The Haredi Conundrum

     The repugnance and absurdity of Dan Perry’s Jerusalem Post screed against Haredim is readily apparent from the headline:  “Haredim, not Arabs or Iran, are the biggest threat to Israel.” Although you can’t always blame the writer for the headline, in this case you can, because in his text he calls Haredim the “primary threat” to Israel’s future. One must be filled with hatred to reach the conclusion that faithful Jews are a bigger threat to Israel than hostile Arabs who wish to dismember the state or Iran that yearns for Israel’s nuclear destruction. From where does such antipathy arise? One never knows the internal motivation and biases of another but we can ascertain the sources of his fears from his world view.

     According to Perry, the Haredim endanger Israel’s existence because they have no discernible or foreseeable role in the “Start-up Nation that is a world leader in cybertechnology, agrotech and venture capital, punches above its weight on Nobel prizes and exported television formats, is a global leader on gay rights and decriminalizing cannabis and has developed Iron Dome to zap rockets out of the sky.”

     In other words, the writer’s conception of the Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, is a sort of weird hybrid of Singapore and Sodom. While the technological feats should make us all proud (some others are more dubious), they hardly constitute sufficient reason for Israel’s existence and the sacrifices required to sustain it.

      Centuries of Jews did not dream of returning to Zion so that Jews should be world leaders in cybertech. Jews who were murdered in sanctification of G-d’s name did not pray for an Israel that would transform the world with its “exported television formats.” Even Herzl did not fantasize about a Jewish state that would be a “global leader in gay rights.” Jews won plenty of Nobel Prizes before and since Israel’s establishment. And, suffice it to say, the Iron Dome would not be necessary if the “primary threat” to Israel were Haredim rather than radical Arabs and genocidal Iran.

     It seems clear that Perry perceives Israel entirely as a place of refuge for the Jewish people and not at all as the place where Judaism – as found in the Torah, elaborated in the Talmud and Codes, and observed and preserved by millions of Jews throughout history – is to be fully realized. That crucial flaw underlies his world view which seeks to safeguard Jews but not Judaism and therefore does not at all address why is it important for Jews to survive or for a State of Israel to exist. It cannot be because mankind could not endure without Homeland or In Treatment. And there are plenty of Asians and others who are quite gifted in cybertechnology.

     The writer disdains Haredim because his fantasy of Israel is that of a material powerhouse and a spiritual non-entity. Haredim have no substantive role in that notion of a Jewish state. And in this he is correct: if that is all there is to Israel, there is little reason for secular Israelis to remain, serve, sacrifice and develop the country. They would do better elsewhere. And  having banished the Torah from Israel – the Torah which is the source of our claim to the land of Israel – Perry lacks any real justification for being here, and no answer to the ancient (and modern) allegation that we are “robbers who stole the land from its inhabitants.”

     It is fascinating that the Jerusalem Post reported recently that Bnei Brak ranks as Israel’s poorest and most densely populated city and yet its residents are Israel’s happiest and most contented. Surely that conundrum is incomprehensible to the writer.

      Fortunately, he is wrong and misguided in each assertion, for Israel is far more than a haven for endangered Jews. It is the one place on earth where Jews are to live and the Torah is to be actualized. Yes, the Torah which is the Tree of Life to all who grasp it – the Torah that provides us with a constitution for the Jewish state, the place from which G-d’s morality is exported to the world in every conceivable format.

        Perry is the wrong person to make the argument that Haredi society has to change because at the heart of Haredi society is the impulse to do what is necessary that Judaism survive and not just Jews. “Jews without Judaism” is a non sequitur, a purely ethnic identity with any real meaning or importance.  A “Jewish state” without Judaism cannot endure and there is absolutely nothing in Perry’s credo of Israel that is remotely Jewish.  Contrary to Perry’s conclusion, Israel cannot survive without Haredim as their intense focus on Judaism provides the state its raison d’être.

       That being said, here is where I part company with both sides. Rav Kook noted over a century ago that the Old Yishuv Jews, the spiritual ancestors of today’s Haredim, had rich spiritual lives but their national lives were impoverished. They lived, and to some extent still live, in a Jewish world in which the need for a Jewish state ranges from desirable to tolerable to unnecessary. Their focus is not on statehood and what is needed to maintain it but rather on Torah and what is needed to maintain it. If only they realized that the moment is at hand – it is not coming, it is here now – when the Torah must be applied and integrated in the modern state, a state that is pervaded with Jewish morality and values and not those imported and absorbed from Western and pagan sources.

      I too wish the Haredi world were more receptive to this approach. The antagonism towards much of the Haredi world in Israel is overblown but it is also real. It can also be diminished. For years, there has been a growing realization in the Haredi world that a life of voluntary penury is unsustainable and certainly not at public expense. Substantive efforts have been made to increase Haredi service in the military and participation in the work force. Not every politician who encourages military service, work, self-support and even a reduction of benefits is an enemy of Haredim (for sure, some are). And Haredi politicians have also not distinguished themselves with their public deportment, words or policies, some of which are indefensible.

     The most unfortunate aspect of Haredi life is the vibe that is often projected that Torah is incompatible with a modern state and that Haredim must remain sheltered until the storm passes. That is a disservice to the Torah that is cherished by its adherents. Life itself involves weathering this “storm.”  It is insufficient, as apologists often do, to highlight the amazing chesed that exists in Haredi society for that is born of necessity as much as it is born of virtue. There would not be a need for thousands of gemachs if people were able to support themselves.

       It is surely not surprising that a writer who extols Israel for “decriminalizing cannabis” would have no interest in or respect for those who learn Torah and get lofty with G-d’s word rather than high with a plant.  A truly Jewish state can create the right balance between those who study the Torah and those who implement it in the public domain. Indeed, they will often be the same people at different times. This is also our failure – to convey the depth, beauty, wisdom and all-encompassing majesty of the Torah to all Jews at all times.

      Perhaps that is the real threat to Israel’s future – a generation that is so devoid of Torah values and connection to G-d that it does not know why we are here and what to do now that we are here. In overcoming that threat, Haredim are surely our allies and, as their numbers increase, they will be the leaders in building Israel’s future.

Hatred – Baseless and Otherwise

      The Bennett government has been in place for a few weeks and the country is still standing. People are still davening morning, afternoon and evening and the sky is not falling; perhaps, better said, the sky has yet to fall. See? The power of positive thinking.

     Nevertheless, the anger in many right wing precincts is as real as is the reluctance to draw any conclusions from the failure to form a right-wing government after four successive elections and Likud victories as the largest party. The lack of desire for a reckoning – it is clear that Binyamin Netanyahu would not have been able to form a stable government had there been another four elections – is self-defeating and counterproductive. But no more so than the particularly pernicious platform that the Likud has adopted. Indeed, the Likud has only one objective, one arrow in its quiver: to topple the government and quickly. And even the nation’s needs must be sacrificed to attain that single goal; that is worse than unfortunate. It is unimaginable.

     Take, for example, the extension of the Citizenship Law, which has been passed on an annual basis for some twenty years. It prevents, among other things, Israeli Arabs from marrying Arabs from Judea and Samaria and bringing them to reside in Israel proper as citizens. This helps preserve the demographic advantage that Israel has. The renewal of this statute has been fairly routine under right wing governments, with even centrist support, for some time.

     Now, under the Bennett government, the Likud is balking, endangering the law’s extension (and the security of the State) simply because this odd coalition that relies on the votes of Ra’am for its existence cannot pass it on its own. From a purely political perspective, the argument makes sense. The opposition always wants to make the government’s life miserable. From a moral perspective, though, the approach is absurd, even grotesque.

     Added to this are voices emanating from the Likud asserting that the right wing may not support the government’s efforts to combat Hamas or to challenge Iran’s determination to build a nuclear capability. This is, for lack of a better term, insane. And something else as well.

      This time of year – the Three Weeks in which we mourn the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash, the exile of the Jewish people and the numerous catastrophes that have befallen us – we often hear bandied about the cardinal sin of the Second Temple era that presaged the Destruction: sin’at chinam, baseless hatred. The term is used frequently but is rarely defined. In fact, it is almost always misconstrued.

     Sin’at chinam cannot mean any type of hatred as there are hatreds that are not baseless at all. Indeed, it is eminently logical that most hatred is grounded in something tangible – an event, a word, a deed or a personality – which someone finds offensive. I have never heard of an individual harboring the simplistic sin’at chinam for another individual.

     “I hate that fellow!” 

      “But why?”

     “No particular reason.”

     Sin’at chinam is hatred that is self-destructive, a hatred in which the hater is so passionate and irrational in his hatred that he does not care if he himself is destroyed by that hatred. That was the hatred of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza in the Gemara’s woeful tale, in which Bar Kamtza preferred to inform on his own people – and bring out his and his nation’s ruin – rather than endure a petty personal humiliation.

     Sin’at chinam is the suicidal hatred of the Zealots who burned the storehouses of supplies – enough to feed the people through a siege of twenty years – in order to provoke a war against Rome that they could not win and the people did not want to fight.

     Sin’at chinam is the hatred of politicians so distressed to be out of power – even momentarily – that they will sacrifice all moral notions, all strategic goals and the national interest itself in order to regain that power. That is insane.

      There is nothing wrong with an opposition trying to topple the government – but do it over issues on which you disagree, not issues on which you agree but choose to play games. There is nothing wrong with introducing a new bill to perpetuate the Citizenship Law rather than go through the charade of renewing it every year. But that is something the Likud could have done any time in the last decade, as it could have passed legislation limiting the jurisdictional reach of the Supreme Court that leads to the dismantling of settlements built in the land of Israel. Don’t be a tzadik on someone else’s dime, or shekel.

     Perhaps there will come a time when this government has to be strenuously opposed. One would hope there are enough sane right-wingers in the government to know when that time comes and to be courageous enough to admit it, leave, and collapse the coalition. But it should not happen at the expense of national priorities and certainly not on issues that are bread and butter to all right-wingers.

     The current approach is an eerie and equally ludicrous duplicate of the Biden administration that reflexively opposes anything that Donald Trump did simply because he did it, regardless of its merits. It has induced the Biden team to renew subsidies to the hapless Palestinian Authority, thereby subsidizing its oligarchs, encouraging its mischief and hampering the prospects for expanding the Abraham Accords (a term Biden and company churlishly eschew because it evokes a Trump success).

      We are better and wiser than that. Issues will arise that naturally cause rifts in the coalition and that run counter to the interests of a strong, proud, Jewish Israel, and those can be exploited. But issues that promote Israel’s interests should be supported even if – perhaps, especially if – the coalition supports it. The alternative is the self-destructive sin’at chinam that has caused only grief and tragedy in Jewish history.

Ask The Rabbi, Part 12

For over a year, I have participated in an “Ask the Rabbi” panel responding to questions posed by the editor of the Jewish Press. here is the latest installment. This column, including the responses of my colleagues, can be read at Jewishpress.com

When publishing a deceased person’s writings, may one censor a tiny amount of material in order to vastly increase the number of people who will read and be influenced by the author?

The mature, sophisticated reader will not be injured by exposure to an author’s writings or thoughts in their full complexity and depth, which is not to say that every reader today is mature and sophisticated. Worse, “language archeology” has become today a most regrettable passion of certain individuals who literally dig through the writings of their targets in order to unearth words or phrases that meant no harm when uttered or recorded decades ago but can today be presented in a most unfavorable light in order to “cancel” them. Shame on these censors, but in such an environment making stylistic emendations is not improper.

A full answer to this question really depends on circumstances, particularly who is censoring and for what reason. Certainly the ideas, values and world view of the author should never be modified in a way that distorts his opinions or conceals his attitudes. It would be troubling to hide pertinent information about an author for fear that it would undermine a community norm that is not a halacha. For example, it would be wrong to hide the fact that the Netziv read Jewish newspapers on Shabbat, as his nephew recorded. It would be wrong to omit that a particular gadol did not embrace a chumrah that is popular in some circles, or did embrace a kula that some frown upon. We accept our gedolim in all their breadth.

Similarly, it is wrong to suppress writings of great Jews who supported the Zionist enterprise or the State of Israel, as it is misguided to camouflage the writings of gedolim whose anti-Zionism today sounds anachronistic. We should be able to learn from the Torah of all gedolim even if we don’t accept each of their pronouncements on broader issues. We should all strive to be mature and sophisticated.


Is listening to rap or heavy metal music appropriate?

No. Never.

In truth, my experience with these genres of noise (music it is not) is waiting at a traffic light with the windows down hearing these cacophonous sounds emanating from another car. I have been tempted to drive through the red light to escape, but I confess I never have.

Music should uplift. Writing as a Levi, one of our primary tasks in the Beit Hamikdash was to accompany the avodah with singing and instrumental music. That music touched the soul, as music should.

Rap and heavy metal are usually vulgar, boorish, crude and abnormally loud. Earsplitting noise, combined with lyrics that should make a sailor blush, appeal to the worst of our instincts. It is often prurient, degrades women, and offends the sensibilities of anyone with the slightest inclinations towards sensitivity, decency and kavod habriyot. I have yet to see its redeeming value nor have I detected much talent among the noisemakers. Mozart and Beethoven, it is not, and even mild exposure to it makes me long for Avraham Fried and Mordechai ben David.

In a generation that is oddly proud of its degenerate cultural offerings that do little more than debase the citizenry and dishonor the species, rap and heavy metal are particularly offensive. Profane, offensive words set to deafening and shrill noise is just air pollution. It is not my cup of tea (I confess to being locked into ‘70s music) nor that – one would hope – of any cultured person.

That is our mission as a wise and understanding people, a light unto the nations. Turn the noise off!

Is being on time a Jewish value?

Punctuality is a Jewish value, and not just for the obvious reason that minutes matter in Jewish law. The difference between Shabbat and chol, between the permitted and the forbidden, between chametz and matzah, or between something qualifying as a mitzvah or not can all be measured in a single minute. Our performance of mitzvot demands an acute sensitivity to time.

But it is even more than that. Punctuality reveals to all our personal attributes and the values we cherish. It is a true indication of an disciplined, orderly life. When our days are arranged methodically, we accomplish much more and are more fulfilled. Furthermore my Rebbe, Rav Yisrael Chait shlit”a, often said that lateness is a psychological compromise – often unconscious – between not wanting to do something but having to do it. We are caught in that trap – and lateness is the middle ground we adopt. (Think about those Jews who are habitually late to shul.) If we appreciate something or someone then we arrive on time for it or for them.

That means that elementary kavod habriyot (respect for others) demands that we respect the time of other people also. Being late for a date, a meeting or an event – and forcing others to wait for you – is disrespectful. Time is life, and lateness means the devaluation of the life of another person.

Rav Yisrael Salanter opined that one of the three things that we can learn from a train is that everything can be lost if we are late just by one minute. Consequently, punctuality is treasured by Jews (not just Jews of German origin) as a sign of respect for G-d, respect for ourselves, and respect for others. And if you are going to be late, notify the other party and apologize sincerely.

 Some people insist that Hebrew and Lashon HaKodesh are two different languages.  Is the assertion correct and is the motivation behind making this assertion commendable?

This is an obvious and somewhat incomprehensible mistake, as can be attested to by the Mishnah (Sotah 7:2) that states that certain passages must be recited in Lashon Hakodesh, among them Mikra Bikurim and Birkat Kohanim. Clearly, Lashon Hakodesh in that context, and every other, means Hebrew. This contrasts with other parts of our liturgy that can be recited in any language, such as tefilah.

It is hard to trace the provenance of such an error, except to note the profound nostalgia many Jews feel for the Yiddish language that was used by Jews in Europe for many centuries. But previous generations of Jews felt the same nostalgia for Greek (even to the extent that Chazal granted it special status), Aramaic (the language of much of the Talmud), Arabic (in which Rambam wrote all his works except for Mishnah Torah), Ladino, and others as well, including English. Yiddish is perceived as the mamme lashon, even if my mother speaks to me in English, but a mamme lashon is not a Lashon Hakodesh, which is a holy language.

Last I checked, the Torah was given in Hebrew, and the Kuzari (2:68) underscores that Avraham spoke Aramaic for mundane matters but reserved Hebrew – Lashon Hakodesh – for holy endeavors. Rambam, in his Mishnah Commentary (Avot 2:1), characterizes the study of Lashon kodesh as a mitzvah kallah, a simple commandment that is nonetheless not to be trivialized. Of course, he meant Hebrew, and in his Moreh Nevuchim (3:8) he explains why Hebrew is termed Lashon Hakodesh.

Is it a positive development that Hebrew has been restored as a living, spoken tongue in the modern era? Of course, and it is miraculous, unprecedented in history, and a sign of the wondrous times in which we are living. We should appreciate it and learn Hebrew.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

 There was once a conservative politician who became prime minister through some parliamentary maneuvering, having not been elected to the position. Members of his own party despised him and deemed him unfit for high office. He then served with distinction. His name was Winston Churchill and after he was appointed Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1940, he inspired, guided and led Britain to a victory over the Nazis. He even cajoled major world powers, like the United States, to view the conflict as he did.  

    There was also a politician who had enormous political and military achievements to his credits. Under very trying circumstances, it is widely assumed that he saved his nation from destruction and even from entering into a premature “peace” agreement involving concessions with a hated enemy. Instead he relentless pursued victory – and he won. For his efforts, little over a month after the war ended, his grateful nation summarily threw him out of office. That man – also Winston Churchill –was not just ousted from office; he and his party lost in a crushing landslide. Privately, though, he refused to denounce his people for their ingratitude. Instead, he accepted his defeat graciously, with typical good humor.

     None of this is to suggest that either Naftali Bennett or Binyamin Netanyahu is Winston Churchill reincarnate. History repeats itself but never precisely. But count me in the very small camp that is not devastated by or deliriously happy about the impending fall of Netanyahu, or is overly trepidatious over the impending Bennett government (which will still shock me if it occurs). I did not vote for either man, but perhaps a little perspective is in order about each of them. 

    It is still hard to digest the antipathy that exists in much of Israel to Netanyahu – a man whose political accomplishments are as considerable as his personal flaws. Having lived through the sheer hatred many Americans spewed against George W. Bush and Donald Trump, it is worth noting even that did not engender the non-stop protests that Israel has seen against Netanyahu over the last few years. From one vantage point, Netanyahu is probably the most successful Prime Minister Israel has ever had. His tenure was marked by relative security, relative prosperity, a modernized military, an energized economic juggernaut, peace with multiple Arab nations that provided Israelis with hope that we will finally gain some measure of acceptance in the Arab world, the litany of Trumpian pro-Israel moves, and a resolute defense of Israel’s interests on the world stage and, when necessary, to the United States. 

   From that standpoint, it is inexplicable why he has never won 40 or 50 seats in the Knesset. That he maxes out at 30-32 mandates – roughly a quarter of the population – is attributable in small part to the various other ideologies that inhabit denizens of this land, but in much larger part to his character defects that have simply disgusted the leaders of six other parties and preclude them from working with him even for the good of the population. It is strange, perhaps unconscionable, but politics is personal. All the right-wingers who currently refuse to work with Netanyahu worked with him in the past and now demur. Moreover, he has this irritating, even oleaginous habit, of accusing his rivals of doing what he himself once did, is doing, and will do in the future. 

     A lesser mystery, only because he is less known, is the hysteria greeting the ascendancy of Naftali Bennett. It is as ridiculous to assert that the leader of a six person party cannot be prime minister as it is to assert that the winner of the popular vote, not the Electoral College majority, in American presidential elections should be the president. Those are not the rules of the game. Besides, Bennett’s triumph is akin to the coach whose 8-8 wild card team wins the Super Bowl. They didn’t win that much, they might not be the best team in objective terms but they won when it counted. One would think that anyone with those political skills would be acclaimed.

          Well over a decade ago, I met Naftali Bennett for the first time when he visited Teaneck, the New Jersey town where he lived for several years as a child. It was before he had entered politics but he spelled out to me his plans for future. In particular, he underscored how disconcerting he found it that Religious Zionists accepted being adjuncts to power but never leaders, and his objective was to someday become Prime Minister. I was skeptical, he was determined, and one can only admire someone who has a vision and executes it. All politicians are ambitious but despite the zigzags he has remained faithful to the motivating factors that ushered him into politics.  

       It is unfair to hold him out as the Religious Zionist standard bearer. He always intended to broaden the base of Religious Zionism beyond Religious Zionists; hence the long time alliance with Ayelet Shaked. One can fairly say that he used the Religious Zionist infrastructure to get ahead but politicians have ambition like they have hearts and lungs. I have heard some argue that he has no ideology except gaining power. I don’t accept that because power is only valuable when it is used in pursuit of some policy aim. Most of his stated policy aims, for years already, are ones that can be welcomed.

            Similarly, the indictment that Bennett has betrayed his voters or lied to the electorate is a bit overbroad. Political campaigns traffic in misstatements and prevarications (as in the old joke: How do you know when a politician is lying? When you see his lips moving.) Sure, he made promises not to sit with this one or that one, often couched in coy language and sometimes even contradictory, as they all did. But, as I recall quite clearly, he had one overarching theme that he underscored again and again: to do everything in his power to prevent a fifth election. I believe that is his guiding principle.

     One can fairly ask what is wrong with a fifth election. After all, we survived the first four quite well. The answer is that pursuant to the current constellation of parties and personalities the fifth election would only be the prelude to the sixth or seventh. And at a certain point, even anarchists will have had enough. It should be clear that as long as Netanyahu heads the Likud, with all his talents and accomplishments, he cannot form a majority coalition and his governments will be a hodgepodge of strange bedfellows, and short-lived to boot. That is where we are and that has to change.

      Obviously, the government that is a blatant hodgepodge of strange bedfellows is the proposed one whose only common objective is ending Netanyahu’s historic reign. Most troubling, it contains a number of unsavory characters whose presence should concern sentient Jews, both for reasons of character and policy. There are people who will sit in the Cabinet who, if reason and common sense ever prevailed, should never come within missile range of the levers of power. Hatred (like love), Chazal tell us, mekalkelet et hashurah, upsets the natural order. It causes people to do things they would never have contemplated doing. Hatred for Netanyahu spawned the creation of this patchwork government. Can that same hatred keep it alive? 

      The potential harm can be mitigated if Israeli politics becomes even a little less tribal. The fear of a center-left government is exaggerated. What will exist is a center-right-left government, which is to say, no government at all. But if twenty Likud members break away and join the coalition, there is no need for Ra’am, Meretz or Labor – and suddenly the right-center-left government is a center-right government, which it should have been all along. If Shas joins, there is no need for Lieberman. Who knows what is planned? Opposition is a lonely place to be, and opposition MK’s usually do little more than call press conferences, rant on talk shows or whistle into the wind. And it is most unpleasant to see the joy on the faces of left-wing politicians whose vision of a Jewish state has little Jewish about it and are ecstatic at this unexpected turn of events. 

     There is certainly cause for concern going forward. One would hope that, for all the joys of being in government or having a ministry, if the anti-Torah forces demand that the Torah, Jewish values and the Jewish character of the state (conversion, personal status, etc.) be undermined, religious Jews like an Elkin or an Urbach – even a Bennett – will know to walk away and thus end the whole exercise. If Ra’am suppresses the ability to protect Jewish life and property, or seeks to override the law and permit illegal building (something that the government has overlooked for years, except when Jews did it) one can hope that a Shaked or a Sa’ar will know to walk away.

      The collective fear of Netanyahu’s descent and Bennett’s ascent is also fear of the unknown. Netanyahu has been the leader for what amounts in democracies to an eternity. Bennett has been successful in all his ministries and in his business life, but who knows if that translates into the leadership of a fractious nation?

      Sure, there is fear that the left will fulfill all its policy wishes: no Shabbat in the land, religious pluralism, mass conversion, reduced funding for Yeshivot, a halt on settlement in Judea and Samaria – in short, an assault on the Jewish character of the land of Israel. That cannot, should not and need not be. I doubt that it will happen. In fact, I doubt much of anything will happen. But perusing the right-wing wish list of the last few years – increased settlement, limiting the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, preserving the sanctity of Shabbat against commercial onslaught – we should recall that none of that happened under a right-wing government. 

    If we take the politicians at their word – admittedly a hazardous exercise – the dreams of each of the motley crew that will constitute the next government will be put on hold, both the religious and the secular dreams. Granted that the only real item on the agenda of the change government will be changing the prime minister, and that happens automatically. After that, nothing much will change. 

   As such, the government should focus on three or four important tasks on which some unanimity might be possible – dealing with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, spurring middle class (not luxury) housing construction, cooling social tensions in society, improving infrastructure, growing the free market economy and kicking other cans down the road. The latter is a particular expertise of the adroit politician. The members of such a government are not abandoning their values as much as they are deferring their realization to a time when they are actually possible to realize. 

     There are some grounds for optimism in the short term, except among those who believe that Netanyahu has a permanent claim to power. It is no denigration of his achievements to note that democracy does not function like that. Nevertheless, right-wingers and religious Jews can be suspicious, and perhaps even disappointed.  But disappointment that is unaccompanied by an alternative other than permanent stalemate is counterproductive. We would do better to be cautious without being negative and strengthen Bennett during the invariable crises that this hydra-headed government will face to ensure that the destiny of Israel moves forward to a complete Jewish state. It would certainly behoove us to reach out, underscore the grave danger in some of the contemplated religious reforms and work to prevent them, and try to be good influences rather than hysterically rant and rave from the outside, which accomplishes nothing. 

    In the meantime, Netanyahu can bask in the well deserved accolades for his tenure and finish his trial in due haste. (I hope he is acquitted – and I also hope his trial is not dragged out for years.) It would be good for him and the nation if a PM Bennett utilized his services if needed, as a special envoy to world leaders with whom Netanyahu has had a fine working relationship. Note as well that the incoming government is one that is built not to last. As shocking as are these turns of events, it will be even more shocking, even inconceivable, if Yair Lapid becomes prime minister in two years. And if the government succumbs and indulges the leftist wish list – forsaking the land of Israel and its Torah – then it will be catastrophic, a sad echo of the right-wing implosion in 1992 that heralded the Oslo fiasco.   

   Remember too that the reviled, routed Winston Churchill was elected Prime Minister in 1951 – the only time he actually was voted into the prime minister’s office – and at age 77. By comparison, all the current politicians are still wet behind the ears. Politics is filled with second and third comebacks, as well as journeys into the unknown.