Canada, Judaism - General, Judaism - Pluralism, Politics

Steven Harper could learn a lot at Yeshiva

To those who, in the upcoming election, might be compelled to base their vote on their religious affiliation:  If you are intent again to use a theo-political issue to trump your vote. (certainly, the Tories have done and are doing everything they can to convince you that this is a good idea), perhaps, first study some Midrash:

“Moses said: ‘I know that the Israelites are malcontents. Therefore, I will audit the entire construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle)’. He began making an accounting: ‘These are the records of the Mishkan’ and he began reporting everything, the gold, silver and bronze, and the silver of the public census… He continued reckoning each item in the Mishkan in order, but forgot 1575 shekels from which the hooks on the pillars were fashioned, but which were not generally visible. He stood bewildered and said: ‘Now they will lay their hands on me, saying that I took it’, and he went back to recalculate. Immediately, God opened Moses’ eyes and showed him that the silver was used in the hooks on the pillars. He began to reply to them, saying: ‘and 1575 were fashioned into pillar hooks’ and the Israelites were immediately appeased. What enabled this? The fact that he sat and made an accounting…

…But why did he make an accounting?… It is only because he heard the cynics talking behind his back, as it says ‘And when Moshe left…they looked back at Moshe’. What did they say? R. Yitzhak said that people spoke positively. Then others would chime in: ‘Imbecile! He’s the one who controlled the entire enterprise of the Mishkan… gold and silver that were not counted, weighed, or numbered! Wouldn’t you expect that he be rich?’ When Moshe heard this, he said: ‘My word! When the Mishkan is completed, I will make an accounting’, as it says ‘These are the records of the Mishkan.’”

-Midrash Tanchuma, Pekudei 7

What’s going on here?

In short, the Midrash is teaching us that the fiscal cost of the Tabernacle – as a public project funded by the taxes of the Israelites – must be entirely accounted for in an open, transparent, and accessible way.

It’s also teaching us that Moses – as leader of the people – is answerable to the people. Even Moses, who speaks to God face-to-face in a way that no others do, must still face the people.

In a broader sense, it speaks about the virtue of transparency among leaders and the need to be open and answerable to the public.

Stephen Harper could learn a lot from Moses.

An egregious lack of transparency and accountability related to the purchase of military aircraft is exactly what led the Conservatives to be censured for Contempt of Parliament this past week. Of course, anyone with their finger on the pulse of Canadian politics knows that this specific issue is part and parcel of a greater patten of behaviour on part of the Tories; one that paved the way to the landmark ruling by (famed non-partisan) Speaker of the House Peter Milliken.

Certainly if we Jews acknowledge that Moses was expected to be held accountable to the people and to act transparently, we should bestow the same criteria upon Mr. Harper. Certainly if our Midrash teaches us the virtues of un-opaque leadership, we should value that in our national leader as well.

It is challenging for me to view how Harper and the Conservatives can be painted as an honest, transparent, accountable, and open government. Sure, there have been individual instances when they acted reasonable on these grounds. But the story of the Tories – as any learned political observer will tell you – is one of secrecy, opacity, avoidance of responsibility, centralized power, and tight-lipped relations with the Canadian people.

So to the Jews who will likely vote for the Conservatives on the grounds of their supposed dominance of the “support for Israel” (whatever that means) issue: if you value our rabbinic instructions as much as you value the Conservative’s platform (which, remember, didn’t exist when you voted last time…), perhaps you should reconsider the value of your vote.

P.S.: Not convinced that the Tories have a national Jewish-vote buying strategy in place? It isn’t just happening in Thornhill, it’s also taking place down the 401 in Montreal’s Mount-Royal riding.

Israel

Worth Repeating: To the Westerner who “understands” the terrorist

To the Westerner who “understands” the terrorist:
By Bradley Burston

Spare us the explanations.

Spare us the learned, sociology-drenched justifications.

Spare us the reasons why you “get” Palestinians when they gun Jews down in cold blood.

Spare us the chapter and verse on how the plight of the Palestinians is at the root of Islamic terrorism the world over, and if the Palestinians were to receive full justice, Islamic terrorism would pass from the world.

Spare us.

You may well believe, with the blind faith of the hopeful and the fear-stricken, that when these people are through with the Jews, they won’t come for you.

Think again.

Spare us the post-modernism and the radical chic and the guff.

Open your eyes.

When a gunman walks into a Jewish religious seminary at the main entrance to that part of Jerusalem which has been Jewish since 1948, and which was stolen from no one, pay attention.

When he opens fire on religious students hunched over books in a library, firing and firing until blood soaks holy book bindings and open pages of Talmud and the whole of the floor, pay close attention to the reactions of the self-styled people of faith who run Hamas.

Spare us the conclusion that the only reason Hamas kills Jews, and that its underlying motive for encouraging others to do the same, is to force Israel to agree to a cease-fire.

Spare us the “Israel’s policies are responsible for the bloodshed” and “the seminary is, after all, an ideological bastion and symbol of the religious right” and all the other scholarly, arrogant, condescending and amoral ways of saying “they had it coming to them.”

Spare us the understanding for the motivations of the mass murderer who kills with God on his lips. Spare us the understanding of the words of the Hamas official who says that after all the Israeli killings of Palestinians, the Jerusalem killings are “our only joy.”

Spare us the sight of the thanksgiving prayers for the great victory, prayers that began in Gaza City mosques just after the slaughter of the Jews. Spare us the sight of the sweets being handed out by little children to motorists in passing cars in the Strip, sweets to celebrate the young Jews dead on the floor, the young Jews dead at their desks, the Jews killed for the crime of being Jews in that place of study and worship.

Spare us the righteousness of those who condemned Baruch Goldstein for entering a holy place with an assault rifle and murdering Palestinians, but who can understand why a Palestinian might do the very same thing,

Open your eyes.

Last week, when Israeli forces drove into Gaza, and some 120 Palestinians were killed, many of them were gunmen, but with children making up another sixth of the total, one grieving father spoke with quiet eloquence, saying “Other places in the world, when this happens, there is a great outcry. When this happens here, the world is silent. No one cares.”

He’s right. The world has grown content to let Palestinians die. The reason is not simple callousness. And it is not, as Hamas proclaims to its followers in Gaza, that the Jews control the world media and world finance, and thus Western government as well.

The reason is terrorism.

The world has grown weary of the Islamist’s creed, that only the armed struggle can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that the only proper resolution is the end of Israel.

Even the Israeli left, which for decades championed the Palestinian with courage and determination, has, in large part, had it with the Palestinians. The reason is terrorism. The reason is murder. The reason is that the rulers of Gaza are people who see an intrinsic value in the killing of Jews for the sake of increasing the number of dead Jews in the world.

The rulers of Gaza cannot bring themselves to accept the concept of sharing the Holy Land with the Jews.

The best that the rulers of Gaza can do, is to bring an end to hope among their own people and ours as well.

They believe that the Jewish state is temporary, and that they Jews will soon abandon it to Islamic rule.

After all this time, you’d think they’d know the Jews a little better.