By Jerome S. Kaufman, Editor/Publisher
March 2, 2014
It was time to commemorate the annual day of my Dad’s passing, as is our custom, and the rabbi was kind enough to give me an opportunity to say a few words about my Dad. I told the rabbi that I had instead prepared a commentary on this week’s Haftorah reading and he was happy to give me permission to do that.
But, I chickened out. As soon as I walked into the lunch room I realized that this crowd of 150 plus people was there for the lunch not to hear a lecture from me — especially one with which most of them disagreed mightily. Rather than embarrass the Rabbi and spoil this usual festive occasion, I just excused myself.
But, the message has already been written, is burning a hole in my head and happens to be posted just below.
My Dad was a man with simple tastes and I believe he considered his only role in life was to support his family. As far as himself, he appeared to have no desire to obtain fame and fortune. He took delight in the most simple of pleasures. Give my Dad a firm ripe tomato, a good sweet corn, a slice of ripe water melon and finally his beloved schmaltz herring with a boiled potato.
To finish this elegant meal let him sit and read his Sunday Yiddish newspaper and my Dad appeared perfectly content with his lot in life.
What dawned on me in later years was that I never heard a word of envy or resentment in his mouth. He did not begrudge some one’s else bigger home, shinier car, greater fame and fortune. There was never any denigration of the wealthy or the successful.
Which brings us to this week’s Haftorah portion, Shekalim, that I chanted to the congregation in Hebrew to commemorate My Dad’s passing in the Jewish Leap Year Adar II 1, 5722, one month after his third grandchild was born.
Shekalim refers to the 1/2 Shekel coins that the Israelis were required to donate once per year. Their main purpose was to purchase communal sacrifices to atone for their sins.
What always struck me about this custom was the stipulation that all men, rich or poor, contributed the same 1/2 Shekel. The wealthier man was not punished. He was not asked to put in more money. He was not penalized for his success or good fortune.
Hashem (G-d) seems to have taken a similar approach in the Torah reading four Shabbats ago called Parsha Terumah. He ordered the Israelis to build a Temple to contain his spirit, his holiness. His recommendations for the construction were most exacting and luxurious. But, when it came to asking contributions from the Israelis, he again did not punish anyone because of their riches, their position, their supposed ability to give.
Instead, God spoke to Moshe, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, and have them dedicate to Me a contribution. Take My offering from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity.” Not from how much he might have in stocks and bonds or cash under his bed but what he wanted to give from his heart.
You may know that I publish a blog called Israel Commentary. Anyone can subscribe to it. Just type the two words “Israel Commentary” into your search engine, whether it be Google, Google Chrome, Yahoo, Firefox, whatever and it is usually the first item found at the top of some 79 million plus articles using those words.
On February 3, 2014, I published an article from the Wall Street Journal by the brilliant Ruth Wisse, professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard university and an astute political observer.
Professor Wisse called the article, The Dark Side of the War on the 1%.
Professor Wisse commented on the Obama Administration and Democratic Party’s deliberate focus on class warfare, the re-distribution of wealth and the virtual punishment of the wealthy, the successful, the top 1% of the population.
She went on to describe the frequent connection between Class warfare and anti-Semitism. Professor Wisse warned that stoking class envy is a step in a familiar, dangerous and highly incendiary process. The perfect example is of course, Adolph Hitler. She described this political gambit as a very slippery slope that can result in awful consequences. Who should know that better than the Jews?
Who is automatically included in the minds of some non Jews with this War on the 1%? Of course, we the Jews are and, if you remember those sick people in that awful Occupy Wall Street fiasco creating a disgusting blight right in many of your own back yards, Jew hatred was on the tip of many of their tongues but, of course, not reported in the left wing press.
And, now at this very moment, the Jew haters have plenty of evidence in their own sick minds, of the Jews apparently controlling this country. The last three chairmen of the Federal Reserve have been Jews; Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and now Janet Yellen. Also the Treasury Secretary (Jack Lew) is Jewish.
Never mind the fact that American Jews have their share of citizens living well beneath the poverty level. That fact never gets in the way of the mind set of the Jew haters.
Unfortunately, Professor Wisse goes on to say, if and when the economy drops like a lead balloon, it will be the Jews who will be, Hashem forbid, blamed and a very easy target.
The irony is that the majority of Jews still vote for the party and the administration espousing and promoting class warfare and punishing by every means possible the 1% — those people that have always been most responsible for this great country’s success.
Hopefully one day, very soon, the Jews will open their eyes to their own uncanny ability to self destruct and re-think their voting habits.
Jerome S. Kaufman (Yaacov ben Shimon)