One of the themes of the Rosh Hashanah observance is G-d’s plan to create our world based exclusively on law. It seems that from the very start, when He concluded that creating beings like us was not going to be sustainable with that type of formula, he introduced mercy into the equation.
But the idea of running and directing the world with din, law (maybe justice), was not dispensed with after it appeared we would not last too long under those circumstances. After all, we do not say that Hashem miscalculated and thought that perhaps humans, with our thought processes, intellect, and desires, could survive governed purely by law. After absorbing how we newly free-choice-filled people were going to conduct ourselves, He saw that He had to add mercy to the mix if we were going to survive at all.
Therein lies the essence of the just-concluded Rosh Hashanah holiday. Our sages have written that we pray that Hashem will see fit to invoke a measure of mercy into the law, without which not too many of us would be able to last.
In the immediate aftermath of Rosh Hashanah, once we turned on our computers and cellphones, we were once again hit with an avalanche of news that has a great deal to do with the balanced combination of law and mercy.
As we said on Tzom Gedalyah, words that will be an integral part of our upcoming Yom Kippur service, “G-d is slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and truth, extending lovingkindness to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin, and absolving the guilty (who repent).”
But these days, this otherwise caring formulation of law and mercy does not seem to be working in the political processes of both the U.S. and Israel. Politics is a tough game. It is saturated with extenuating circumstances, greed, and a desire for political advancement. We can consider ourselves fortunate that Hashem does not judge us at this time of year with any of those mortal motivations.
During a short recess in the Rosh Hashanah davening this week, I found myself thinking about President Trump and the way he is being treated by a desperate-for-power and corrupt Democratic Party.
I have stated many times that our community owes a great debt of gratitude to Donald Trump. Especially at a time like this, it is imperative that at least our communal leaders stand up and speak in his defense. Some have done that, but many have chosen to be silent.
The way Mr. Trump has stood up for Israel these past three years far outweighs anything he said to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Now is not the right time to question Mr. Trump’s wording or sentence structure, which can be somewhat confusing and is often misunderstood.
Only a prejudicial and hostile reading of the phone-call transcript can interpret what was said as the president pressuring Mr. Zelensky to deliver damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden so that Mr. Trump can best him in the 2020 presidential election if Mr. Biden were the Democratic nominee.
Trump inquiry of the Ukrainian leader was about getting to the bottom of the 2016 election corruption more than anything to do with 2020. Up until a few days ago, I thought Democrats wanted to get to the bottom of that type of election interference. That does not seem to be the case now. When it comes to Mr. Trump, Democrats seem to be interested in applying law no matter how misstated or misused. The last thing they are interested in — unlike Al-mighty G-d — is mercy.
Mercy tempered with law may have been the order of the day in Israel over Rosh Hashanah, but that was not the case in the prime minister’s office. Aside from the difficult effort of trying to patch together a government, Wednesday was the first day of a four-day hearing as the attorney general decides whether to proceed with an indictment against Mr. Netanyahu. The prime minister’s attorneys are seeking to have any indictment dismissed without charges being brought.
The similarities between what goes on in the U.S. and what goes on in Israel are absolutely astounding. Mr. Netanyahu has served Israel and Jews the world over very well. Here in the U.S. Mr. Trump has done remarkable things for this country on so many levels. It’s interesting as well as disturbing that it is both men’s successes that so trouble their political opponents. What happened to appreciating what they have accomplished but suggesting that you might have an enhanced or different way to do even better?
Earlier this week, Rosh Hashanah was observed throughout the Jewish world. We might assume that California Congressman Adam Schiff and New York Congressmen Jerrold Nadler and Eliot Engel were in shul during that time. My question is whether or not they were able to contemplate what they are trying to do and how deleterious their efforts have been and will be on this country.
That these events are playing themselves out at this time of year should not be lost on any of us. Our davening is aimed at and focused upon our lives and the lives of our families and friends going forward. One of those things that we should be aware of as related to modern-day judgment is the difference between the first and second day of Rosh Hashanah.
It’s said that day one is representative of strict judgment and day two of more lenient adjudication. And these two philosophical approaches are reflective in the Torah readings of the respective days. As recorded in the widely distributed Even Shesiyah by Rabbi Yochanan Bechhofer, “On the first day we learn about the miracle of Sarah becoming pregnant with Yitzchak. The conception represents man being formed,” and that is a hard grade to make, he writes.
On the second day we read about the Akeidah and the willingness of Avraham to bring his son as a sacrifice. Yitzchak’s life was spared only as a result of Hashem demanding of Avraham, “Do not harm the boy.” And this command — this leniency at a trying time — is what has endured and has indeed protected Jews and Israel through the generations.
That command — “Do not harm the boy” — has protected us over all this time. At this time of year, let’s be mindful of that and not forget. Gmar chasimah tovah.