Friday, June 5, 2015

Torah: Obama, FIFA, the UN--and betrayal

(I thank a reader who suggested that I write about Obama, FIFA and the UN. Here’s my response to that request)


On Saturday, June 6, 2015, Jews around the world will read the Torah Portion called, B’Ha-a-lotcha (Bamidbar 8:1-12:16). What follows here is a journey from this Torah Portion to today’s headlines.

The link between this Torah Portion—written perhaps 3,300 years ago--and today’s news comes from the Book of Yeshayahu (Isaiah). The two men who described that link never read today’s headlines. They knew only the Torah and Yeshayahu.

These two men never heard of Barack Obama. They never heard of the United States. They never heard of United Nations. They probably never heard of soccer. Nevertheless, they made a connection—a link—which for us is crystal clear.

The Jewish commentator, Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman (the Ramban, 1194-1270), created the first part of that link as he discussed Bamidbar 11:16 (The Torah: with Ramban’s commentary, Bamidbar, The ArtScroll Series, New York, 2012, page 212). There, the Torah describes the selection of seventy elders whom G-d says He will choose to assist Moshe. To elaborate on his interpretation of that process, the Ramban quotes a verse from the prophet Yeshayahu (24:21). In that verse, the prophet says that, as Redemption approaches, G-d will mete out judgments to, among others, “the earthly kings on earth”.  

We’ll come back to these ‘earthly kings’ in a moment.

The second man who helps create this link between our Torah and today’s news is Rabbi Yaakov Culi (1689-1732). Rabbi Culi is given credit for the commentary called, Me’am Lo’ez (printed as The Torah Anthology: The Book of Yeshayahu, translated by Yehoshua Starrett, Moznaim Publishing, Jerusalem, 1999). Me’am Lo’ez says that the period of which the prophet (in Yeshayahu 24:21) speaks is called, ‘the End of Days’—the days just before the Final Jewish Redemption (see ibid, 24:16).

To begin to understand the connection of these references to today’s news, consider first the section of Yeshayahu from which this quote (24:21) comes. It’s a section which discusses the prophet’s vision of what will occur in those ‘End of Days”.  

He speaks of betrayal (24:16). The commentator Me’am Lo’ez describes Yeshayahu this way: in those End of Days “much suffering will pass, much treacherous betrayal of the Jewish people” (ibid).

It’s that betrayal that completes the link.

Perhaps not coincidently, on June 4, 2015, James Lewis wrote of President Obama’s relationship with Israel and the Middle East (“Is Obama a villain? Or only delusional?”, The American Thinker). He, too, spoke of betrayal. He said some American Jewish voters haven’t yet caught on to Obama’s “multiple betrayals in the Middle East” (ibid). He suggested, however, that  many Israelis feel betrayed by Obama.

Lewis believes that Obama has lied. He’s lied about protecting Israel. He’s lied about Iran’s nuclear capability. His lies betray Israel.

In today’s world, we don’t have many ‘earthly kings’. We have a modern world. But in this modern world, Barack Obama is certainly an updated version of an ‘earthly king’. He betrays us.

Ban Ki-Moon is Secretary-General of the United Nations. He, too (while having much less power than Obama) is one of the modern world’s ‘earthly kings’. He represents Mankind. His United Nations is dedicated to protecting Mankind. His United Nations is dedicated to maintaining the right of sovereign nations to live in peace and security (the UN Charter Preamble).

But his United Nations betrays Israel. He allows some of the world’s greatest violators of Human Rights to serve on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). His UNHRC betrays Israel. That Council empowers some of humanity’s most vicious human rights abusers (who, incidentally, also  dedicate their lives to destroying Israel) to sit in judgment of the Jewish state.

Ban-Ki Moon is an earthly king of nations. As Israel is demonized and criminalized, he remains silent--or joins the hatred.

He betrays Israel before the world.

Sepp Blatter (who has just this week resigned) ruled as an ‘earthly king’. He was President of the international soccer organization, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). He betrayed Israel by giving to the ‘Palestinian’ football delegate the right to attempt to expel Israel from international soccer because of political offenses, even as Blatter himself said that Israel hadn’t broken any FIFA rules. He should have told the ‘Palestinians’ their request to expel Israel was out of order. But instead, he said, he couldn’t do anything.

Like Obama and Ban-Ki Moon, he betrayed Israel. He allowed Israel to be vilified, condemned and humiliated before the world.

He was an earthly king. He could have acted. He chose betrayal.

The weekly Torah Portion, through the Ramban, points to the prophet who says (through Me’am Lo’ez) that G-d will remember what the earthly kings have done to Israel. He will remember their betrayal. He will judge them.

Follow the story. It’s all written in our Tanach. It’s all about Israel and the earthly kings. It all unfolds through the headlines.

Stay tuned.

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