I believe in him; I don’t believe in him

This post will have a couple of somewhat random thoughts, hopefully interesting, but they are not really connected…

I just got back from about ten days in the US and Germany.  One thing I noticed that was new was billboards posted on buses with Lieberman's picture (that's Avigdor, not Joe) saying "ani ma'amin lo."  Which you could translate, I suppose, as "I believe him," or "I believe in him" or "I trust him." Hebrew use of prepositions is somewhat different than English and I still struggle with them as they are not logical to the mind trained in American English.  Lieberman is a far right radical known for racist remarks.  And, by the way, I disagree with Mohamed at Traveler Within who said most Israelis are more Lieberman than Rabin.  Anyway, while I might believe Lieberman if the subject was innocuous enough, I certainly don't believe in him, and I certainly don't trust him. 

These ads–which are of course aimed at the upcoming elections–are in contradistinction to ads that Kadima ran a while back which said simply "Bibi? Ani lo ma'amin lo."  Meaning "Bibi (nickname for Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party), I don't believe him." 

Especially the Lieberman post, however, has echoes of the Messiah.  Regardless of how you want to translate "ani ma'amin lo," to the Hebrew speaking ear it can't but help bring up a connection with "ani ma'amin," a famous line from Rambam's 13 articles of faith, turned into a liturgical song.  "Ani ma'amin," I believe…though he may tarry, in the coming of the Messiah.

I saw the ad and asked myself "is he running for Messiah?  Is that what this country is looking for?"  And of course, the answer is yes, as always, the Israeli public is hoping for the long delayed Messiah.  I guess we figure since America now has their messiah in the new President Obama, maybe we deserve one too.

But for sure, it ain't Lieberman.  Comparing Lieberman to the Messiah — or even to Obama — reminds me of what Lloyd Bentsen said to VP nominee Dan Quayle during a 1988 debate, when Quayle compared himself to JFK: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy: I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy!

Something else I saw recently that got me to thinking.  I was in Frankfurt, Germany on Thursday, and had a few hours to kill after a morning meeting.  I went to Frankfurt's Jewish Museum which is very well done.  They have an interesting exhibit currently on Jewish cartoonists.  They also have an excellent display of the history of the Jewish community of Frankfurt; a history which goes back to the middle ages, and is, sadly, marked by many, many eras of persecution of Jews.  The Jews were hated by the locals when they were poor and small in number, and they were hated by the locals when they were rich and large in number.  Not the most welcoming community.  So I found it rather poignant, and almost certainly not a coincidence, that when I saw the museum's display of synagogue ritual objects, the Torah scroll was open to "akedat Yitzchak," the binding of Isaac, the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar.  The display, needless to say, did not comment on what passage the Torah was open to; so only someone who could read Hebrew would know.  But it's probably not a coincidence…

I'm glad we have finally have a cease fire in Gaza, although only time will tell whether the operation really made any difference or not.  It's too bad Hamas is still around.  If Hamas ends up getting to collect billions of dollars in foreign aid to rebuild and the smuggling tunnels aren't stopped, the whole thing will turn out to have been a waste of lives and money.  On the other hand, if Hamas gets cut out of the rebuilding efforts and is marginalized, and the Egyptians really help root out any smuggling tunnels, maybe there will be some progress.  Although even if there is progress, there will certainly be debate about whether it was worth the cost.

Last but not least, I managed to catch the inaugaration on TV live while I was in Denver.  I thought it was impressive overall; I wonder whether Chief Justice John Roberts' getting the words wrong the first time was a Freudian slip, getting back at Obama for his negative vote in Roberts' confirmation hearings.  I also thought Obama was a bit harsher than necessary on Bush during the address.  He didn't bash Bush directly, but he was clearly bashing, and it was pretty obvious who he was bashing.  Hopefully the bashing is now behind us, and the new president will get on with restoring America to its rightful place on the world's stage as a respected leader.

Reb Barry

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Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

One thought on “I believe in him; I don’t believe in him

  • February 2, 2009 at 10:22 am
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    Welcome home, Reb Barry!

    Watched inaguration from Paris as well..my favourite part during the ‘bashing’ was when the camera would break to Bush.

    As for the Israeli Messiah – sorry, PM – elections.. I guess we’re just bracing and expecting the worst..

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