Right Wing Folly and the Light Switch

I took a break from blogging since a little after the Israeli elections. Admittedly, I was depressed. My readers know I am not a Bibi fan nor an Obama hater. I neither think the sun rises or falls on Netanyahu nor do I think that Obama’s sole mission in life is to see Israel go up in an Iranian induced mushroom cloud. My despondency was furthered by the hypocritical chattering class – worldwide, that was quick to condemn Israel during last summer’s Gaza war but is eerily silent about ISIS massacres of Palestinians at villages in Syria, beheadings of Christians in Libya and the murder of non-Muslim infidels on a college campus in Kenya. Let’s not forget the indiscriminate bombings Saudi Arabia carried out in Yemen that killed dozens of innocents and whole families that seemed to elude the conscience of those that last summer were very vocal regarding Israel but are mute now. So I retreated into my silence as I ached for the lack of leadership from a naïve US president I voted for and a misguided, fearful, hypnotized electorate in Israel who will now see the return of Orthodox hegemony over marriage, death, conversion, citizenship and education in a more extreme right Bibi lead government. Prospects for peace again are elusive at best while the unsustainable status quo continues.

I started to write so many things that I felt important to my community; Jews, Israelis and the so-called Modern Orthodox whom I still affiliate with despite so much reservation, but I couldn’t finish. In the meantime, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin called President Obama Haman. Whether his intent or not, biblical law requires Hama,n a descendent of Amalek, to be killed, I was mortified. President Obama met with Jewish leaders and expressed a genuine pain that our community does not trust him. It was a nice effort but the haters are still going to hate.

Former military and intelligence officers from Israel, unrestrained by civilian overlords proclaimed that the proposed Iranian deal does not mean the imminent demise of the Jewish state and they were portrayed as jilted hacks. My social media pages are dominated by calls for the impeachment of President Obama and hate filled rage towards Hillary Clinton yet gushing praise for Looney right-wingers like Ted Cruz and Scott Walker, and this from otherwise sane and intelligent people, folks I once could have a coherent conversation with. My newly minted Republican friends have amnesia when it comes to the long and strong history of support by the Democratic Party for Israel. They also have a total blackout when it comes to the Republican Party who not too long ago produced Israel non-friends like Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, James Baker, Chuck Percy and George H.W. Bush who actually did throw Israel under the bus when given a chance.

I couldn’t conclude my thoughts or formulate a cogent argument. Arguing against dogma and ideological purity is just as useful as fighting windmills, I was frustrated and not a little bit dejected. The community I grew up in has shifted in an ugly rightward lurch that eschews rational debate in favor of name-calling, fear mongering and labeling. This is true of politics and certainly in religion where the Modern Orthodox, a label I once wore proudly is nothing close to modern and resembles little to the inclusive Orthodoxy I grew up in. Those few valiant still carrying the label and tugging back against the tide are summarily ridiculed and thrown aside. It is true that Netanyahu didn’t so much win the last election as the Zionist Camp lost it. So too religious zealotry isn’t winning, rational, moderate adherents are losing. Negative campaigning in religion and politics rule and we moderates or infidels, call me whichever you want, just don’t have the stomach for convincing the lunatics that just because you yell louder doesn’t mean you win.

During my period of writer’s block I received an email form a family member who insisted he could save my soul just as his was saved during his own personal challenges by finding God through the teachings of Rav Nachman of Bretslov. He too, faced challenges but only found peace and health when Rav Nachman awoke him to the goodness of God. And, he added (I guess as a warning of what awaits me if I spurn his offer), my writings contribute to influence people away from Hashem and the Greater Israel He promised his people, my potential punishment unspoken but hanging there for me gnaw at. I did not realize the power of my little pen.

One cute trending story caught my eye and sort of proved my point about the lunatics running the asylum. It is the story about an Orthodox man who with the guidance and blessing of many rabbis devised a light switch that conceivably can be used on the Sabbath. While developing the idea the man consulted with “Gedolim,” the Great Ones (who gives them this title remains for another discussion all together). But they seemingly blessed his work and his concept, which seems to delay the effect after turning the switch of the electrical current that turns on or off the light. This innovation seems to neutralize the “work” or “lighting” that rabbis found problematic with the advent of electricity. Many innovations have sprung up since my childhood to help ease the observance of the Sabbath, from timed light switches, to delayed ovens and dishwashers. There is the hot plate and even the Kosher Lamp, a brilliant innovation that covers the light rather than extinguishes it. Suffice it to say that today we do not observe your grandfather’s Shabbat.

Now that the new switch is ready to go to market a major controversy has begun to sprout around it. It started with some rabbis declaring it forbidden. Surprise! Who would have thought that possible? Whether their reasoning was one done by actual research remains a mystery but to the Am Haaretz (layman) like me it is easy to speculate that A- they weren’t consulted first so of course they are now against it and B- approving it would lead to the breakdown of their authority to tell people how to lead their lives. Immediately upon the declaration by some rabbis that the switch was not allowed, rabbis who previously gave their blessing to the device, some who even wrote letters in their own handwriting endorsing it, began to backtrack. Some denied ever endorsing the product at all while others said they only endorsed it for specific emergency uses. You say tomato I say toe/mah/toe. A little story with a thunderous effect. Dare we shake the apple cart.

I guess I could un-friend some people on Facebook, un-follow others on Twitter and Instagram. I could go to a different Shul, change denominations or move out of my neighborhood. I could stay in Tel Aviv when I visit Israel rather than go to Jerusalem and not visit family in the territories. I could filter my life to hear, see and share only the opinions of like-minded people, but that would mean the nuts have won. I don’t give up that easily.

About the Author
Joel Moskowitz is a businessman and writer who finally made it to Jerusalem. He is currently chronicling this move in an Aliyah Journal posted on this site.