9:12 AM, Feb 14, 2014 • By EDWARD ALEXANDER
Laborare est orare: Work is worship. Once upon a time that Latin cry arose from scores of medieval monasteries. Their monks believed that—as Carlyle later put it--“all true Work is Religion: and whatsoever Religion is not work may go and dwell among the Brahmins, Spinning Dervishes, or where it will…One monster there is in the world: the idle man.” Nor were those old monks the first to believe in the religious nature of work, the blasphemous nature of idleness. In Hebrew the word for labor (avodah) is also the word for prayer.
But when Douglas Elmendorf, chairman of the (nonpartisan) Congressional Budget Office, recently announced that one of the effects of the new health law will be to reduce, by 2017, the total number of hours Americans work by the equivalent of over two million full time jobs, President Obama’s spokesmen were quick to praise this massive “disincentive” to work as a blessing in disguise. Jason Furman, chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors, declared that “this is people having new choices they didn’t used to have.” From the White House itself came the declaration that “individuals will [now] be empowered to make choices about their own lives and…have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.” Another Democratic Dr. Pangloss celebrated this new opportunity “to spend more time with your children.” So much for the brave and religious nature of work in the Era of Obama.
Such repudiations of ancient wisdom have by now become a hallmark of the Obama administration. Not long after Elmendorf’s announcement came the news of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to grant the brides and grooms of same-sex marriages the same legal rights in federal matters that couples married in the old-fashioned, “mixed” marriage mode have in, among other things, bankruptcy proceedings, legal testimony, and prison visits. Holder’s diligent researchers are now ransacking the archives to seek out every possibility for legally changing federal rules and regulations to accommodate those married according to the new dispensation without going to the trouble of getting Congress to pass new legislation.
Uncharitable critics of the Obama administration have derided Holder’s move as a typical example of the Obama executive making law lawlessly, i.e., by fiat, as a distraction from the colossal embarrassments of Obamacare and the blood-drenched calamities of Obama-Kerry foreign policy. But these critics underestimate the deep rootedness, the foolish consistency, of Obama-Holder ideology. In fact, Holder’s action is a perfect existential realization of the two cravings of Obama liberalism: the craving for forbidden fruit and the craving for legality. No sooner had the president belatedly “evolved” (not very long ago) into his recognition that same-sex marriage was as legitimate as the biblically-approved kind anchored in Genesis and the collective experience of a large portion of the human race than he and his lawyer in chief sought to impose it wherever they could (and to deal harshly with troglodytes still in bondage to ancient prejudice).
Meanwhile the president has for weeks been harping on his frequently expressed conviction that “the defining issue of our time” is “income inequality,” the enormous and (during his presidency especially) growing gap between the “one percent” or “the rich” and the unhappy “ninety-nine percent.” Here too the appetite for forbidden fruit, the poisoned apple of envy, takes precedence over that declaration of ancient wisdom called The Tenth Commandment, which warns against the moral poison of covetousness, which in the last century alone abetted the murder of millions: “Neither shall you covet … your neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
So far as I know, not a single prominent priest, minister, or rabbi in the country has seen fit to remark on the demagogic, conscienceless nature of Obama’s repudiation of this ancient precept. It was left to Ruth Wisse, a professor of Yiddish literature, to observe in the Wall Street Journal, that “stoking class envy is a step in a familiar, dangerous and highly incendiary process.”
8:13 AM, Jan 23, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Obama administration is worried that Israel is riling up American Jews, according to a report in the Israeli press. The allegations are detailed in a story headlined, "'US perceives Israel as encouraging anti-Obama backlash among Jews,'" which appears in the Jerusalem Post.
5:38 PM, Jan 21, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Yesterday, THE WEEKLY STANDARD reported on the New York City human rights commission's dubious case against seven business owners in the Hasidic community Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The commission alleged that these Jewish stores were guilty of religious and sexual discrimination for posting dress code signs requiring "No Shorts, No Barefoot, No Sleeveless, No Low Cut Neckline," and the stores were facing $75,000 in potential fines. The commission had already been slapped down last year by an administrative judge for alleging that the posted dress code was an attempt by the Orthodox Jewish business owners to impose their religion on others—after all, no one disputes that similar dress codes in courtrooms and other private establishments are acceptable.
"Inadvertently caused offence."3:59 PM, Jan 20, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
In a recent issue the Economist, a British newsmagazine, published an article about the Obama adminstration's efforts to reach a deal with the Iranian government over its nuclear program. The article was accompanied by a political cartoon that depicts President Obama being chained and restrained in his effort to a seal of the U.S Congress. Included on the seal are two representations of the Star of David, a traditional symbol of Judaism.
Some gloomy reflections on the presidential conscience. Jan 13, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 17 • By EDWARD ALEXANDER
In his ponderously titled book Contributions to the Correction of the Public’s Judgement Concerning the French Revolution (1793), the German philosopher and political leader Johann Gottlieb Fichte took time out from his defense of the Reign of Terror to compose what has been called by Daniel Johnson “the most notorious footnote in history.” It warned his German countrymen of the Jewish menace in their midst. The Jews, he told them, constituted “a state within a state. . . .
1:16 PM, Dec 19, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Ruth Wisse, writing for Mosaic:
The story of the Jews was told so effectively in the Hebrew Bible that it shaped and sustained them as a people from that time to this. But what happens now?
2:52 PM, Sep 13, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
In an interview with Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins, Kentucky senator Rand Paul criticized "some" Christians who support Israel and the Jews and those Christians' "overeagerness" to go to war. Adding to sentiments he expressed in a speech earlier this year, Paul told Buzzfeed:
9:29 AM, Aug 5, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The indispensable online magazine of Jewish life and thought, Mosaic, is featuring a spectacular contribution by our friend, the French journalist and president of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, Michel Gurfinkiel.
10:01 AM, Jul 29, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Secretary of State John Kerry will host "an Iftar dinner for Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni," according to a copy of his schedule released by the State Department. The dinner will also be attended by "Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat."
The event will be closed to the press.
Kerry's schedule for today reads:
9:05 AM, Jun 3, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The website Jewish Ideas Daily has been, for quite some while, a star of the web, featuring interesting original material as well as links to other worthwhile writing embodying a lively, serious, and committed approach to Jewish issues and ideas. Today, Jewish Ideas Daily has re-launched as Mosaic.
7:28 AM, May 22, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
At a Jewish American Heritage Month reception last night in Washington, D.C., Vice President Joe Biden talked about Jews, power, and influence.
12:00 AM, Jan 7, 2013 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
During the hearings on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be secretary of defense, it’s clear that the views of gay rights organizations will be heard. There the issue seems to be whether Hagel’s apology for previous remarks and beliefs was sincere, or motivated solely by self-interest. He had years to apologize publicly, but did so only when opposition from gay rights groups threatened his nomination.