The NCYI Gala on Sunday, an event to celebrate an organization of Orthodox synagogues across the United States, was an exercise in grotesquerie.
The most prominent speaker was House Minority Leader, Republican Kevin McCarthy, whose latest campaign called out three Jewish billionaires and warned “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election!” I could have sworn there was a hubbub recently about antisemitic tropes…
Of course, the sitting Republican president of the United States suffered no ill effects after telling Jewish Republicans: “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your politicians, that’s fine.”
Then, once he was in office, he told his guests at the White House Hanukkah Party about how much the Second Couple loves Israel: “And they go there and they love your country. They love your country. And they love this country. That’s a good combination, right?” Hm, dual loyalty much?
Then there was the Dinner Chairman, Rabbi Yechezkel Moskowitz, who declared that the worst antisemitic attack in American history was not the result of anti-immigrant hysteria fueled by white supremacy and encouraged by the president. No, it was the fault of Torah Trumps Hate, an organization of progressive Orthodox Jews. “The Pittsburgh shooting as horrifying as it was, was in my opinion a sad but direct result of their actions.” In fact, progressive Jews should be defined as moserim, collaborationist traitors marked for death, according to Moskowitz. (He later retracted that part of the accusation, as McCarthy deleted his tweet. Yay?)
Now, it shouldn’t shock me how quickly “All Antizionism is antisemitic” morphed into “Only Antizionism is antisemitic.” As an American-born Orthodox Jew, I have watched that pernicious idea bloom over the last four decades. But hey, that’s just politics, right?
Unfortunately, it no longer is. Far more disturbing than Moskowitz, McCarthy or Messiah ben Fred, is the report that the term tikkun olam was booed at this event.
In this forum, I have explained that the Torah views social justice as a national imperative, and God is definitely called a warrior (Exodus 15:3). Abraham is chosen “Because I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness (tzedaka) and justice” (Genesis 18:19). But the term tikkun olam itself has been reduced to a laugh-line, some concept dreamed up by squishy “Reformim.” Or maybe it’s a line from our liturgy which is really about imposing a global theocracy. My response: Bro, do you even Mishna?
The phrase mippenei tikkun ha-olam, for the sake of the good order of the world, appears FIFTEEN times in the Mishna, the earliest part of the Talmud, compiled circa 200 CE. It is used to explain why the Sages instituted certain rules even thought there was no precedent in Torah law. Some examples:
- Banning a husband from invalidating a bill of divorce while in transit or changing his name to nullify it (Gittin 4:2)
- Instituting the prozbul, a mechanism to allow borrowing during a sabbatical year. (Gittin 4:3)
- Forcing a master to free a slave who is legally unable to marry. (Gittin 4:5)
- Prohibiting exorbitant ransom payments for Jewish captives (Gittin 4:6)
Tikkun olam, in all these cases, is the driving force: a concern for the disadvantaged, from the slave to the captive to the pauper to the woman trapped in an abusive marriage.
For those who claim to be “religious Jews” to be so dismissive, cruel and ignorant of their own tradition is a greater defamation of the Nation of Israel than any trope I could ever imagine.