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Who Would Abraham Vote For?

A Palace in Flames

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

    3637 views
  • October 30, 2020
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  • 12 Cheshvan 5781
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Class Summary:

Trump and the World - A Palace in Flames

Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein in the loving memory of Alta Shula Swerdlov. And in the merit of Yetta Alta Shula, "Aliya," Schottenstein

The Genesis of a Faith

How did the Jewish faith, the father of all monotheistic faiths, begin?

The Midrash (in this week’s Torah portion) describes the birth of Judaism with the following cryptic parable:

G-d said to Abraham, “Leave your land, your birthplace, and your father’s house.” To what may this be compared? To a man who was traveling from place to place when he saw a palace in flames. He wondered, “Is it possible that the palace has no owner?” The owner of the palace looked out and said, “I am the owner of the palace.”

So Abraham our father said, “Is it possible that the world lacks a ruler”?  G-d looked out and said to him, “I am the ruler, the Sovereign of the universe.”

Abraham is the first Jew. His bewilderment is clear. This perceptive and sensitive human being gazes at a brilliantly structured universe, an extraordinary piece of art. He is stirred by the grandeur of sunset and by the miracle of childbirth. He is in awe of the respiratory system and of the bee dance when returning to the beehive from lunch. He marvels at the roaring ocean waves and at the silent, steady heartbeat of the human heart. Observing the ecosystem, and the structure of the brain, he grows ecstatic. The world is a palace.

But the palace is in flames. The world is full of violence, bloodshed, injustice, and strife. Liars, thugs, abusers, rapists, terrorists, and killers are continuously demolishing the palace and its royal inhabitants. Innocent people are hurt; dissidents are tortured. Human life, in many regions, has no value.

What happened to the owner of the palace? Abraham cries. Why does G-d allow man to destroy His majestic world? Why does He permit such a beautiful universe to go up in flames? Can G-d have made a world only to abandon it? Would anybody build a palace and then desert it?

Some resort to easy answers. Some suggest that the palace has no owner. The entire palace is a product of random mutations. Others deny the reality of evil. It is all a delusion. In the next world, all will be good.

But the first Jew rejected both of these perspectives. Abraham knows this world is a brilliant palace, and he is perturbed to his core by the evil he encounters. 

So “The owner of the palace looked out and said, ‘I am the owner of the palace.’ G-d looked out and said to Abraham, ‘I am the ruler, the Sovereign of the universe,’” the Midrash records G-d’s reply. Britain’s former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks presented this compelling interpretation of G-d’s response.

Where Is Man?

Note that the owner of the palace does not make an attempt to get out of the burning building or to extinguish the flames; he is merely stating that he is the owner of the palace going up in smoke. Why did he not leave the mansion? It is as if, instead of racing out, the owner was calling for help. G-d made the palace, man set it on fire, and only man can put out the flames. Abraham asks G-d, “Where are you?” G-d replies, “I am here, where are you?” Man asks G-d, “Why did You abandon the world?” G-d asks man, “Why did you abandon Me?”

Thus begins the revolution of Judaism—humanity’s courageous venture to extinguish the flames of oppression and violence and restore the world to the harmonious palace it was intended to be. Abraham’s encounter with G-d in the presence of a burning palace gave birth to the mission statement of Judaism: to be obsessed with good and horrified by evil.

G-d created an imperfect world, one vulnerable to natural disasters, viruses, diseases, and of course man’s destructive choices. This too is part of our mission: To do what we can to preserve life, protect the weak, bring healing to the ill, and protection to all. Never allow political correctness, arrogance, or misplaced compassion to cause harm to the innocent.

Reclaiming Our Mission Statement

For too long, many have succumbed to the lure of the popular notion that there is no such thing as absolute evil behavior. “Thou shall not judge,” became our cherished motto. We have been taught, instead, to probe and understand the underlying frustrations compelling the aggressor to follow his extremist route.

This sophisticated and open-minded point of view allowed to us sustain our ethos of boundless tolerance, accepting all forms of behavior, since at the core of every mean act lies a crying heart.

Few ideas have been rejected in the Torah with so much passion. Because Judaism placed as its highest ideal the creation of a good and ethical world, and the refusal to take a stand on what is wrong results in its victory. A non-judgmental view of someone who beheads a woman in France, for example, may appeal to our sophistication, yet in reality, it is a display of extreme cruelty to the innocent victims who will die at the hands of frustrated militants.

Judaism, in its obsessive attempt to turn the world into an exquisite palace, created absolute universal standards for good and evil defined by the Creator of the universe, articulated in His manual for human living, the Torah. Taking the life of an innocent person is evil. No ifs, buts, or why’s. The killer may be badly hurting but that never ever justifies the evil of murdering an innocent human being.

Yet, tragically, we have become numb to our mission statement. For many years leaders across the world and in the Jewish State displayed tolerance toward terrorists, neglecting our most cherished doctrine that the preservation of human life reigns supreme over every other consideration. The results of our moral confusion were devastating: Thousands of innocent Jews and Arabs died. And terrorists the world over learned that they could continue their despicable work without serious consequences. 

In recent years, the tide began to shift. We learned the hard way that, as Churchill put it, an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last." Good people of the world are waiting to be inspired by our four-millennium-long heritage of standing up to evil and banishing it from G-d’s palace.

This is part of what to think about when you decide who to choose as a leader. Who will help keep our country and our world safer? Who will be more likely to take on the bad guys trying to destroy the palace? Who will define evil as evil and treat it as such?

Abraham would ask us to reflect on the most critical questions facing us: How do we create a world filled with kindness, goodness, and justice? How do we construct a society based on moral responsibility to man and to G-d?

Abraham, I would imagine, would say one more thing: Do not get petty and do not allow arrogance and fear to rule you. Do what you must do to the best of your ability and trust the Creator to do the rest.

Please leave your comment below!

  • EN

    Ester Naomi -3 years ago

    Great essay as we Jews have a role in ensuring our values are for the world. Israel should be a beacon for justice and demonstrating to the world what we offer for stewardship of  all mankind and our planet.  Donald Trump is a hate monger and supports neI Nazis while he throws a bone to Israel on an embassy then sells weapons to Israel's enemies.  Hashem would say"what are you doing to save the palace?  Voting in an evil leader to save your pocket change?"  

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  • MGSP

    Michael G. samet, Ph.D. -7 years ago

    Great essay.
    Note:
    Judaism, in its obsessive attempt to turn the word into an exquisite palace.
    Should be ...turn the world

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  • LRF

    leib reuvan feldman -7 years ago

    Rabbi
    as others i do enjoy many times your articles
    my only thought now in this short letter to you is not about agreeing or disagreeing i dont want to approach my thoughts that way...i dont see any conflict... i am only sharing

    Jews and Israel need only to do what HASHEM WANTS AND HAS TOLD US FOR ALL THESE MILLENNIUM through His Torah
    what He wants is clear..in and with all levels of our world..our "mansion" as your article uses as a metaphor
    no man no country no organization no movement....no banner...no trend..and political standing...can do anything to help or support Jews more then Jews who adhere to G-ds plan for this world

    When Israel does whats good for Israel and the president of the united states or any president or leader of a country supports what Israel does...then that man ..leader...country is good for Israel

    if a leader tells Israel to do something ..forces Israel to do something..or pressures Israel to do something and IT IS NOT good for Israel ( like now with settlements ) and Israel does it...and it does not benefit Israel...then that course is not a positive coarse of action for Jews or Israel....

    we only need to do what is good for Israel....that is documented history and politics as we have seen since and before 1946..and the lengthy proof and documentation is not needed

    i doubt the learning curve for a man of such caliber and history as donald trump ( and he has shown clearly who he is) will meet the test or come through as a man of integrity to be a man who supports the "mansion" ....OR SOMEONE WHO WILL SUPPORT Israel IN THE END...it is a subjective statement and biased...but with eyeglasses on Israel the support needs to be WHOLE not popular....
    we will see what happens in the upcoming future if all the Jews in America that voted for Trump are correct in their understanding of the man and their support or they need to look deeper at what is good for Israel
    and to be honest weather the leadership in Israel today is playing a political game of who is who
    and the compass they use to make political alliances is not clouded with short term hope and short sighted friendship ..............Israel has G-d they need...nothing else

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    • Anonymous -6 years ago

      As an American Jew making a choice of who to vote for, well we didn't have a candidate that would wholly be good for Israel we only had the choice of who is the lesser evil. Clinton was for certain the greater evil for both Israel and the countrytry we live in . There is no question that Trump is no Jew and he owes no allegiance to Isreali but at this time he is the greatest friend Isreal has in the outside world and we should be thankful for him not hyper critical .

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      • SA

        Shirley Anne -3 years ago

        Indeed 👌

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    • SA

      Shirley Anne -3 years ago

      Israel 🇮🇱 must not make alliances with other nations -- we have History to prove that THAT did not work out well for Iarael, in the past‼️

      we have EL SHADDAI ✡️ to look up to, and when we follow HIS directions 🧭, there is NO need to fear 👏 💞

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  • L

    L -7 years ago

    I usually really appreciate your open minded views on Judaism. However, to me this is stereotyping an entire nation of people. In my opinion, there are terrorists in every nation, in every country. Although perhaps there might be more terrorists from certain countries, we still can not discriminate against an entire country of innocent men, women and children. According to American view and its constitution, this is going against everything the founders of this country have built this country on. There are many peaceful Muslims too, and we can not discriminate against all Muslims because some people with the same religion as them act as terrorists. I wouldn't want people judging me or Judaism on people that don't represent us right.
    In addition to that, I think its disgraceful and shameful that a huge handful of Orthodox Jewish people support Trump. To me, he goes against everything I believe to be true in the Torah. In the Torah we encourage love. We encourage acceptance. We encourage being unified. Trump has taken all these values and thrown them out the window. He encourages bullying, abusing, and egocentric behaviors. He has many times put down women, minorities, and the disabled. This to me is against the basics of Judaism.

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    • JK

      Jack Korn -7 years ago

      L, you have just proven to all of us how right Michael Savage was,when he coined the phrase "extreme liberalism and leftism is a severe mental disease and is suicidal"
      L,are you dumb and blind ? don't you see what happened to Europe with it's liberal and unlimited Muslim immigration,do you wish our great country to follow that SUICIDAL path ?.
      Yes all Muslims are not terrorist's,but 99.999% of terrorist acts the last 50 years have been perpetrated by your Muslim friends,don;t forget there are over 2 billion Muslims and all experts agree that between 15 to 20% are extreme Jihadists who have been radicalized to hate western society and it is their holy obligation to destroy it or convert it to Islam

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Essay Lech Lecha

Rabbi YY Jacobson
  • October 30, 2020
  • |
  • 12 Cheshvan 5781
  • |
  • 3637 views
  • Comment

Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein in the loving memory of Alta Shula Swerdlov. And in the merit of Yetta Alta Shula, "Aliya," Schottenstein

Class Summary:

Trump and the World - A Palace in Flames

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