Sunday, December 10, 2017

Trump's Noble Prize

The gemara in Avoda Zara (17a) tells us about [Rabi] Eliezer ben Durdaya. This fellow made sure to conduct business with any woman who was open for business. During one encounter, he had a sudden jolt of remorse and set out to mend his ways. He went to a valley and cried out his soul until it left him. Whereupon, a Heavenly voice called out, “Rabbi Eliezer ben Durdaya is invited to the world to come.”

The story concludes that when Rebbi [Yehuda HaNasi] heard this Heavenly voice he tearfully exclaimed, “There are those who acquire their ‘world’ only after many years [of righteous deeds] and there are those who acquire it in a single moment.”

The simple way to understand Rebbi is that the "world" he was referring to is one’s World-to-Come, his Olam Haba. It surely fits in with the proclamation of the Heavenly voice. But, at the risk of deviating from the plain interpretation, I want to suggest an alternative intention of Rebbi.

It could be that Rebbi was also telling us that many people need to invest years of good deeds in order to “make the headlines”; in order to be known far and wide for their contribution to mankind. And there are those who can seize the moment and get into the headlines in the actions of a split second.

What kind of Olam Haba did “Rabbi” Eliezer ben Durdaya get? Was it the same Olam Haba that was in store for Rebbi and his chaveirim and those who commit their lives to Torah and chessed?

I doubt it. In fact, I suspect that Rabbi Eliezer ben Durdaya probably needed to go through some harsh Heavenly tikkunim before he was through (but without the teshuva he would not even be zocheh to that.) So what kind of Olam Haba was Rebbi crying about?

Rabbi Eliezer got an Olam Haba that turns us all green with envy – he got his name into the gemara in Avoda Zara 17a. And on an inspirational note, to boot. And it will be there forever. In less than two months from now, on the day after Tu B’Shvat, thousands upon thousands of Jews who learn daf yomi will hear the name of Rabbi Eliezer ben Durdaya and his teshuva if they haven’t already.

Don’t tell my wife, but I wouldn't complain if I had to trade places with him. This is Olam Haba.

Rebbi wasn’t kidding about how hard it is to get one's name in the books (if this is what he meant). The gemara in Sukkah 28a tells us that Hillel the Elder had 80 disciples. 30 of whom were worthy that the Shechina should rest on them and another 30 worthy to hold back the sun as could Yehoshua bin Nun. 20 were “in between”. The greatest of whom was Rabi Yonasan ben Uziel and the “least” of whom was Rabi Yochanan ben Zakai who did not leave a word of Torah unstudied.

You mean to tell me that there were 78 talmidim greater than Rabi Yochanan ben Zakai and we don’t know any of their names???

Rabi Akiva had 24,000 talmidim. We don’t know the name of a single one of them. We only know the names of his last five talmidim – who are the foundation of our current Mishna including Rabi Meir, Rabi Yehuda, and Rabi Shimon ben Yochai. Do you think these 24,000 were any less great?

I can assure you that there were hundreds (if not thousands) of worthy Tannayim and Amoraim that we will never know about. Also Geonim, Rishonim, Poskim, Achronim, and great rabbanim from the recent past who wrote volumes of chiddushim that we will never know and never see.

Rabbi Eliezer ben Durdaya?

As Rebbi said (with tears), some people just plain get lucky!

It’s not just Jews. Consider our friend Dama ben Nesina. We know his story. He had a jasper stone for the Choshen but had to pass up the sale so as not to wake up his pop. Next year he was blessed with a parah adumah and told the chachamim that “I know that you would pay me as much as I ask, but I will only ask for the money I lost by honoring my dad”.

Do you think he sold himself short and made a bad deal? Au contraire. This fellow was a sly businessman. He could have gotten a lot more cash for the parah aduma but he got better. He got his name into shas (Kedushin 31a) and he is the poster child for Kibbud Av v'Em for every Jewish kid. I can assure you that if he would have taken the whole jackpot, his name and story wouldn’t be there.

What’s worth more?

A good businessman knows that the intangible value of a sale may pay off a lot more than the full cash value. So it pays off to forego the bottom line for a bit of highly publicized nobility. Perhaps we can call this the “Noble Prize”.

Just ask the 2013 Noble Prize winner, Rabbi Noach Muroff.

Well, the current winner of the Noble Prize is our own president Donald Trump. Kudos on his decision to “deliver”.

I think the events of last week are the most momentous to occur since 9-11. We are anticipating a lot of fireworks and jubilation but just what kind of fireworks and who will come out jubilant remains to be seen. I hope there isn’t any blood, and if there is (R”L), it isn’t ours.

This obviously required a lot of fortitude and carries substantial personal risks, but it suits Trump to the “T”. Nobody thinks of Trump as a politician. He operates like the businessman he is and this moves looks to me like a very sensible business move. Because one thing is assured...

...Donald Trump has bought his place into the history books. And it will be there long after all his Towers of Bavel come crashing down. I think he got a great deal.

Trump is a businessman first and politician last, and I don’t think that his political career means too much to him. His triumph was to get there but there is no glory in staying here. Besides, he is already 71 years old. How much time does he have left? 10 years? 20? Maybe not even 10? Who knows?

What has he really got to lose?

Not too much, but there is plenty to gain. Donald Trump knows an opportunity when he sees one and he was not about to pass this one up.

And it’s about time. Almost every president has some event or accomplishment that gives him some kind of legacy. Also some kind of Mideast breakthrough, real or imagined. Nixon had the Yom Kippur war, Carter had the Sinai accords, Reagan had Osirak and the Iranian hostage breakthrough, Clinton had Oslo and Wye, George W. had 9-11. But Obama had nothing. No bogus peace agreements, Sinai, Wye, Oslo, nothing. No Cuba Missile crisis, no hostage crisis, no 9-11, nothing.  Eight years of absolutely nothing.  And Hillary promised us more of the same!

Oh yeah, he claimed to have nailed Osama bin Laden although nobody saw the body and he brought the US health care system from bad to worse. But fifty years from now, what on earth will he be remembered for? His name may as well be Millard Fillmore.

Oh, right, he won the Nobel Prize. But he didn’t win the Noble Prize.

There are people in our circles who are hailing Trump as a reincarnation of Koresh. I’ve seen somebody else calling him a reincarnation of Alexander the Great complete with a photo comparison.

I look at him as a reincarnation of somebody much more recent. So recent that their lifespans overlap.

Personally, I was always in favor of Trump’s candidacy and victory. I didn’t vote this election because it was too much trouble for me to deal with an absentee ballot. And I was anyway from a strong Hillary state. But I certainly would have voted for Trump.

Many people wouldn’t consider it because he is known as a philandering foul-mouthed businessman who tells it like it is and isn’t much good at diplomacy. This is what I liked.

It looked like at 70 years old, his philandering (Eliezer ben Durdaya) days are a thing of the past. And as for everything else, I think he would be at least as good as the last president who was a foul-mouthed businessman who tells it like it is and wasn’t much good at diplomacy. And who, just like Trump, wasn’t expected to win the presidency. And who knew, just like Trump, how to assure his place in history.

And, like our current president, his name begins with T-r-u-m…

Harry S Truman wasn’t particularly a friend of the Jews. His ex-partner had to twist his arm to convince him to meet Chaim Weitzman. But he was a man who could make a cost benefit analysis. One who knew what the reality is and could do what had to be done. And, if you ask the survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, they’ll tell you that he “delivered”. And, for his fortitude, the Jews will canonize him forever.

It’s been 70 years since we’ve had such a president, but it's about time.

Give ‘em heck, Donny.

Related posts:

Writing Yourself into the Torah 

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