What should a leader do as he nears the end of his term of office?

Hitler tellingly made sure to murder Hungarian Jewry when he was losing the war. What did others do during their last days in power?

Rabbi Yosef Bitton ,

Rabbi Yosef Bitton
Rabbi Yosef Bitton
Courtesy

One of the most shocking movies I have seen is called “The Last Days” by Steven Spielberg, a documentary where five survivors talk about the extermination of Hungarian Jews during the Shoah.

In May 1944 the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz began. In just eight weeks, more than 420,000 Jews were deported and killed. The figures and the speed at which this massacre was carried out are absolutely incomprehensible. On a typical day, there were three or four trains, with between 3,000 and 4,000 people on each train. Every day about 12,000 Jews arrived at the death camps.

Winston Churchill said of the Hungarian Jews that they suffered “… probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the entire history of the world …”.

Why is the movie called “The Last Days”? At the beginning of the documentary, a historian explains that Hitler wanted to carry out the extermination of the Jewish population of Hungary despite knowing the high probability that Germany would be defeated at that stage of the war; and instead of deploying more troops to reinforce the fronts where they were losing, in their last days in power the genocide of Jews was of priority for the Nazis.

Only in your dreams

We Jews have been praying for peace since the beginning of time. Living in peace is our greatest aspiration. The Torah mentions “peace” as the ultimate goal of priestly blessing (Birkat Kohanim). “Bless us with peace” is the content of the final blessing of the most important prayer, the Amida. Our highest aspiration for messianic times is not “world domination” or “mass conversion” as in other religions. The greatest miracle to which we aspire is to live in peace with neighboring nations, those that always saw Israel as a valuable prey to be destroyed.

Maimonides explains that this is the meaning of the famous prophecy of the prophet Yesha’ayahu (Isaiah) 11: 6: וגר זאב עם כבש ונמר עם גדי ירבץ. “The wolf will live [in peace] with the lamb; and the leopard and the goat will graze together …”. This means that the predators (= the nations that seek to destroy Israel) and the prey (= Israel) will live in peace.

But peace with our predators/enemies always seemed like an unrealizable utopia. An imaginary ideal beyond our dreams.

You can feel it in the air...

And yet now, miraculously, peace is in the air. What is happening between Israel and the Arab countries is one of the greatest wonders of our time.

We should be calling each other on the phone throughout the day in endless amazement and not talking about anything other than the new peace treaties between Israel and the Arab world.

We should write it in the sky, with a flotilla of airplanes, and with a big exclamation mark saying “The peace for which we have prayed so much for centuries is finally here!!!”

It seems to me that we, the privileged protagonists of this miracle, do not realize the scope of what is unfolding before our eyes. In perhaps one of the most profound insights that capture the complexity of human psychology our rabbis stated that “en ba’al hanes makor benisó,” our minds are not capable to appreciate miracles while they happen.” Perhaps because miracles, unattainable by nature, are processed with our imagination. But if they finally happen, then we process them with our logic, as part of an achievable reality, and not as a miracle.

President Trump

What President Donald Trump is doing is absolutely incredible, miraculous. I love reading history, and the history of our people is my great passion. And I can say with great confidence that there has never been a non-Jewish political leader who has done as much for the Jewish people as Donald J. Trump has done for Israel.

When I remember the long list of things he did for Israel, I can’t stop thinking about the blessing we recite on Purim, after reading Megilat Esther: "Harav et rivenu" in which we thank God for “fighting our fight; confronting our enemies and exacting justice with all those who seek to destroy us. ”

Donald Trump has done exactly that:

Like no one else in the past, he has defended the Jewish people at the United Nations; he has condemned the infamous international anti-Semitic groups masquerading as human rights defenders; he defunded those organizations that encourage terror against Israel such as UNRWA; he imposed economic sanctions to Iran who seeks our destruction; he unmasked the Palestinian leaders' agenda, showing that they do not wish peace but conflict; etc,etc. And he has forged real peace treaties with countries that were historically hostile towards Israel. And now, this past Friday, with Sudan.

Sudan

Peace with Sudan is truly atypical. Why? Because the Emirates or Bahrain, although they did not maintain open diplomatic relations, were never at war against Israel. Sudan, however

1. Participated in the first war against Israel, in 1948, sending 6 divisions of its army to fight against our incipient Jewish state.

2. In 1967 the declaration of the “League of Arab Nations” with the 3 famous NOS: “NO negotiations, NO recognition and NO peace with Israel”, was signed in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.

3. In 2106 Sudan was one of Israel’s dangerous enemies. Sudan assisted Iran and helped smuggling weapons and terrorists to Gaza.

Will President Trump continue?

According to the latest polls, it is possible that President Donald Trump will lose the presidential election. Personally, I don’t believe it (or I don’t want to believe it…). But either way, you have to accept the possibility that these might be “the last days” of Donald Trump as US president.

And in recent days, when Trump has so many open fronts and so many enemies that rise against him, his diplomatic efforts toward finding partners for peace with Israel did not stop. He continues focused on getting more countries to sign peace with the Jewish State: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Morocco They are on a waiting list for peace.

This past Friday while I was reading about the new prospects of peace with Sudan, and I was seeing the latest electoral polls, this sad idea came to mind: that these could be ח"ו “the last days” of the best friend the State of Israel ever had since its inception. And I was moved to tears because the idea of “the last days” brought to my memory the documentary and could not avoid the mental comparison between the two most radical extremes that can be conceived …

To better appreciate what President Trump is doing, I could not forget what President Obama did literally, in his last days as US president: he sent billions of dollars in cash to Israel’s worst enemy, Iran, the only nation that openly declared its intention to wipe Israel off the map. And in an unprecedented move President Obama also made sure that the United States would not veto a UN resolution that cynically accused Israel of being the “occupying power” in Jerusalem.

Trump and Cyrus

The Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, concludes with the famous declaration of another great benefactor of Israel: Cyrus (Koresh), the first Persian emperor, who in the year 538 BCE supported the return of the Jews to Israel and helped financing the construction of the Second Bet haMiqdash in Yerushalayim.

There the pasuq says: "Hashem, God, awakened/mobilized the spirit of Koresh, King of Persia … “. I have no doubt that as with Koresh, it is the Creator who animates the spirit of this great President. And that we should be infinitely grateful to Him for living these incredibly beautiful (messianic?) moments that anticipate “unprecedented” times of peace and prosperity for our beloved Medinat Israel.

Rabbi Yosef Bitton received his ordination from Israel's Rabbinate and Dayanut ordination from late Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Yosef. He studied at Yeshiva University as well as at Ben Gurion, Bar-Ilan and Emory. served as Chief Rabbi of Uruguay, and is currently the rabbi of the Ohel David & Shlomo Congregation of Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn.He is author of the book Awesome creation and the daily email of his website, Halakha of the Day, reaches 48,000 subscribers.



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