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Monday, April 14, 2008

What's Right

Reb Abe sends me a couple of e-mails every week; one from R' Eisenmann, one from R' Aviner. They're always interesting and full of excellent thoughts and information, but a couple points really struck me this weekend. The first is a mildly amusing point from R' Aviner, in his Q&A section about Pesach:

Husband's help

Question: Does a husband have to help his wife?

Answer: A husband does not have to help his wife nor does a wife have to help her husband. Rather, the two of them have to clean together since this is a shared home, and it is a shared life as well.

Heh. Meanwhile, on a more thoughtful note, there was this excerpt from R' Eisenmann, discussing a comment by NJ Governor Jon Corzine at an event.
“Even though I am not a moral leader, nevertheless, I must tell you guys, always wear your seat belts, believe me I know.”

As a person who has been studying the Talmud for thirty seven years, I am usually attuned to extra or seemingly unnecessary words. Immediately it hit me. Why did the Governor have to add on the caveat, “Even though I am not a moral leader”? Why couldn’t he have simply said to my boys, “Listen, I did wrong, I was in a speeding car without and a seat belt and I almost paid for that mistake with my life”? Why did he feel the need to add the disclaimer, “I am not a moral leader”?

I then realized an important lesson. He views himself and indeed all political leaders as just that: political leaders. Things that have to do with laws and legislation are in his arena; if they touch on morality, well that is just coincidental. Morality, that is a specific realm relegated to religious/moral leaders. However, he, as a political leader, is not only not a moral leader, he needed to apologize and preface his words with a disclaimer before commenting on that which in his mind is a moral issue.
I don't think Corzine is at personal fault for thinking this way, as I think most political leaders think this way, and have for a long time. Clinton's escapades in the '90s just made that belief public and turned it into a debate over whether a leader's private failings matter so long as it doesn't affect their job; Guiliani and others likely reinforced this. This isn't just an American phenomenon either; Israel is not only no better, but in many ways, worse.

It would be nice, though, if this idea started to reverse itself, and political leaders were held to a somewhat higher standard as examples for the country. Do they need to be perfect? No. Do they need to be held to the same standard as clergy? No. But they are the examples we all see every day; they are the leaders of cities, states, and our country. In a way, Corzine is not a step down, but a step up. He may not hold himself to be a moral leader, but at least he is willing to speak up on matters of responsibility. Other leaders should do the same, and then take that next step and think of themselves as responsible to be moral examples for this country as well.

In fact, so should we all. In a short aside about a week ago, I mentioned the quote that has been on the header of this blog for a long time. G noted that while it is a good quote, it can be taken too far as well, which I agreed with. While we should not worry about what others think and do what we feel is correct, we still should strive to set a positive example with our actions.

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