Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Like many people these days, I am a busy man. But that did not stop me from taking off several weeks of my professional life to fight Muammar Kaddafi’s plan to take up residence directly next door to me this past August and September. Together with my friend and Mayor, Michael Wildes, and the support of the entire Englewood, New Jersey, community, we pushed Kaddafi out. Sad to say, it was a pyrrhic victory. Last month, with great stealth and with the cooperation of the State Department, our otherwise brilliant police force, and the silent acquiescence of our elected leaders, his Ambassador to the United Nations, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, moved in and took up residence as my immediate next door neighbor. Every time my kids hit a baseball a bit too far, it goes into Libyan territory and on to the lawn of a man who last week disgraced the UN Security Council by showing a gruesome slide show featuring images of mutilated Palestinians with Israeli soldiers as the culprits. His condemnation of Israel in Gaza made no mention of the thousands of Hamas rockets that had been fired without provocation at Israeli children.
These are the same Libyans who in August welcomed a mass murderer – Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber – with great fanfare into Tripoli (Megrahi, who was released by Scottish authorities on humanitarian grounds because he only had three months to live, is miraculously still alive.). They are the same Libyans whose leader called in October for the Palestinians to be given nuclear weapons. And they are the same Libyans who have shown our city undisguised contempt by refusing over a quarter century to pay even a single dollar in taxes and who cut down my fence and trees that separate my property from theirs without so much as a courtesy phone call, thereby forcing me to sue them in Federal court.
From the age of sixteen all I ever wanted to be was a Rabbi, someone who brings healing to broken lives and values to a needy culture. But for the first time in my life I find myself contemplating a run for elective office. The reason is simple. The Talmud declares, “In a place where there are no men stand up and become one.” The fact that our elected officials allow the representative of state-sponsors of terrorism to live in our community is scandalous. When I read that my own Congressman and friend Steve Rothman, who fought so hard against Kaddafi, had now told the New Jersey Jewish Standard that an agreement had been reached 25 years ago allowing the Ambassador to take up residence and that therefore “I hope everyone will be appropriately good neighbors,” I was beside myself. Is he seriously asking me to borrow a cup of sugar from a man whose government murdered American servicemen while they danced at a disco?
Without sounding paranoid it’s time that we in the Jewish community face some facts. Across the globe it’s open season on the Jews. Few of us would have believed that a country like Britain that gave the world parliamentary democracy would be guilty of attempting to ban Israeli professors from academic conferences, would have a magistrate issue an arrest warrant against Israel’s former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, would require a label on products from the West Bank as being made by Jewish settlers, and would have its Supreme Court dictate to the Jewish community who its members are.
Then came the news, reported in the New York Times, that Pope Benedict XVI is moving ahead with plans to canonize Piux XII, the man known as Hitler’s Pope who made a Concordat with the Fuhrer and who, as the world’s foremost spiritual figure refused even once to condemn the holocaust. This is the same infallible leader who on 16 October, 1943, watched quite literally as more than a thousand Jews of Rome were rounded up in trucks, within 300 feet of the his Vatican Window, to be deported to Auschwitz where they were gassed within a few days. Even then the Holy Father remained utterly silent. The Church’s allegations that Pius helped Jews in secret is as cowardly as Pius’s actions. When it comes to stopping abortion the Church blasts its global megaphone. But when it came to saving Jews it could only be done when noone was looking? Many righteous Catholics saved Jews in plane sight and were martyred for their courage. But Pius, who even after the war ordered the mass kidnapping of hundreds of thousands of Jewish children by refusing to hand them back to their rightful Jewish guardians, disgraced a great world religion.
Here in the United States we have had to contend with the Obama Administration’s canard that Israeli settlements, rather than Palestinian terrorism and Arab political oppression, are the main obstacles to Middle East peace. And it’s more than a little disappointing that the Netanyahu government has endorsed this fraud by instituting a ten month freeze on settlements, thereby unjustly identifying some of Israel’s most patriotic citizens as its most intransigent.
Why is all this happening? Some would say that antipathy toward Jews is a law of physics. I disagree. It is happening because we allow it. Can anyone imagine the same British Supreme Court dictating to the Anglo-Islamic community whom a Muslim is? President Obama received nearly eighty percent of the Jewish vote. When you have numbers that overwhelming, you can be forgiven if you take the constituency for granted.
Our community must make its voice heard. We are a powerful global economic market and we must seriously consider boycotting the products of countries whose shameful behavior mistreats Jews. Britain is out of control and a serious conversation about whether or not to vacation there or buy its products should now occur. And our community must make it clear to our Catholic brothers and sisters that calling a man who lost his voice while six million Jews died a saint will irreparably harm Catholic-Jewish relations.
More committed Jews must begin considering running for office. Rather than merely relying on friends to represent us, we must also begin representing ourselves. I wish to remain a Rabbi who informs and influences politics from the outside. But if Kaddafi’s envoy remains my next-door neighbor with the tacit blessing of my elected leaders, I will do my best to unseat them by every legal means necessary.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Values Network. His most recent book is ‘The Blessing of Enough’ and ‘The Michael Jackson Tapes.’ Follow him on Twitter (RabbiShmuley) and on his website Shmuley.com.
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December 14, 2009 | 6:47 pm
Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
On a recent debate about marital infidelity on CNN a fellow panelist was adamant that Tiger Wood’s unfaithfulness was both predictable and unpreventable. ‘As a famous guy you meet a lot of beautiful women. You feel attracted to them, they feel attracted to you, and you end up in bed. It’s not more complicated than that and there’s no way to stop it.’ Men cheat. Get used to it. Case closed.
Such shallow drivel has been the level of discourse ever since the story broke that Woods may have had enough mistresses to staff a female softball team. Firstly, if there is no way to guarantee male faithfulness, why are we all scandalized by Tiger’s behavior? And second, a whole parade of powerful men – Eliot Spitzer, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, John Edwards – are destroying themselves and their families with acts of infidelity. And we can’t come with any cause other powerful men have a sense of entitlement?
What impedes any deep understanding of infidelity is the public’s natural assumption that husbands have affairs for sex. In fact, the vast majority of husband’s affairs have no physical component. They are cyber affairs that take place over the internet. They are conducted over the phone and are never consummated. And even when they do get physical it is often very bad and unsatisfying sex, as Monica Lewinsky shared in the Starr Report and as a multitude of JFK’s mistresses alleged as well.
In truth, men have affairs not for physical reasons but for emotional ones. They cheat not out of a sense of confidence but out of a state of brokenness. Not out of a sense of how desirable they are but out of a sense of what failures they are. And this is especially true of men like Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton who live in a hyper-competitive environments where they realize that they are only special to the extent that they keep on winning. Men like these are particularly broken, living as they do just one failure away from obscurity. They know that their value as human beings rests entirely in other people’s hands. And they live in permanent and painful insecurity. They constantly question their self-worth and they turn to women both to feel desirable and sexy and to comfort them from their pain.
Yes, I know. Men like Tiger Woods appear to the public as cool-as-a-cucumber. But beneath the calm veneer is a man who has been trained to believe that his value as a human being rests entirely on a never-ending game of human one-upmanship. Those who have made their names in sports and politics live with unimaginable insecurity. And rather than deal with these insecurities in a healthy way by having deep emotional conversations with their wives about their fears, it is easier to simply paper them over by turning to strangers who make them feel special. The attention of other women brings a momentary silencing of the inner demons who constantly taunt them with whispers of their own insignificance. And the more prized the woman is by other men, the greater the validation these men feel. Coupled with this is the intuitive gravitation by men to the healing powers of the feminine. Men who are in pain use the caress and the care of a woman as a salve to sooth their broken egos. Having a woman care for you and make herself available to you – not to mention tell you how wonderful you are – becomes a like a drug that makes you feel instantly better. Of course, the healing is ephemeral and unfulfilling based as it is on a highly artificial sense of intimacy.
The obvious question, now, is this. If a man who feels deeply insecure looks to a woman to make him feel special, then why doesn’t he turn to his own wife? Because any man who suspects deep down that he is a loser is going to look at the woman dumb enough to marry him as a loser squared. She has allied herself with failure and is part of the same loser package. And if she has no value, how can she confer it on someone else?
The public makes the mistake of assuming that powerful, successful men are the most confident, that elite sport stars like Tiger Woods are unflappable. Precisely the opposite is true. Everyone who seeks the spotlight, whether in sports, television or politics, does so to compensate for some inner feeling of inadequacy, as Aristotle made clear more than two millennia ago. Every ‘successful’ man is inwardly broken in some way. If not, why would they spend their lives seeking a place in the public’s heart?
Many will argue with me. Adultery is about sex. It’s about powerful men behaving arrogantly. But then why is the most common refrain of the adulterous husband to his mistress the very infamous, ‘My wife doesn’t understand me,’ meaning, My wife can’t take away my pain, but maybe you can. My wife can’t make me feel good about myself. Even in my marriage I still feel so insignificant. But being with you makes me feel special.
I was not at all surprised to hear Tiger’s alleged mistresses saying that he told them he loved them and was unhappy with his wife. Cheating husbands always say things like this. And at the time, they mean it. Monica Lewinsky said that Bill Clinton told her he would leave Hillary and marry her, which again is common with the unfaithful spouse. They’re expressing their inner misery and blaming their wives for their unhappiness when really they are solely responsible for their low self-esteem which will carry over into every relationship until he finally decides to fix himself.
This is why we see philandering husbands so often having many, as opposed to just one mistress, like Tiger Woods. No woman can make a broken man feel good about himself. So he becomes a wanderer, obsessively traveling from woman to woman hoping that at least one will provide the magical salve he seeks.
Many have said that husbands like Tiger Woods are sex addicts. But then why aren’t they addicted to sex with their wives? Why does it have to come from another woman?
But from understanding the cause we can create a solution. Men who learn to talk to their wives about their deepest fears slowly become immune to an affair. Infidelity, it turns out, often provides a starting point for couples to address the void in their relationship which usually consists of the lack of truly intimate communication about life’s anxieties and apprehensions. A man’s deepest fear is of failure. And the person he most masks this from is his own wife because she is the person whose opinion matters most. I know husbands who have been laid off from their jobs in this recession who still put on a suit every day and leave the house so that their wives never find out. So called ‘successful’ men harbor the same fears. And rather than destructively address the fear by becoming a stud to other women, he can purge from himself a dependency on strangers by learning to confide fully in his wife.
The number one complaint of wives in marriage is that their husbands don’t talk to them about their feelings. When a philandering husband is trying to win his wife back after cheating on her, what better way than to finally open up to her about the reasons for his unfaithfulness. It was never a rejection of her. It did not happen because she did not give him enough sex, or that she didn’t go to the gym, or wasn’t emotionally available. Those are the excuses of a coward. A boy blames others for his failures. A man takes responsibility for his actions. Rather, it was because he falsely thought that someone other than his wife could make him feel good about himself. And now he has learned that those feelings of self-confidence are the preserve of only one woman.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is author of many books on relationships, including ‘The Kosher Sutra,’ ‘Kosher Sex,’ and ‘Kosher Adultery.’ www.shmuley.com
December 8, 2009 | 3:49 pm
Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Visiting Zimbabwe can be a heart-wrenching experience. It is a beautiful land of warm and soft-spoken people. But hovering over the landscape at all times is the specter of extreme poverty and political oppression. The poverty is merely tragic. But the political oppression is brutal, murderous, and criminal. Most of the people I met went quiet with fear on the subject of Robert Mugabe, afraid that a stranger may be a government agent and any criticism can make you the next target of his thugs.
One innocent victim was Ben Freeth, a sunny Christian farmer who, after publishing an article in the Western press about the illegal and murderous farm seizures being carried out by Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) party, was savagely beaten and later watched as his farm was burnt to the ground. When I met Freeth in Harare last week he described to me and my friends from the Christian relief organization ROCK of Africa who were hosting us how, in the midst of the assault that fractured his skull, he suddenly reached out and touched the feet of his assailants and said, “Bless you, bless you.” My Christian counterparts were deeply moved by this quintessential story of Christian love for one’s enemy. I, however, was aghast.
Ben is a hero who, at the risk of his life continues to serve as a spokesman for the thousands of white families who have been brutally dispossessed of their land and many of whom have been killed. But I could not help but challenge this aspect of the story. “Every ounce of blessing we have in our hearts has to be reserved for the all the AIDS orphans that I saw dotting this once-proud land. These wretched thugs deserve not our blessing but our contempt, not our love but out hatred.” A debate broke out in the room. I alone maintained my position. My dear friend Glen Megill, a saint who founded ROCK of Africa, said, “Shmuley, Jesus told us to love our enemies.” Yes, I said. But your enemy is the guy who steals your parking space. G-d’s enemies are those who murder His children. And Jesus never said to love G-d’s enemies. To the contrary, the book of Proverbs is clear, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Psalms reinforces the point. “Those who love G-d hate evil.”
This is something that has always puzzled me. My Christian colleagues at ROCK of Africa are angels. In ten days we distributed corn seed to the poorest villages, gave out mosquito nets, hugged and prayed with AIDS victims, and put on large feasts for hundreds of hungry villagers and children who dwell in mud huts. We colored pictures with orphans in Harare and gave them toys and presents. The hearts of evangelical Christians are enormous repositories of loving-kindness. But why must the heart be so wide as to extend to Mugabe’s killer henchmen? What place have murderers earned in our hearts? The same is true of my many Christian brothers who have told me that their faith commands them to love Osama bin Laden.
My fear is that such distortions of Christian teaching undermine our resolve to confront evil regimes. When Jesus enjoined to ‘Turn the other cheek,’ he meant to petty slights and humiliations. Does any sane person really imagine that he meant to ignore and overlook mass murder?
Mugabe has brought a reign of terror to Zimbabwe, making its name synonymous with wholesale slaughter, political intimidation, brutalization of opposition elements, and illegal land grabs. The country is now the poorest nation on earth, with an annual per capita GDP of just $200. Donor agencies estimate that more than 5 million Zimbabweans, representing almost half the population, currently rely on food handouts. The stores are half empty and last year they were completely empty. The ATMs often have no cash. Many of the gas stations have run out for the day. Even Victoria Falls is nearly bereft of tourists.
The black population is noble, extremely welcoming, and exhibit the nobility of spirit of those who have suffered much but complain little. A white population of approximately 4000, down from about 250,000, still remains. They seem to love Zimbabwe, consider it their home, and insist on staying.
They are, of course, hopeful signs, especially the new unity government which has brought Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara into shared power with Mugabe. I interviewed Mutambara, a 43-year-old former Rhodes scholar whom I knew from Oxford and is now the country’s deputy Prime Minister (the full interview is available on my website). A compelling man of vision, eloquence, and academic brilliance, he is convinced that within two years Zimbabwe will be completely ready for free and fair elections. I hope he is right.
But farm confiscations continue and Mugabe’s gangsters still terrorize political opponents. And the only hope for Mugabe to be completely and utterly marginalized is if the international community comes together to push him off the scene. This will not come if the man does not chill our bones. We must not bless but curse his rule.
I don’t do well with tyranny. I have undisguised contempt for tyrants and knowing that I was staying just a few miles from Mugabe’s house spooked me throughout my stay in Harare. As you drive by his home you are told that you are not allowed to look for fear of attracting suspicion and being arrested. Highly-educated locals told me there is a law that says that you cannot stare at his motorcade either and that his guards have been known to fire on those who do. Is this a man whom my Christian friends tell me I must love?
No, I refuse. I will go further. Anyone who loves the wicked is complicit in their wickedness. Anyone who blesses the cruel is an accomplice to their cruelty.
I choose to bless the courageous people of Zimbabwe rather than the tyrant who has slaughtered and impoverished them. I choose to bless a country like America which fights to liberate the weak in Iraq and the oppressed in Afghanistan rather than the Saddams and the Taliban who have brutalized them. Most of all, I choose to bless people like Ben Freeth that one day the long arm of justice will catch up to his tormentors and they will discover that while G-d is indeed a long-suffering G-d, for those who continue to slaughter innocents He is also a G-d of justice.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of This World: The Values Network was on a relief mission to Zimbabwe with Rock of Africa. To read his blogs and see videos of the visit, go to www.shmuley.com.