The blessing of America’s current fecklessness

My previous post referred to the Obama administration’s disastrously incompetent efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza, and its turn toward Qatar, Hamas’s leading patron. These recent developments in American foreign policy are utterly unfathomable—from a secular viewpoint. But for religious Jews, there is a certain logic to what is going on.

We have just entered the month of Av and with it the Nine Days, a period of soul-searching and gradually intensifying mourning that culminates with Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. Tisha B’Av is the anniversary of the destruction of both the First and the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and of many other calamities throughout Jewish history. And yet, according to our tradition, Tisha B’Av is also the birthday of the Messiah.

A Talmudic text on the travails preceding the advent of the Messiah (Sotah 49b) lays down a central tenet of Jewish faith: that as we await redemption, we have nobody to rely on but our Father in Heaven. Indeed, in his great ethical work Atarah LaMelech, Rabbi Avraham Pam  of blessed memory (1913-2001), leader of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas in Brooklyn, wrote that overreliance on the contemporary Great Power (he did not mention America by name, but his meaning seems clear) has the effect of delaying the redemption (pp. 143-144).

This coming Shabbat morning, as we do every week, Jews across America will gather in synagogues and implore God to “bless the President, the Vice President, and all the constituted officers of government of this land” (Artscroll translation). We will pray that America’s leadership on the world stage, and in particular its position of moral leadership, be speedily restored. But we will, I hope, recall that—despite what many of my colleagues in academia seem to believe—ushering in the Messianic era is not part of Mr. Obama’s (or Mr. Kerry’s) job description. God, and God alone, will choose the time and the means of the redemption for which we yearn.

May that time arrive swiftly—for our people, for the innocent civilians of Gaza who have suffered so much under the Hamas reign of terror, and for the entire world.

About the Author
Philip Reiss is a Professor of Statistics at the University of Haifa. He made aliyah, with his wife and their three children, in 2015.
Related Topics
Related Posts