Rabbi Eli Hecht
Rabbi Eli Hecht Courtesy

So it goes. Listening to our President and to the Democratic leadership leaves me more confused than ever. Medical doctors are now known as scientists, and scientists are now known as medical experts. The political leadership is writing laws about life and death, who should wear a mask and who should wear a ventilator. It seems like there is no clarity as to what is happening. I ask myself are things really the way they seem to be or am I just fooling myself? Even smart people don’t perceive what they should. Seeing is not concrete proof, and I can demonstrate this by recounting a personal experience.

On a visit to Israel I spent a Shabbos in Jerusalem and prayed at the Western Wall, the only remaining wall of Solomon's Temple. Early that morning I donned my Shabbos clothing; a long black caftan and a tallis prayer shawl, a traditional white cloth used for prayer. Remembering that I was in the holiest part of Jerusalem, the area of the Temple, I prayed earnestly.

In the State of Israel there are no Jewish tours provided on the Shabbos, this due to the sanctity of the day. However, to my chagrin, in the midst of my prayers a large tourist bus from Jordan drove up bringing a group of German nuns to the Holy Wall to observe the prayers taking place. As I was praying the Jordanian driver pointed to me and with great confidence, and in broken English, said, "See that man with his prayer shawl and Shabbos attire. His only concern is for our Holy Land, and he knows nothing of what is taking place outside of the holy walls of Jerusalem. He doesn’t know about peace talks, Palestinian rights, a one state or two state plan, annexation of the West Bank, nor the monumental statement by the President of the United States of America of moving its Embassy to the capital, Jerusalem. This Jew is a walking antique.”

I smiled while the nuns took my picture as a souvenir of this ‘antique Jew.’ It occurred to me, imagine, a fifth generation American praying in Israel being portrayed as a holy man who has lived in the Holy Land for centuries. Later that day I looked deeply into my soul and thought of what had happened that morning. I understood that seeing was not believing! It's easy to fool others and, at times, even ourselves. What we think of as regular, sometimes, becomes extraordinary and what we see as extraordinary is really regular. For example, the first time something happens we call it a miracle. The second time it happens we call it nature. What we see and believe may not even be the truth.

So how can I make an honest accounting of the Israeli government. Netanyahu is one day a leader, and then next day he is portrayed as a hated despot. One day he is considered King Bibi and the next day he is described as Netanyahu the Tyrant.

In the books of Holy Writing we find that the first question to be asked on the last Day of Judgment is, "Did you deal honestly with your fellow man?" By examining human relationships things become clearer than ever. We are a generation looking for transparency and accountability. However, to our consternation, we find more falsehood than ever. Scandals are enormous.

I believe we can make the following observation. Technology has us now more connected and, paradoxically, we are less connected than ever. We know what is happening at the click of a button but find ourselves inept to do anything correct. Whether it is in Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Afghanistan, England, or here in our own country, the story is the same. Our instant knowledge gets us nowhere quickly. Fake news has become the excuse of many politicians.

Watching and tracking the devastating hurricanes, world protests, riots and great destruction we are humbled more than ever. With all our scientific technology and medical advances we are all under G-d’s control. We still have not conquered the horrible virus and havoc that we are experiencing. We may be a great nation with great wisdom but we need faith and religion. Wisdom is important, but faith is where everything begins.

By acknowledging Almighty G-d we will persevere and clear up this major mess that the world is in, and as the prophets say …. The Lord shall be King over the entire earth; on that day the Lord shall be One and His Name One.

Rabbi Eli Hecht is vice–president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America and past–president of the Rabbinical Council of California. He is the director of Chabad of South Bay in Lomita, CA that houses a synagogue, day school, nursery school and chaplaincy programs.