But Jews don't need a whole lot of reasons to vote for John Kerry because the reasons to vote against George W. Bush are so numerous and compelling. To put it bluntly, the President's vision for the future is scary--for all of us, but especially for Jews--and his performance in office is a shande. (Yiddish for disgrace).
Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, a first century sage, said the world rests on three pillars: truth, justice, and peace. All three have been grievously weakened by the current administration. Four more years of Bush-whacking and I fear the pillars will crumble and the world will be broken beyond repair. From a Jewish perspective, what concerns me most are the cracks in the pillar of truth because without truth there can be neither justice nor peace.
Truth is the foundation of the Jewish ethical system. To ensure and sustain this system, we humans are directed to imitate God's divine attributes, paramount among them lovingkindness, righteousness, and truthfulness. Rabbi Hanina Bar Hama, who taught in the third century, said the word on God's own seal is "emet," truth.
From George Bush's record over the last four years, one could surmise that the word on the Presidential seal is "lie," or dissemble, deceive, conceal or mislead, all of which have marked his communications with the American people, especially about the war in Iraq and the fight against terror.
The truth is, there were no WMDs in Iraq. Saddam Hussein, unarguably a monster, did not mastermind 9/11. Osama bin Laden is still at large. And we're no safer today because Homeland Security has color-coded our fear. While the Bush Administration talks tough and trumpets the arrests of low-level terrorists as if they were triumphs, the hunt for bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders has faded into the mist.
Meanwhile, we the people, and our debt-ridden economy, are captives of Bush's ruinous, runaway expenditure of blood and treasure in Iraq. The bill for his war is approaching $200 billion and, rhetoric notwithstanding, the facts on the ground rebut the President's delusional claim that freedom is proliferating there. The escalating street violence and the charade of an interim leadership hand-picked by the U.S. Administration, betray Bush's reassurance that democratic elections will be possible in January.
Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, observed in his Yom Kippur commentary that of the 44 generic sins we collectively confess on the Day of Atonement, fully one-quarter relate to the abuse of speech. Among those sins are "fraud and falsehood."
Our supposedly God-fearing President has much to confess in the category of fraudulent speech, not to mention his grave foreign policy mistakes for which more than a thousand Americans and thousands more Iraqis have paid with their lives. Yet Mr. Bush acknowledges no errors or regrets beyond a tepid "miscalculation" and a few "bad appointments." (Translation: whatever went wrong was someone else's fault).
The Ethics of the Fathers, the most widely-read tractate of the Mishnah, names the capacity to acknowledge the truth as one of the seven characteristics of a wise man. (Avot 5:9) Maimonides, the 12th century physician-philosopher, devotes ten chapters to teshuvah, repentance. But this President repents not and regrets nothing. His arrogance is imperial, his lies monumental, his hubris epic. Instead of the American dream, he's given us Greek tragedy.
In contrast, John Kerry, from his earliest days in the public eye, has proven his fealty to truth and his capacity for reconsideration and repentance, even when it hurts his cause or image. After fighting in the Vietnam War--commanding Swift Boats whose crews suffered 90 percent casualty rates--he returned from the killing fields to fight against the war. He dared to tell the American people the truth about what he had witnessed. At 27, risking his government career aspirations, and knowing his opposition to the war would make him the target of Nixon's dirty tricks (which it did), he spoke out nonetheless.