The story is told of a preacher in a farming town in the Midwest. The preacher addresses the captive crowd on a Sunday morning and quotes from the Ten Commandments.
“Thou shalt believe in G-d your L-rd!” exhorted the preacher. “Amen!” shouted the audience. “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother!” “Amen!” applauded the crowd. “Thou shalt not bear false witness!” Again, another loud “Amen!” “Thou shalt not steal!” “Amen, Amen!” came the raucous reaction. “Now that includes your neighbor’s chickens,” the preacher added. “Hey preacher, now you’re meddling!” responded the annoyed farmers.
So often, people embrace lofty ideals until they realize, “Wait a minute! That might mean I have to change something.”
That is especially true when calling for unity. Who could be against it? It scores many points to call for unity. But the moment the realization hits that it means that changes will have to be made on all sides, that compromises will have to be reached, the call for unity suddenly fades. In other words, the way unity works is like this: “Let’s have unity… Just do it my way!”
This is what happened at President Biden’s inaugural address last week. His lofty rhetoric, in which he called for unity throughout the country, and in which he promised, “I will fight even for those who did not vote for me,” was greeted by the media with great adulation. Biden is marvelous, so different from the president before him – after all, he called for unity!
Very nice indeed. Except that within hours, he signed about 17 executive orders, most of which were a poke in the eye to half the country that voted for Trump. Some unity. Not to mention, of course, the looming impeachment of the former president – a great unifying and purposeful venture.
One of those executive orders called for gender equality in all areas including bathrooms and sports competition. That means that there cannot be enforced gender separation of bathrooms; and if a male decides he’s female, without any documentation, he may compete in women’s athletic competition.
Think about it. If you walk into a public bathroom and a member of the opposite gender is present, you must accept it. Parents will not be able to object to a man using a woman’s bathroom in their daughter’s presence. If a man decides to compete as a female in, say, a women’s relay race, he may do so. Nice unity, no?
So far, besides the Coalition for Jewish Values, I haven’t seen any major religious organization, Jewish or non-Jewish, object to this madness. And wait till they try enforcing this in our yeshivos and day schools. Coming soon to a theater near you.
Remember how Donald Trump was heavily criticized for not “following the science” when it came to COVID-19, climate change, and other issues? Tell me, where is the science that a person, with all the DNA markings of a male, can simply be declared a female at will? Is there any scientist willing to go on record to confirm that?
But there is a silver lining. We now have a shred of hope for our hapless New York Knicks. Let the entire team declare itself female and compete in the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association)! Maybe they’ll win a couple of games. Or maybe not. Some of those women are tough competitors. But it’s worth a try.
We are living in the world of Bizzaro, where up is down, down is up, the truth is a lie, a lie is truth, good is evil, and evil is good. But not to worry: The media will have us believe for at least the next four years that we are living in bliss, even if the country disintegrates.
It would be wise to follow the true practitioners of unity, Hillel and Shamai. These two giants were heads of major Talmudic academies about 2,000 years ago. They battled halachic issues throughout the Talmud. In one issue, concerning levirate marriage (yibum), it emerged that as a result of their dispute, the children of the disciples of each side in the disagreement would possibly be considered illegitimate by the other. Yet the Gemara (Y’vamos 14b) tells us that regardless of the serious implications, the students of Shamai and the students of Hillel did not hesitate to marry their children to each other. They followed the words of the Prophet Zechariah (8:19): “For they loved truth and peace.”
To that, I say: Amen!
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.