The story goes of a man walking down the street when an old Jewish beggar comes to him asking for a dime. The man looks at him in astonishment and says, “Why, you’ve come to me not more than five minutes ago and I gave you a dime then!” The Jew then responds, “Mister, stop living in the past. That was then. Now is now!”
Someone forwarded to me a video clip of our good Senator Charles Schumer addressing Georgetown University in 2013, and in forceful terms reads his statement condemning illegal immigration. Among other things, he said, “We dare not call the illegal immigrants ‘undocumenteds’; they are ‘illegals.’ Calling them undocumented sends the wrong message and displays a callous disregard for American law.” He went on to say how necessary it is to control the borders.
What a difference a president makes. The moment Donald Trump became president, it became disgraceful to refer to the illegal immigrants as illegals. They immediately became “undocumenteds.” The illegals crossing the southern border of the United States became our latest victims and our newest heroes. Border walls, which had been hailed by Schumer, Pelosi, and Nadler, suddenly became a racist enterprise.
When Trump was president, the entire Democratic machine and its media army jumped all over the Republicans for creating “cages” for the illegals and separating families. Now that Biden is president and swarms of illegals are teeming across the border and leaving countless children wandering aimlessly, aside from Fox and an occasional whimper from the press, the reaction is... nada.
Vice President Harris was given the assignment of addressing the border crisis, yet to date she has not even visited the area.
To call this hypocrisy demeans the meaning of the word. It is a brazen double standard and with absolutely no shame. That Senator Schumer has not been hounded because of this is testimony to the duplicity of the left and its adoring media.
Can you think of anyone more loathsome than Hunter Biden? He admits to all sorts of sordid unspeakable behavior. Yet he writes a popular book about his escapades and is a guest on the late-night talk shows. The poor sap is viewed as some kind of victim. The Trump children, on the other hand, are family people and successful in their own right. Yet they are considered a third rail and verbotten by the elites in society.
That there is hypocrisy across the political landscape is no surprise. The problem is there is no bushah, no sense of shame. In this past week’s parshah, Sh’mini, Rashi (9:7) makes note of the fact that Aharon the High Priest was hesitant, due to his modesty, to begin the inaugural service of the Sanctuary (Mishkan). His brother Moshe prodded him and said, “Why are you bosh, hesitant? This is what you were chosen for!”
One of the commentaries explains that Moshe was not telling him to get over his reticence. He was telling Aharon that it is precisely due to your reticence, your sense of shame, that you were chosen to lead the services. A true spiritual leader needs to have a sense of bushah, or humility.
Politicians, most notably on the left, have no sense of shame. No guilt. They operate with impunity. They do what’s best for political expediency. Yesterday I was against illegal immigration. Today I am for. Yesterday I was for family values, today I’m against. Yesterday my political opponent called me a racist, now I call others racist. No bushah. No problem. I need not worry that I will be called out for it.
Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL calls for the firing of Tucker Carlson as a racist and anti-Semite because of a right-winged position he took. The charge was ludicrous. Yet the ADL says nothing about real anti-Semites like Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, or Linda Sarsour. Why? Because they are coming from the left. Who’s calling out the ADL for not being able to objectively combat anti-Semitism wherever it surfaces?
We are not guiltless either. Last week I wrote an article, “Validate Culture.” I argued that it is counter-productive to cancel culture. Our own experience has been that if we learn from our hurtful experiences instead of canceling them, we will be better off for it.
A few nights after the article appeared, I received a call from a friend who said he had a “bone to pick with me” about that article. I couldn’t imagine what his “bone” would be. It was one of my less controversial articles. Not much to disagree with.
But he explained. He referred to a certain rosh ha’yeshivah who had a close relationship with Rav Kook zt”l in his younger years. In the first sefer that the rosh ha’yeshivah authored, he had a haskamah (approbation) from Rav Kook. In later years, when anti-Zionist forces became more influential in certain circles, Rav Kook’s name was removed from the sefer. “You see,” said my friend, “we also cancel culture we don’t like.”
My friend is right. It does happen. Take, for example, not publishing pictures of women in many Orthodox publications. It’s one thing to say it’s a standard that we need to follow today. That can be debated. But to say it was never done in chareidi circles? Not true! And we have the pictures to prove it.
There are certain t’shuvos in classic s’farim that have been excised or edited over the years because they did not conform to current practices. A disturbingly accurate book on this phenomenon was written by Marc Shapiro a few years ago, Changing The Immutable (Litman Library, 2015).
The bottom line is reinventing history is harmful for everyone. We must keep to core values. Yes, values can evolve, but we cannot become tailors and create whole new cloth to cover that which defined us in the past. The past is precious. Do not redesign it. Certainly do not deny it.
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.