Don’t worry, be happy!

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - OBSERVATIO­NS - STE­WART WEISS The writer is di­rec­tor of the Jewish Out­reach Cen­ter of Ra’anana; jocmtv@netvi­

Is it pos­si­ble to com­mand emo­tions? It would seem that phys­i­cal ac­tions can in­deed be leg­is­lated and or­dered by a higher power, yet how can feel­ings be or­dained? Well, the To­rah, in sev­eral places, ac­tu­ally does tell us how we should, or must, feel. We are com­manded to love the con­vert, to hate in­jus­tice, to re­frain from cov­et­ing some­one else’s prop­erty. But per­haps the most unique ex­am­ple of this phe­nom­e­non comes on the hol­i­day of Sukkot, when we are told, “V’hayita ach sameah! – You shall only be happy!”

In fact, this whole hol­i­day – the long­est of all the bib­li­cal hol­i­days – is re­ferred to in rab­binic lit­er­a­ture as “the Sea­son of Our Hap­pi­ness,” and is capped off by Simhat To­rah, when we “let it all out” and dance and sing for hours while hold­ing the To­rah.

From where does this hap­pi­ness de­rive? Some sug­gest that it comes from the re­lease of ten­sion and anx­i­ety that has built up over the pre­ced­ing weeks, when, day and night, we ex­am­ined our past ac­tions and prayed fer­vently for for­give­ness. Now, con­fi­dent of a new lease on life, we can re­lax and be joy­ful.

I pro­pose that God un­der­stood that His peo­ple would con­stantly be liv­ing on the edge, bat­tling a hos­tile world and strug­gling for sur­vival. As such, we would con­stantly be wor­ry­ing – we are world-class com­plain­ers – and would have to be told ex­plic­itly: “Peo­ple! Calm down, stop wor­ry­ing and just be happy!” This divine pre­scrip­tion is par­tic­u­larly ap­pro­pri­ate for Is­rael, where we seem to live in a state of con­stant cri­sis, and two re­cent events have brought me to a new state of ag­gra­va­tion and frus­tra­tion.

The first, of course, is the mur­der of Ari Fuld. An Amer­i­can oleh (im­mi­grant to Is­rael) like my­self, an ir­re­press­ible cham­pion of Is­rael and Jewish pride, he died as he lived – fight­ing un­til his last breath against the forces seek­ing to de­stroy us. But what makes Fuld’s death so much more painful is our gov­ern­ment’s in­abil­ity to stem the prob­lem at its source.

De­spite the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity’s praise of the mur­derer, and sub­se­quent pay­ment to him of hun­dreds of thou­sands of shekels – typ­i­cal of their evil, de­spi­ca­ble na­ture – we hes­i­tate to im­ple­ment the re­cently passed “Pay to Slay” law which man­dates the equal de­duc­tion of funds from mon­eys we col­lect for the Pales­tini­ans. And ab­surdly, hun­dreds of Is­raeli trucks con­tinue daily bring­ing sup­plies into Gaza, fa­cil­i­tat­ing the ex­is­tence of the Nazi-like Ha­mas rulers sworn to our ex­tinc­tion.

This is an in­sult to Fuld’s mem­ory, and, as a be­reaved fa­ther who lost his own Ari in bat­tle against Ha­mas, an in­sult to all those who paid the ul­ti­mate price to stop ter­ror and keep Is­rael safe.

And then there is the case of David Keyes, the now-for­mer for­eign press spokesman for the Ne­tanyahu gov­ern­ment. Ac­cused of past in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior with sev­eral women, Keyes has stepped down and is try­ing to clear his name.

I KNOW the Keyes fam­ily well, and never a finer fam­ily have I met. They left a thriv­ing home and ca­reer in Los An­ge­les to come to Is­rael, be­cause they strongly be­lieve it is the great­est, if not the only hope for Ju­daism’s sur­vival. David, a bril­liant strate­gist and ex­pert in so­cial me­dia, was wildly suc­cess­ful in bring­ing the prime min­is­ter’s mes­sage to world Jewry and in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion.

And then, on Rosh Hashanah, came two claims of past im­pro­pri­ety, one from a per­son of ques­tion­able ve­rac­ity, who re­leased her un­sub­stan­ti­ated state­ment just two days be­fore her elec­tion as New York state se­na­tor, in an ob­vi­ous bid for sym­pa­thy votes. An­other claim fol­lowed on its heels, and then a dozen more “anony­mous” re­ports that Keyes had been “overly ag­gres­sive” in his be­hav­ior with women.

Now, I am not clair­voy­ant. I do not know what tran­spired in li­aisons Keyes had with women in his past, be­fore he moved to Is­rael. I only know David now as a charm­ing, hap­pily mar­ried in­de­fati­ga­ble spokesman for Is­rael. And what I also know is that no one ever re­ported his ac­tions to the po­lice, and no charges were ever brought against him. In fact, sev­eral of the women who sup­pos­edly com­plained about him sub­se­quently went out with him after the in­ci­dent.

Since when are peo­ple pre­sumed guilty un­til proven in­no­cent? Do peo­ple not un­der­stand that lashon hara – harm­ful gos­sip or slan­der – can de­stroy a per­son’s name and rep­u­ta­tion, ruin a ca­reer and dev­as­tate an en­tire fam­ily? Is char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion not in it­self a form of mur­der? If there was in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior, then one must search his con­science and seek for­give­ness, to be sure. But as there were ab­so­lutely no claims of mis­be­hav­ior for sev­eral years, is it not pos­si­ble that if these events did oc­cur, teshuva was done?

The #MeToo move­ment seeks to re­dress past wrongs to women and cau­tion men about fu­ture mis­be­hav­ior. I get that. But by paint­ing sins with too wide a brush, they cast an ex­treme net of guilt that some­times bor­ders on the lu­di­crous. One of Keyes’s ac­cusers al­legedly cas­ti­gated him for “over-ac­tive flirt­ing” at a wed­ding party. Now I my­self am think­ing back about the time in kin­der­garten, when I pulled a girl’s pig­tails and she cried; am I the next vic­tim?

The Tal­mud (Ke­tubot 13b) un­der­stands the propen­sity men have to be sex­u­ally ag­gres­sive, and there­fore Ju­daism wisely in­sti­tuted cer­tain stric­tures on men and women to help safe­guard their proper be­hav­ior. These in­clude pro­hibit­ing men from touch­ing other women in a sen­sual man­ner, and women re­frain­ing from wear­ing se­duc­tive cloth­ing or se­clud­ing them­selves alone in a man’s apart­ment. Still, in to­day’s world of promis­cu­ity and height­ened sex­u­al­ity, lines are crossed and lib­er­ties taken. But if we do not tem­per jus­tice with rea­son and com­pas­sion, then we have lost the game.

As I pre­pared for Sukkot, I tried, for at least a week, to put all this out of my mind and grate­fully fol­lowed the com­mand­ment, “Just be happy.” I hope it worked.

If we do not tem­per jus­tice with rea­son and com­pas­sion, then we have lost the game


‘WHAT MAKES Ari [Fuld]’s death so much more painful is our gov­ern­ment’s in­abil­ity to stem the prob­lem at its source.’

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