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Israel Today

     Rav Shlomo Aviner (Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Cohanim and Rav of Bet El) was once asked: is it appropriate to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, when Israel has a secular government and is not yet a Torah state ? He answered that it is not only appropriate but also a mitzva to give thanks to G-d and not be indifferent or blasé about the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel. What generations pined for has come true in our day, and legions of Jews who dreamt of returning to Israel would probably be astonished at the impertinence of Jews who are disenchanted because statehood has not unfolded the way each person anticipated. There are always Jews who despair of any challenging situation ever improving; some despaired that Jews would ever return to our homeland, and some despair whether Jews will be able to retain our homeland. But the Torah obligates us to be appreciative of our gifts, and accept all challenges – personal and national – as divine opportunities to develop ourselves and perfect His world.

     It has been more than 40 years since my first trip here (yes, I was very young at the time). The roads, telephone service, culture, transportation, mails, business, etc. were, frankly, primitive. Israel existed – in the minds of many Jews, especially American Jews – as a refuge, a haven for the persecuted, somewhere for Jews from Russia, Ethiopia, Argentina, France, Yemen, Iran, etc. to flee when their hostile host governments turned on them. Neither beggars nor refugees can be choosers, so whatever meager services, housing, or job opportunities were offered sufficed for them, and for Jewish tourists as well. Israel as asylum still exists, of course, but it is much, much more than that. There is a flourishing, modern, and most livable country, with all – literally, all – the conveniences to which Western man has become accustomed. There has been a steep decline in “coerced aliya” of Jews hounded to Israel by our enemies and grateful for their mere survival. Most aliya today is, well, dream-like, of Jews who come here to live in a Jewish state, and who are able to live very well. It is a positive, voluntary, purposeful aliya, which still perplexes some Israelis but gladdens most of them. And that Jews today have the opportunity to come home, build a state, fully live the rhythms of Jewish life, and be proud and happy about it is something to cheer. Actually, it is something that should cause us to stand up, take notice of the hand of Providence, and, at least, be overcome with gratitude. Moreover, it should prompt a personal reckoning of whether each of us can become part of this historic undertaking, and how, and when. The prophet Yeshayahu (42:5, in the haftara for Breisheet) said that “God… gave a soul to the people who dwell on it [the land of Israel] and a spirit to those who walk on it.” (See Ketubot 111a as well.) What sounds trite to some and obvious to others is nonetheless true: the Jewish soul comes alive, and can be fully developed, only in Israel. Only here do we encounter the tableau on which the Torah is implemented, and only here do we find the opportunity to fulfill all the mitzvot. In a real sense, Jews in Israel live, and Jews in the exile live on spiritual “life support”. In galut, we remain tethered to the Torah and are sustained by the oxygen of mitzvot. But the Torah makes clear, again and again, that there is something artificial about it, and something essential that is missing. Here, just the breadth of subjects covered in weekly shiurim that deal with the interface of Torah and modern life are awe-inspiring corroboration that the Torah – in all its dimensions and grandeur – can be the foundation of a modern state. In the exile, the reach of Torah is necessarily truncated.

     That is not to sound Pollyannish about life here. (I am reminded of the old joke about the Israeli who told his friend that, despite all the problems in this part of the world, he has decided to be an optimist. Asked by his friend, if so, why do you look so despondent, he replied: “You think it’s easy to be an optimist ?”) What is most irksome about life here is the realization that every scoundrel, every thief, every rude driver, every indifferent bureaucrat, every corrupt politician, every person who expelled Jews from their homes and then turned his back on them, every person who is indifferent to the fate of the residents of Sderot, and every brutal police officer – is a fellow Jew. But what is most endearing about Israel is the realization that every ba’al chesed, every lover of Torah, every developer of the land of Israel, every stranger who inquires about your family and wants to set up his niece with your nephew, every store clerk – in whatever form of dress and whatever level of observance – who wishes you a heartfelt “Shabbat Shalom”, every person who took in the refugees of Gush Katif and visits the Jews of Sderot, or who sits around at night arguing over how to make the Jewish State better, or who rejoices in the smachot of every Jew, or who visits a perfect stranger who is sitting shiv’a (because each one is a brother or sister), every driver who abruptly cuts you off enabling you to see his bumper sticker that reads “Ein od mi’lvado” (“there is none beside G-d”), and every individual who cries over the fate of every Jew – is also a fellow Jew. There is a profound sense of family, the family of Israel. And, I suppose, even the scoundrel has a role to play in this great enterprise.

     To walk again good Jews who build Israel, learn Torah, raise families, serve in the army, do mitzvot, seek out chesed, and want to be part of the destiny of an eternal people in these momentous times is itself a blessing. May our share be with them, the builders of the “resting place” of the divine presence on earth. May we all soon merit finding our share in fulfilling the prophetic vision of old, and be present to welcome the son of David, speedily and in our days.

Shalom from Israel !


    Ever wonder why English is the language of both air traffic control and the Internet ? After all, far more people in the world speak Chinese, Arabic, Spanish and other languages. One factor might be that Americans created both (I think a former Vice-President brought us the Internet), or that Americans are also notoriously monolingual. But there is a more fundamental reason: America is a cultural hegemonist (I prefer that word to “imperialist”) and the world’s trendsetter. And nowhere is this more apparent than in Israel. American English is a second language in Israel, but even that does not convey the extent of its infiltration into Israeli society. It is not that you can get by without speaking Hebrew; indeed, it is difficult to embrace the society without speaking Hebrew. But English idioms have become commonplace in Israeli speech – and not just the “ya” endings of yesteryear (televizya, protektsiya). Listen to any Israeli speak – an ordinary citizen or media personality – and they will sprinkle their sentences with words or phrases like “why not, time, time out, so what, picnic, shopping, reform, focus, center, fight, loser, campaign, OK, activist, forum, compliment, chance, conflict” (pronounced con-FLICT, plural con-FLICT-im), not to mention technical terms like “internet, e-mail, fax, high-definition” and literally hundreds of other words. These words are all transliterated into Hebrew in the press. No doubt this is partly the influence of globalization, here known of course as “globalizatzya.” Rather than grasp for a Hebrew word, it is often easier just to say it in English, with the occasional conversionary suffixes. Preparing for a public speech a few weeks ago, I looked up the word “speculative”. I need not have; the Hebrew is “speculativi”. Occasionally, the pronunciations and etymologies are humorous. Liat Collins, who writes a language column in the Jerusalem Post, reported on an argument she had with her commander in the army many years ago, who gave her an “ool-ti-mah-tum” (ultimatum) claiming it was a Hebrew word and correcting her (she is British) when she insisted on pronouncing it “ul-ti-mah-tum”. (Of course, they were both wrong; ul-ti-may-tum). There is such a thing as the Academy for the Hebrew Language, but if it is not defunct, it is certainly moribund and irrelevant. On this subject, part of me wishes that “Saturday” would enter the Israeli lexicon in order to avoid hearing such non sequiturs as “On Shabbat, we drove to the Galil for a picnic”. Another part of me feels that at least use of the word “Shabbat” helps keep the idea of Shabbat alive, even if it is not observed properly. And if language in Israel is an amalgam of Hebrew, English and a little Arabic (my time here has been both achla and sababa), the culture itself is dominated by America and American entertainment. The reality TV craze in America has hit Israel with full force – the shows with the amateur survivors, singers, dancers, models, etc. are featured prominently and achieve high “ratings” (also a “Hebrew” word). Full disclosure: I have never watched any of those shows, either Israeli or American versions, but I have read about them. The most amusing American template that I have seen is “Ha-laila”, Israel’s Tonight Show. (“From Kikar Dizengoff in Tel Avivvvvv, it’s Halaila – starring Lior Schleiiiiiiiiin”!). It is rank mimicry of the late night talk shows in America – featuring the host, the monologue (I never would have thought that Asara B’Tevet could be mined for comic material!), the desk, the backdrop (Tel Aviv, instead of New York City or Hollywood), the sofa chairs, the band and the banter with the bandleader. (The celebrities are a little third-tier. A singer performing at a kiosk in Ashkelon ?) No institution in society is spared the comic barbs of the amiable host – politicians, the army, the Haredim, the Arabs, even the Tel Avivians. But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then America, consider yourself flattered, and then some. The penetration of all things American (including glitzy political campaigns that mask inept and often corrupt politicians) certainly enables American olim to make an easier adjustment. The comfort level with English and American culture is such that living in Israel can have quite a familiar feel. (I even watch Fox News Channel here.) I wonder though at what cost, and whether indeed olim – especially religious olim – are looking to find the 51st State here. I think most are not, and not only because of the occasional decadence of Western culture but rather because of a desire to develop and immerse themselves in an indigenous Israeli, or religious-Jewish culture, befitting a Jewish state. Certainly, the culture as it is has little general appeal to the more traditional elements in society. Religious Jews have begun in the last decade or so to fashion purely religious cultural offerings – literature and movies – and of course religious music has been a powerhouse for several decades already. And religious Jews are blessed with a plethora of shiurim¬ – every night of the week, and on an immense variety of topics – in almost every community in the country. (I do wish Israelis had a keener sense of time. It is not atypical for an evening shiur to start 15-45 minutes after the scheduled time, almost like a Syrian-Jewish wedding. I have begun asking Rabbanim if their shiurim are starting “on time” or “on Israel time.” One answered: “Well, we are in Israel.” Major exception: I attended this week the World Conference of Orthodox Rabbis, under the auspices of the WZO, and it ran like clockwork.) But it is very difficult to combat a cultural behemoth like the United States. The revolution against Greek culture during the second Bet HaMikdash era began right here in Modiin. Yet, it is worth recalling that despite the Chanuka success, Shimon the Maccabee’s own great-grandsons (less than 100 years later) bore the fine Greek names Hyrkonus and Aristobolus, fought each other for the throne, and self-destructed. Even the Chashmonaim succumbed in the end to Greek cultural dominance, and with it, their kingdom fell and their legacy was tarnished. That Israel sees itself as living in the cultural shadow of America – even, at times, as America’s step-child – often has grave political ramifications. There is almost a palpable fear – completely unwarranted, I think – of denying almost any American request, as if the child Israel must always have the approval of the parent America. Israeli politicians loathe saying “no” to the United States; no other country in the world today has such hesitation. PM Netanuyahu, to his credit, is learning but the potential for recidivism always exists. Israelis speak of “American pressure” as if it is impossible to resist, and politicians routinely contrive “American pressure” to justify their own poor decisions. “Please, twist my arm, please?!”(For example, the United States was uninvolved in the Oslo process at the beginning, and President Bush opposed the “Gaza Expulsion Plan” for the better part of two years.) A country with its own culture shapes its own destiny, and develops a strong sense of national pride. American culture may be a dominant world power, but, in truth, it is scarcely felt in countries like Russia or China which have a rich cultural tradition of their own. There is an indigenous Israeli culture, but it is overwhelmed by America’s. Israelis write books, but the bookstores are mainly filled with Hebrew translations of American best-sellers. In time, and given the right circumstances, Israel will surely develop a culture that is uniquely Jewish and that touches the mind, heart and soul. Witnessing the national mourning on Yom HaShoah, and seeing the preparations for Yom Haatzmaut to come, one realizes that there is an Israel unto itself, with which outsiders scarcely identify. That is all part of building a state, liberating the Jewish spirit from centuries of exile, and shaping the national character that will engender “a kingdom of priests and a holy people.”

Shalom from Israel !

Summer Plans – Switzerland

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     Our forefathers all had parenting challenges, but none more than Yaakov, our ancestor who was closest to us in time and life experience. In a sense, Yaakov had more difficulties in raising his children – for the most part, as a single parent – than did Avraham or Yitzchak. It is easier to raise children if one is righteous and one is wicked. We have clearer guidelines when the dichotomy is black and white. Between Yitzchak and Yishmael, between Yaakov and Esav – there are separate, distinct paths. Shades of gray – the dazzling diversity of Yaakov’s children as exemplified by his blessings – are more difficult to manage and direct, and Yaakov was blessed with twelve colorful children, thirteen if Dina is counted, all whom required direction and discipline. And the stakes were never greater.

      Somehow, despite their famous feuds, all of Yaakov’s sons gathered around his deathbed, and Yaakov was quite precise in identifying their uniqueness, their personalities, and their destinies are part of the nation of Israel. Of the twelve, only Shimon and Levi are described as “brothers” – in Ramban’s phrase, “complete brothers, resembling each other in a brotherly way in thought and deed.” All the others were individualists – and Yaakov raised them all, and uneasily, with one objective: to create the nucleus of G-d’s people. So how does one rear – and discipline – diverse children?

     The model of our forefathers – and life itself – reinforces that there is no perfect system and no guarantee of ultimate success – but there are patterns that lead to successful discipline that in many ways is on the wane today. Here are some rudimentary thoughts:

       Firstly, a parent must be a parent first, and a friend second or third, if at all. A child has friends – a child needs parents. A parent who acts like a child is not acting like a parent – and a parent who feels a need to ingratiate himself/herself to a child or who craves the child’s approval is also not acting like a parent. And a child needs a parent. I recently heard, incredulously, about the mindboggling case of parents who allow their children to smoke marijuana in their home – preferring that they smoke there “under supervision” than outside the home without supervision. Heaven save us – and children – from such “parents” (and their not-so-supervision) who through their children are undoubtedly re-living their wayward youth that apparently turned out so…well, or from parents whose search for personal happiness induces them into shirking or abandoning their parental responsibilities.

      Parenting, secondly, requires occasionally saying “no.” Not always saying “no” or always saying “yes,” but occasionally saying “no.” A friend rarely says “no” – or you would just find another friend. There are parents who feel their children will love them less if they say “no.” In fact, the opposite is true – children love their parents more when the parents set limits. Limits – discipline – are examples of parental love, not only authority. In truth, parents whose good values have been absorbed by their children (and whose personal virtues have been witnessed by their children) will have to say “no” less frequently as the child grows in adolescence, not more frequently.

     Rav Shlomo Wolbe cited the verse in Zecharia (11:7) as illustrative of the two models of parenting: “And I took two staffs, one I called noam, “pleasantness” and the other chovlim, “destruction,” and I shepherded the flock.” Parents have two tools of discipline – noam and chovlim – at their disposal, and must choose wisely.

      There is a destructive form of discipline – when the parent thinks he/she can create a clone of himself/herself and becomes intolerant of any deviation. The child must look, speak, think and act like the parent, walk in the parent’s footsteps – live in the same community, attend the same school, etc. That is wonderful if the child so chooses, and destructive if it is coercive. It is destructive when parents discipline in anger, and without reason or rationale. That is the “makel chovlim”– the destructive staff.

     The “makel noam” is pleasant – it rewards, it gives incentives, it provides guidelines, and it sends a message of love. Discipline is like the guardrails on a narrow, winding road; guardrails are not unreasonable constraints on one’s freedom but rather expressions of societal concern and caring. Guardrails do prevent one from experiencing the exhilaration of sailing over a cliff, but also spare one the gruesome reality of hitting rock bottom. Guardrails allow room for maneuverability – within limits. The great criticism lodged against King David, who also struggled with many of his children, is that he never disciplined his rebellious son Adoniyahu – “His father never aggrieved him” (I Kings 1:6) – never caused him any grief, never challenged him, and never said “no.”

      Thirdly, it is no crime not to be able to afford something – especially these days when many parents seem to fear telling their children “we cannot afford that, you can’t buy that.” Indeed, it is no crime not to buy something even if you can afford it. Nor is it a crime to say “no” – “you can’t go there, you can’t watch this, you can’t buy this” – even if all your child’s friends can. Parents who judge their worth based on what they give their child materially are not really worth that much, or giving them that much. There are vapid politicians today who lament that our children’s generation might be the first in American history not to out-earn their parents – and the very sentiment corrupts our children’s values. So what if they are not wealthier – there are greater, more valuable legacies we can leave our children. Would we be in a state of deprivation if we had the same material bounty, or even a little less, than the last two generations? Certainly not.

      Yaakov’s twelve sons were not an easy bunch – they were strong-willed, complicated, dynamic individuals who had legendary problems with each other and occasionally with their father. Yet, when Yaakov said “gather and listen,” they gathered and listened. And he blessed them, each with a personally appropriate blessing.

       For a parent to bless a child requires that the parent knows both his child, and the blessing. To know the child and not know the blessing is as ineffectual as knowing the blessing but not how to transmit it to the child. We need both.

         To know one’s child requires insight and objectivity, and to know the blessing – to recognize and use the “staff of pleasantness”– requires knowledge of Torah, and the spirit of our ancestors, our fathers and mothers, our grandfathers and grandmothers. And then we will merit children who are productive Jews and responsible adults, we will be positive role models to the world, and our national history will reach its inevitable – and grand – climax.

2000 Years: The Jewish Odyssey – 17th Century CE


Download: 2000 Years: The Jewish Odyssey – 17th Century CE

Shiur Originally Given on 5/18/2009

The Pursuit of Happiness

The Declaration of Independence acknowledged that mankind is endowed with a number of “unalienable rights,” among them “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” While the first two rights are generally understood in both general and specific forms – government cannot capriciously take another person’s life or encroach on his liberty – it is the third that has proved most vexing to define, categorize, quantify and achieve.  Note, as many have, that there is no guaranteed right to happiness; rather the right is defined as the pursuit of happiness – each person in his/her own way.  And therein lies the hoary problem: if it is a pursuit, how do we know where to find it? In what direction do we turn in order to commence our pursuit of happiness, and at what point do we say that we have found it?

A traditional Torah definition – happiness is the state of satisfaction of a being fulfilling the purpose for which it was created – is both provocative and accurate, but also requires additional explication.  Fortunately, modern man quantifies, analyzes, measures and concludes from an inordinate amount of hard date – even in the realm of happiness – that leaves us capable of finding appropriate guidance.  Thus, for the last 45 years, almost a third of Americans have consistently defined themselves as “very happy,” and despite great fluctuations during this time in income, social trends, and national stability (1972-30%; 1982-31%; 1993-32%; and 2004-31%).  It is remarkably consistent.

These are the findings of a recent book by Syracuse University economics professor Arthur C. Brooks, entitled “Gross National Happiness.” Of course, the most critically important data delineate exactly what each person should want to know – what makes happy people happy? In what realms should we seek to find happiness, and what aspects of life should be enhanced? His conclusions are illuminating, at first glance somewhat surprising, and, upon reflection, most comforting to the Torah Jew.

For example, political conservatives have always polled significantly higher than political liberals on the “very happy” chart – averaging between 10-15% points higher, with the two groups only intersecting in 1974 and 1985.  Equal percentages of secular liberals say they are “very happy” and “not too happy” (22%), whereas religious conservatives are ten times more likely to say they are “very happy” than “not too happy” (50%-5%).  These statistics transcend ethnic groups and income levels.  Religious liberals say they are as happy as secular conservatives (33%).

There are a number of reasons for this, all instructive.  Conservatives generally value the role of the individual in society, and place much more emphasis on individual initiative and personal responsibility.  Liberals tend to focus on the collective.  Conservatives, thus, usually donate more money to charity than do liberals, volunteer more, and even donate more blood.  Liberals generally support government solutions to social problems (health

coverage reform, anyone?), and therefore see their primary role as inducing government to act on behalf of the less fortunate.  What is relevant here is not which group is more politically successful or logical, but that it is much easier to feel successful when one can rely on his own actions than when it is necessary to rely on the actions of everyone else, especially since the acts of the collective (even successful ones) do not necessarily reflect any individual accomplishment.

Furthermore, liberals are generally discontented with the state of society, and see injustice, victimization, and discrimination everywhere.  They are forever, like the mythical Sisyphus, pushing the boulder up the hill and watching it roll down again, and are therefore less likely to feel happy than conservatives who wish to “conserve” the status quo, for better or for worse.

Even more to the point, and most reflective of America’s divisions today, conservatives are twice as likely as liberals to attend weekly religious services, and liberals are twice as likely as conservatives to never attend religious services.  And conservatives are also much more likely to be married (2/3) than liberals (only 1/3), and more likely to have children and to have larger families than do liberals.  (Children, oddly, decrease short-term happiness but increase long-term happiness.) Married conservatives are three times more likely to say they are “very happy” than are single liberals.  Married people generally are six times more likely to say they are “very happy” (they had better!) than unmarried people.  Almost twice as many religious people say they are “very happy” when compared with secular people (43%-23%).  (Interestingly, agnostics are gloomier people than atheists.) Why ?

Religious people are more likely to be part of a nurturing community (social integration is a key determinant of happiness) and people who live in religious communities tend also to be more financially successful – because those communities reinforce a culture of hard work and prosperity.  Religious people also have an innate purpose in life that affords meaning even to the most mundane aspects of life.  It is understandable then that – to take the two extremes – 52% of married, religious, conservative people with children describe themselves as “very happy,” whereas only 14% of secular, single liberals without children describe themselves in that way.  That validates, to an extent, Tolstoy’s observation at the beginning of “Anna Karenina” that “all happy families resemble each other; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

In another subset, people who donate money to charity are 43% more likely than non-givers to say they are “very happy,” and volunteers are 42% more likely to be “very happy” than people who never volunteer.

All these numbers are exhaustively and comprehensively crunched in this engaging book – you can literally look it up – and all to tell us what we already know (!).

The keys to happiness are:

Faith: “Serve Hashem with joy, come before His presence with song” (Tehillim 100:2) and “be glad of heart, all who seek Hashem” (Tehillim 105:3).

Marriage:“It is not good for man to dwell alone, I will make a helper for him” (Breisheet 2:18).

Work: “When you eat the labor of your own hands, you are happy, and it is good for you” (Tehillim 128:2).

To be sure, there are plenty of unhappy conservatives, unhappy religious people, unhappy marrieds, happy liberals, happy singles and happy seculars – so none of this affects the life of any individual person who still must make his/her own choices.  Abraham Lincoln said that “most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” And, of course, life throws us its curves every now and then that necessitate adjustments, and cause temporary variations in our happiness levels..  But the overall message for us is one that is worth summarizing and internalizing: How does one pursue happiness ? Get married, start a family, stay married, go to shul, do mitzvot, give tzedaka, do acts of chesed, work hard and be a friend to others.

And realize that these are Hashem’s blessings that He bestows according to His will.

Moral Pretensions

“Mr. Al-Magrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power…He is going to die.”

And with that supine rationalization, Scotland’s Justice Minister freed “on compassionate grounds” Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the mass murder of 270 people in the explosion of a Pan Am plane in 1988. The problem is not just the obvious moral outrage, the misplaced compassion for a mass murderer, the anguish caused to the victims’ families who live to witness their loved one’s executioner free, feted and celebrated (a travesty well known to Israelis) or the obvious commercial benefit that will accrue to the UK through increased access to Libyan oil and gas     that makes this mercenary trafficking particularly odious.

Add to that the moral confusion sowed by this Justice Minister by invoking the “higher power.” The implication of the above-referenced statement is that until this killer dies, he cannot face divine justice. This is both false and dangerous. The Torah, for example, clearly posits that G-d elicits justice in this world, not only in the world after life – but in this world, human courts mete out justice. Thus, Jewish courts are explicitly permitted to execute convicts in a variety of cases, and some of them for deterrent and/or educational purposes. Non-Jews, as well, are authorized by the Noachide laws to establish courts of justice in order to administer and enforce the observance of those very laws, one of which proscribes homicide.

Indeed, human judgment is but a prelude to divine judgment – not a substitution for it – although in some cases, punishment by the human court can mitigate one’s subsequent divine punishment. It is not an either/or scenario, but rather both systems work hand-in-hand in order to fulfill G-d’s will for mankind.

There are certain instances wherein human justice is inappropriate or simply incapably of properly dealing with a moral outrage. For example, the Minister’s theological musings notwithstanding, his release of this despicable creature was also a moral offense – for which he too should be judged. And as the move was more crassly commercial and politically motivated than it was sensitive and civilized, it is unlikely that he will ever face human justice (except maybe at the polls). So it is he who will ultimately face justice at the hands of the “higher power,” along with the monster that he released.

I wonder if his theology extends as far as being able to look in the mirror.

In G-d’s world, human justice is not always perfect but it is adequate when fairly and systematically carried out. The notion that we cannot or should not judge evildoers is the product of a faith system that itself brought much destruction and bloodshed into the world. G-d gave us permission to fight evil and thereby bring His world closer to perfection. The reluctance to do that, or the timidity that the weak-willed  demonstrate under the guise of compassion, are both moral weaknesses that also endanger the rest of us, in a very dangerous  world, at a very dangerous time in history.

Moral strength and rectitude beget political strength and courage – and true compassion as well. And all good people should protest, grieve – and pray and work for a better day and a better future.