Today’s rules

Joseph Aaron

You know it’s weird never have things been so wild westy, so anything goes, so no holds barred, so limits free, so break every rule, so out with standards and conventions and the traditional way of doing things, and yet never have people been more anal, more inflexible, more rigid, more refusing to show compassion, less using sechel, so by the book.

We see it all the time, all around us. Yes, of course, we have the squatter in the White House who says and does things no president not only ever did, but never even conceived of doing, but it goes much deeper and broader than that.

Just go to the internet where people say whatever they want, call anybody any name they want, make charges without any basis, feel no restraint about letting go, spewing forth.

And that goes right to the very top where you have Jeff Bezos of Amazon feeling fine about selling you a device that records everything going on in what used to the privacy of our homes and where you have Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook saying he will do nothing to stop the fact that many of the ads and posts on his site are full of very provable lies, to the point that this Jew who has been making a big deal lately about how Jewish he is, says he will do nothing to stop posts on his site which say the Holocaust never happened, six million Jews did not die, that it was all made up.

I am very much all for free speech but even with free speech there are limits. As the famous Supreme Court ruling put it, you can’t scream fire in a crowded theater. And yet Zuckerberg, shamefully hiding behind the First Amendment, says he will do nothing at all to stop lunatics screaming fire, whether it’s those saying the Holocaust is a hoax or politicians running ads that level horrible charges against their opponents that are simply not at all in any way true.

Anything goes, everything is okay. Shanda is dead.

Shanda is that great Yiddish word for shame and it was shanda that stopped Jews and that indeed stopped all people who didn’t even know the word shanda from doing certain things or saying certain things. You didn’t want to bring shanda onto yourself or your family or your religion or your race or your people.

Now there is no shanda. And while I very much care how that is affecting the world in so many ways, I especially care about how it is affecting the Jewish world in so many ways, big and small.

Let’s start with a small way. I get a lot of not nice emails, like the one recently from Jay L. who told me I need to be on Xanax because of my irrational hatred of Jared and Ivanka. Okay not a big deal. But there was another email that really upset me

It was short and to the sick point. It contained a photo of Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, a Jew, and Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, a Jew. Both not coincidentally are the two key figures in the current impeachment investigation taking place in the House of Representatives.

Above the picture, the words, “dishonorable mentschen……two good reasons to leave a reform synagogue.”

I’m sadly already used to Jewish Trump lovers viciously attacking anyone who believes that a president should not be paying off porn stars with whom he had an affair and lying about it on top of it, or withholding vital military aid from a country in an effort to extract made up dirt about his political opponent. I am used to them not caring about anything and attacking everyone who dares challenge the Supreme Leader.

But I still am not used to Jews attacking other Jews, especially honorable Jews like Nadler and Schiff who have always and only been strong supporters of Israel, who have unblemished records. Look, you don’t think Trump should be impeached, fine, you do think the Democrats are being unfair or going too far, fine. So say so. But why personally attack two Jews who are doing what they see as their job?

And beyond that, if you are going to attack them, why not just question how they are conducting the investigation. Why the need to slam all Reform Jews? The Torah tells us that every Jew is responsible one for the other. It doesn’t say which Jews that applies to for the simple profound reason that it applies to all Jews, Reform or not. We are taught to consider all Jews as our brothers and sisters. Again, it doesn’t say except, of course, for Reform Jews. It says all Jews.

But in today’s anything goes say anything attack anyone world, it’s fine for a Jew to send out an email that not only defames two Jewish members of Congress but also defames the majority of American Jews who identify as Reform.

This anything goes whatever it takes culture we live in is leading Jews to do all kinds of not very Jewish things.

And so we have Israel’s government making up fake immigrants on Twitter to promote aliyah. Seems the government had trouble finding real immigrants who wanted to talk about their positive experiences. And so the Immigrant Absorption Ministry posted stock images of people on Twitter and made up fake immigrant stories about them with fabricated quotes.

An investigation could not find any of the so-called immigrants on any social media. In one case, it confirmed that the image was a real person — who was not an immigrant and never made the quote attributed to him. For example, there is no record of a “Tanya Lipworth from Chicago, USA” who “could never imagine that I would fulfill the #Zionist dream.” The photo of “Tanya,” a search found, belongs to one Laura Larson.

“If it is the case that this is a genuine ministry account, and the photos and names are fabricated, it is nothing short of horrendous,” said Jason Pearlman, a former spokesman for Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. “To use stock images to illustrate classrooms or meetings is one thing, but at a time when Israel’s credibility is constantly attacked on social media, to make people up is nothing short of idiotic.”

But that’s how things are these days even in the Jewish world. Which is why we have WhatsApp suing an Israeli electronic surveillance company for stealing users’ information.

WhatsApp says NSO Group stole information from 1,400 users of the messaging service. NSO was targeting the cellphones and other electronic devices of attorneys, journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents, diplomats, and other senior foreign government officials, according to the complaint.

And then we have no less that the prime minister of Australia Scott Morrison calling on Israel to “transparently and quickly” extradite Malka Leifer, wanted in Australia on 74 charges of child abuse. “Australia is a strong and committed friend and partner of Israel,” Morrison wrote, adding: “That friendship is based on many things, including our shared commitment to justice, democracy and the rule of law. The Australian Government will be unswerving in seeking justice in this matter.”

Leifer, 52, fled to Israel from Australia in 2008 amid allegations that she had sexually abused students at the Adass Yisroel School in Melbourne. Australia officially filed an extradition request in 2014.

She was arrested the same year and then released after being deemed mentally unfit for the legal proceedings. Seems she has been protected by the head of Israel’s Ministry of Health, who is leader of one of Israel’s main religious parties, who prevented ministry staff from investigating her true mental state and has done all he can to protect her by declaring her as too unstable to be deported. An undercover investigation found that she lived a normal life and was mentally fit to face extradition proceedings.

These are the kinds of things Jews did not do. But Judaism is as infected as everyone by a world that seems to have no sense of decency anymore and where anything and everything goes.

At the same time, oddly, there is also a lack of the understanding and flexibility and sure let’s work this out that there used to be. Try calling any credit card company or indeed any company on the phone and see how far you get in trying to get the person you talk to to move off their script, listen with their heart and try to help you. Good luck with that.

I was struck by this when my doctor of 40 years recently retired. He was of the old school and so would help me with stuff because that’s what doctors used to do and because he is Jewish and that’s what Jews used to do with other Jews.

But now that he’s retired he can’t help me with what he’s helped me with for so many years. He suggested I be in touch with another Chicago doctor, one Dr. Jeffrey G. who he was pretty sure would help me just as he did.

Nope. Dr Jeffrey G. is young and is of today’s tight tushie world where all is by the book even if it makes no sense and where everyone is so terrified of being sued or attacked on twitter that they have closed their hearts, closed their minds and hidden behind the rules as an excuse for not offering a helping hand, extending themselves, using their sechel, listening to their neshama.

No, Dr. Jeffrey G. said, he won’t help me. I said but this other doctor who you know well did help me, did vouch for me, did this for me. Dr. Jeffrey G. said he had to go by the book. Seems if it isn’t in the book then his Jewish soul had to take second place. Seems the book we call the Torah doesn’t count as much these days when people put their fear before their faith.

So we live in the perfectly sad world where on the one hand everything goes and on the other hand nothing is possible, where people have no fear of attacking everyone, saying anything and yet are terrified of deviating in any way at all from the strict interpretation of the rules, even if not doing so is not the compassionate or humane or understanding or Jewish way to be.

I’ve heard that the current insult those in their 20s throw at people like me, with our old fashioned notions of being careful what you say and caring for others, is to call us ‘boomer,’ as in baby boomers, as in old fogeys stuck in the past with our outdated notions of shandah and watching what you say and using common sense and common decency when dealing with others.

Those days are gone, they tell us boomers. So let them marinate in their new world where there are either no rules at all or slavish unthinking clinging to rules. I’ll be glad to check in with them in ten years and see how that’s working out for them.

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