Jewish Journal

Pious Pronouncement with Action

by Dr. Michael Berenbaum

August 2, 2010 | 2:53 pm

I take prayer seriously, very seriously. It is an integral part of my daily life.

Years ago when I officiated at High Holiday services I found one prayer most disturbing. Recited at the beginning of the Reader’s repetition of the Musaf Amidah in melodious and beautiful the Congregation and its leaders would go through forty four versus loudly proclaiming, 

“And all believe that God is faithful, inquires into secrets, searches human conscience, redeems from the grave, a Mighty Redeemer, judge of humanity, that there is none besides God, that God heeds the covenant. ..”

You get the point.

Reciting the acrostic poem from alef to tof, twice for each letter from the beginning of the Hebrew alphabet to its end, Jews would clearly lie to God in the midst of their most sacred service. Perhaps there was a time when all believed, but even in the most pious of congregations some harbor even the most secret of doubt as the one belief or another and all must acknowledge that not all believe.

So from time to time I would ask the congregation “what do all Jews believe?” The answer we came up with would cause some to chuckle.

We can truthfully say that all Jews believe that there is at most One God. And all believe that we need an energy policy.

At most there is one God—there are many Jewish atheists and agnostics, and many who are idolators, in the most significant sense of the term – worshipping false gods, but I know of no Jewish polytheists.

But it is the second of the universally held Jewish beliefs that concerned me as I shuddered from the scenes I am seeing from the Gulf of Mexico. “Drill baby drill is not going to work. The oil companies and the government did not know how to control the leak, how to cap the well and an ecological disaster unfolded before our eyes day-in and day-out.

How profound a disaster it was and will be, I cannot judge – I suspect that no one really knows.
There are only two long-terms solutions to our energy problem: “Conserve baby conserve” and develop alternate energy sources.

Former Vice President Cheney was wrong when he spoke of conservation as a private virtue: it is a public necessity. And former President Jimmy Carter was right – Carter was right, at least once – when spoke of the struggle for energy as the moral equivalent of war. People mocked him sitting in the White House with a cardigan sweater in front of a burning fire place. The American people welcomed President Ronald Reagan’s unbridled optimism when he spoke of “morning in America.” But Carter was correct then and now. Sacrifice is required, discipline and the unleashing of the American imagination so that we can take the leadership in creating alternate sources of energy. And higher prices; the consumer must understand that cheap energy is a thing of the past.

As Congress struggles with whether to take up the energy bill or the immigration bill first, the stakes could not be more serious. There is no issue more pressing for the United States—and for the long-term security of Israel—that the development of alternate energy sources that would wean us off imported oil. When Senator Lindsay Graham withdrew his support from the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham bill, the very bill he drafted and which bore his name, his act was anti-American and even more deeply anti-Israel.
And when AIPAC keeps tabs on individual votes in support of Israel will they include votes on energy policy, which is the most pro-American and pro-Israel vote a Representative can cast.

I know that many in the liberal community have been deeply disappointed in Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in recent years. But on this issue he is right.

If Congress cannot take up the energy bill and craft a good one, they are imperiling the future of America. The solution for the electorate may not be to throw these rascals out for those who replace them may be far worse, but to demand that they confront the issue and get it right.

If, as Rahm Emanuel has said.  “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” we wasted the crisis of 1973 and 1979 the oil crisis. We wasted the Enron crisis and the California energy supply shortage and since then things have only gotten worse.

The American people, with the American Jewish Community in the lead, should be demanding of our President and the Congress that we set forth an energy policy that moves us to conserve and stimulates the development of alternate energy sources, making them economically feasible by imposing a tax whose proceeds go to the development of alternate clean energy sources.

Demand sacrifice, unleash the American imagination. If we do not lead, others will lead and America will overtime become second rate economically. And we will deserve our fate.

The current policy enriches our enemies – enemies of the United States and enemies of Israel – and despoils our environment.

We all know what should be done. We must have the will and the imagination to get it done.


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A blog by Dr. Michael Berenbaum.

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