Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Two Men and a Movie

It's been a tradition in my family for quite some time now that we all go catch a matinée on the Friday after Thanksgiving. When we were younger it was always whatever new Disney movie was out, but this year we went to see Bobby. If you haven't heard, Bobby is Emilio Estevez's new movie about the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968.

The reason that I bring all of this up is that it's a fantastic movie. Unlike most movies about a single event, Bobby is focused on 22 characters who are in the Ambassador Hotel on that day. There are politicians, a young couple on the day of their wedding, superstars, cooks, and managers. But the overall theme, and Estevez was particularly good at getting this across, was what Bobby Kennedy meant to people in 1968 - the hope that he promised.

I could not but help think at the end of the movie that there really needs to be a movie about Yitzhak Rabin made in a similar format. When Rabin was assassinated twelve years ago I was too young to understand his politics, but I saw the look on my mother's face when we heard that he had died. I do not agree with Rabin's politics - and neither did my mother - but on that day, as in 1968, the hope was killed a long with the person. I'm not totally sure that it can be regained either, well not very easily at least.

Do yourself a favor, go see Bobby.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

David Brown goes back to work

Thanks to the enormous outpouring of support for David, Towson University reached an agreement with him to allow him to return to work as a University Police Officer. If you don't live in the Baltimore/DC area you probably haven't heard about him, and if you do I'd be shocked if you haven't.

David Brown has been in the Jewish Times, Campus Newspapers, Local TV, and on the radio. The Jewish community put aside their differences and came out and supported him and forced Towson to rethink their strategy.

Here's the Baltimore Sun's article:
But while Brown was celebrating the Sabbath, he was also missing shifts with the Towson University police department. In a dispute that inspired protests and petitions from students, Brown accused the school of religious discrimination, while the school suspended him from his job.

Yesterday, a day before a hearing that Brown feared would have led to his termination, he reached an agreement with the university. Although supervisors will still assign Brown to work during the Sabbath, they will give him more freedom to find other officers to cover his shifts, and even allow him to skip some.
Towson is allowed to save face though Brown does not get everything he wanted and deserved it's still a win in his eyes. It's times like these when I see communal support that books like Jew Vs. Jew are not 100% accurate. Jews are still - despite their religious, political, philosophical differences - Jews, willing to help each other out when it's necessary.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Jack Abramoff starts his prison sentence

CNN is reporting that Jack Abramoff started his six-year prison sentence today:

CUMBERLAND, Maryland (AP) -- Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, convicted of federal charges after using expensive gifts, campaign donations and exotic trips to win access to the powerful in Washington, went to prison Wednesday.

Abramoff arrived at about 6:30 a.m. EST at a relatively secluded prison facility in western Maryland and began to serve a nearly six-year prison sentence for a fraudulent deal to buy a fleet of casino ships in Florida.

Abramoff was delivered out of sight of waiting reporters and camera crews and his arrival was announced in a two-paragraph statement by a prison representative.

The part of the camp where Abramoff will be kept is a 334-bed minimum security facility located near an industrial park along the north branch of the Potomac River.

The camp is all male. It consists of a number of two-story dormitories that are light red cinderblock structures. Each dormitory contains a number of six-bed cubicles, and Abramoff was being assigned to one of those. The prison is nearly surrounded by Appalachian Mountain ridges rising along either bank of the Potomac on the Maryland and West Virginia sides of the river.

A friend of mine recently spent Shabbos with then and had nothing but rave reviews of Jack and his family - he was quite pleased with the food. To Jack, I hope you will come out of this a better man.

Parshat Chayei Sara: The Transition Begins from Avraham to Yitzhak

At the beginning of Parshat Chayei Sara, Avraham buys a plot of land in Hevron to bury her. While this is very clearly l'cvodah it also has very important ramifications for Yitzhak. I think the following quote does a great job explaining why.
Ownership of burial land is crucial for both familial and political reasons. Sarah would have received a decent burial regardless of whether Abraham had purchased the cave. But Abraham has in mind also and especially on what is needed for future generations, beginning with Isaac. By purchasing a family burial site, Abraham provides as a permanent holding a special place where the ancestors may always "dwell" among the living, a place of memory and filial piety. Indeed, Abraham is arranging his own place of internment and safeguarding it in advance through purchase so that his son will have a secure place to bury him, side by side with Sarah, his wife and Isaac's mother. Isaac will not need to go begging for burial in Hittite sepulchres; Isaac will not need to bargain as Abraham had done; Isaac will know where his loss should lead him: back to his ancestral roots. Even without further instruction, Isaac at the time of his father's death will be directed to reunite his father with his mother and to recognize in their union the wondrous source of his being. He will be moved to recall their deeds. He will be encouraged to try to walk thereafter in their ways... The burial arrangements that Abraham makes today for Sarah (and himself) will speak for him to Isaac after Abraham has died, precisely when Isaac will need to hearken.

Leon R. Kass, The Begining of Wisdom: Reading Genesis p.366
Even in grief Avraham has his wits about him to recall what his goal in life truly is: to found a great nation. That end goal cannot be forgotten even for one moment, by the end of his life Avraham has developed into the great father that we needed for the new nation.

Even with the best training and the best teachers in the world, the student (Yitzhak) needs to be receptive to the transmission. After Sara's death, Yitzhak is so grief stricken that Avraham is forced to find ways to help him deal with the pain and move on. This is a two step process: 1. Bury Sara 2. Yitzhak shall be married.

Thus we see that despite the fact that Yitzhak never sees his father again from the time of the Akeidah to Avraham's death, Yitzhak will clearly understand (if he has not understood it already) that Avraham was preparing him to perpetuate the nation.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Shmuley Boteach on Evangelical Politics

Shmuley Boteach wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Jerusalem Post on the need to bridge the gaps between Jews and Evangelical Christians with regards to Israel. It's a very well written article arguing that we should get past our dislike for their ulterior motives, it is "the survival of God's chosen people" that we should ultimately be concerned with and therefore accept Evangelical support with open arms.

The thing is that this argument makes too much sense. I've posted before about this issue and my dislike for the Evangelical movement. I don't believe that their ultimate desire - for the conversion of Jews and acceptance of Jesus - fits in very well with our system of beliefs.

Israel could use a good friend, money is always a good thing, but this isn't 1952 with a poor Israel, we are talking about the most advanced economy in the Middle East. Israel's economy is doing very well and while some of that has to do with Evangelical money, we should not be doing what Shmuley Boteach is preaching - proactively looking for their support. I would not suggest divesting from them, not only for practical reasons, but mainly because I think their delusional and that their understanding of Armageddon will not come true.

It is an Arab proverb that states "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". Until someone shows me that verse in Mishlei I don't think we should be accepting any more help.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Elections and Musings on Politics in General

I knew that these elections would stir things up, but I didn't quite expect them to be as interesting as they've become. Rumsfeld's resignation was unexpected, though I have to give Bush credit for waiting till after the election to announce the news, it would have been seen as a political move. Now for sure, it could be viewed as, "Well, we did poorly in the election, time to show the world we're moving on too". And it may be, but I don't believe that to be the primary reason - in my honest opinion Bush knew even before the elections took place that Rumsfeld needed to go.

I was unable to vote in this election, I forgot to change my voter registration address in time and also forgot to request an absentee ballot. I take voting very seriously and I feel ashamed for not voting. It is a civic duty and those that do not vote should have little say in the repercussions of the elections (unless of course for no fault of their own). Therefore, I hope I can live up to my own principles and keep my critiques to a minimum. It's a good thing that the people I would have voted for won anyway.

For those that are interested I wanted Martin O'Malley and Ben Cardin to win - they did. Even though I am no longer a resident of Pennsylvania I would have voted for Rendell over Lynn Swan (despite the fact that I am a die-hard Steelers fan); I am ecstatic that Bob Casey defeated Rick Santorum.

Harry has a great post on the elections. I don't like the post title, though I think his commentary is quite good. I am not a fan of one issue politics - the effects of elections are greater than any one single issue, Israel included.

What also disturbs me is Haaretz's Israel Factor page. It's a ranking on which candidates are more pro-Israel than the other. What describes one as better than another, and can you really put that into a point total? Is a candidate that would blindly support Israel under all circumstances really what we want? Sure it might be if you're the guy in charge, but if you don't happen to support Olmert 100% then you shouldn't support blind support.

What we need is responsible support. An American President to tell Olmert when he's not acting appropriately. One with the intelligence to understand that he'd act the same way if he was the Prime Minister of Israel. Also one to know when certain actions are out of line (e.g. Amona) though also to know the balance between friendly advice and over reaching. These are among the reasons why I do not understand why people believe Bush was good for Israel. Good how? No, he was the blind supporter. We do not need that.

Sometimes I wish I could vote Bartlet.