareiha. TrackBack

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