By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
Chazal say that we live in an “alma deshikra,” a world of lies. Truth plays a small supportive role, if at all, in what goes on in this world. It has always been that way, and it is that way today as well, but we often need to be reminded not to take seriously what is reported in the media. Much of what is propagated there are lies designed to promote their agenda.
So now we find out that the story about Trump’s collusion with Russia was bogus, as we have articulated all along. The news is not that the Republicans didn’t collude with Putin. The news is that the Democrats also knew that there was no collusion, yet they set up investigations and congressional hearings, knowing quite well that the Russians played no role in the election of President Trump.
There never was any evidence that Trump had worked with the Russians, but that did not stop his enemies from putting together a story and selling it to a believing populace. They used a work of fiction paid for with Democrat money and filled with fake stories planted by Russians and a washed-up British spy who was available for the highest bidder. They used his narrative to press ahead with attempting to overturn a legitimate election, because they did not like the outcome. For three years, the media drummed into the American psyche that Trump is an evil unbalanced person who was able to beat Hillary Clinton only because he had outside help.
Robert Mueller and his Democrat prosecutors set out to destroy the president and anyone who stood in their way. Recently released documents prove that an army general who had risen through government was targeted for destruction and, through the misconduct of investigators and prosecutors, lost his job, reputation and home. He pleaded guilty to a crime that investigators thought he did not commit, and he was awaiting sentencing when the Department of Justice dropped all charges against him and recommended that his conviction be thrown out.
The entrapment of General Michael Flynn was part of the investigation into the president’s collusion with Russia that occupied much of Washington’s oxygen and attention for the better part of Trump’s presidency.
It now emerged that the lawmen, who presented themselves as paragons of virtue as they bashed the president for working with Russia to get elected, knew all along that it never happened.
John Brennan, who was director of the CIA, and James Clapper, who was director of National Intelligence, repeatedly appeared in the national media, castigating Mr. Trump, informing the American people that Russian President Putin had interfered on his behalf. Clapper repeatedly referred to the president as a Russian asset.
The minutes of the sworn testimony before the congressional committee headed by Rep. Adam Schiff investigating the collusion were released last week. The testimony of Brennan and Clapper, as well as other Obama administration heads, indicates that they knew that what they were telling the American people was a lie.
In the words of Clapper, “I never saw any direct empirical evidence the Trump campaign, or someone in it, was plotting or conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election…”
Committee member Trey Gowdy testified, “Every witness would say the exact same thing.” He said that he would ask the witnesses if they had any apparent evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. They all gave the same answer: “The answer was none.”
While very few of those who are reading this column have ever met President Trump, many are convinced that he is a mentally unbalanced egomaniac. How did that come about if not by the way he is constantly portrayed in the media? Even those who do not read the secular press are influenced by it, as the information they hear from other people often traces its way back to the agenda-driven media.
What was done to General Flynn is clearly documented, yet the media went apoplectic, blaming Attorney General William Barr for “perversion of justice” for doing the right thing and dropping the charges brought against an innocent man.
The media and Democrats are furious at Barr for saying that the Russia investigation is “one of the greatest travesties in American history.” He added, “We’re not dealing with just mistakes of sloppiness. There was something far more troubling here, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”
No less an authority than former President Barack Obama has weighed in. He said regarding the Flynn case, “There is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic – not just institutional norms – but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly, as we’ve seen in other places.”
He went on: “What we’re fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided and seeing others as an enemy – that has become a stronger impulse in American life.”
After slamming the administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Obama said, “That’s why I, by the way, am going to be spending as much time as necessary and campaigning as hard as I can for Joe Biden.”
It’s all about advancing the agenda. It’s all about power. Beware of smug, arrogant, pompous people who covet honor and control, presenting themselves as public servants.
We are still in the throes of a pandemic, and while Eretz Yisroel appears to be recovering from the worst of it and is undergoing the slow process of reopening, many in this country are resisting returning to normal. They say that the country is not yet ready, and while that is true about certain areas, it may not be true about others. People are frustrated, scared, and not trusting their leaders.
On Tuesday, we celebrated Lag Ba’omer. We cut our hair, shaved, trimmed our beards, and let the music play. The mourning customs that Klal Yisroel observes between Pesach and Shavuos were paused. We wonder what is special about this day that causes an interruption in the mourning for the 24,000 talmidim of Rabi Akiva who perished in a plague.
Rabi Akiva was the greatest of his generation; it is said that he was the shoresh of Torah Sheba’al Peh. The chain of transmission of the Torah from Har Sinai runs through Rabi Akiva and his talmidim. When his 24,000 students died, it was a cause of despair. How would the chain continue? Who would provide the light of Torah to future generations? How could so many great people ever be replaced? How could a grieving nation on the run from Roman persecution be consoled for the loss of so many talmidei chachomim so crucial to their spiritual survival?
Picture the people at that time when 24,000 giants were cut down. The urge to say, “It’s all over,” must have been overwhelming. The less faithful and more pessimistic among them must have been ready to give up. But Rabi Akiva recovered from the devastating loss to transmit the Torah to his and future generations through a new group of five students.
The joy of Lag Ba’omer is generated by the knowledge that it was on this day that Rabi Akiva began teaching Torah to his new talmidim. The seeds he planted that day led to the rejuvenation of Torah study and allowed the chain to continue until our time.
On this day, we commemorated the renewal. We celebrated the determination. We cheered the cessation of the plague. We foresaw a future bright with hope and determination.
On this day, the great Tanna Rabi Shimon bar Yochai passed away, but it was also on this day that he gifted the world with the Zohar, which lit up the world and continues to provide light, inspiration, and knowledge until this day. It is the study of his work and the secrets he transmitted that will lead to the coming of Moshiach.
On Lag Ba’omer, the plague ceased. On Lag Ba’omer, Rabi Akiva remained optimistic, knowing that netzach Yisroel lo yeshaker.
As the centuries pass, and as the Romans of every period seek our destruction and annihilation, we look to Rabi Akiva and Rabi Shimon bar Yochai for inspiration. We note how they looked the enemy in the face and persevered, thus ensuring that our nation and our Torah are alive and flourishing to this very day. In the wake of a tragedy that would have felled lesser people, Rabi Akiva strengthened himself and set about ensuring that the chain remains unbroken.
As the golus continues, as our situation becomes more and more precarious, and as the coronavirus festers, we must not weaken in our devotion to Torah. Noting how many giants our people have lost over the past couple of months, we must remain optimistic and work hard to replace them. As botei medrash and shuls are closed, and as yeshivos here are operating in unconventional ways, we must do what we can to keep the fire of Torah brightly lit. Our tefillos and our learning should be going up a notch or two to fill the voids that have been created.
Lag Ba’omer rejects melancholy. It proclaims to us to be optimistic in the face of plagues and hostile governments. Lag Ba’omer reminds us that we will be returning to the botei medrash and shuls, and that meanwhile, we have to endeavor to maintain and grow greatness.
“Im bechukosai teileichu.” We won’t get there by being lazy. We won’t achieve success by slackening off in our Torah learning. “Shetihiyu ameilim baTorah.” If we will dedicate ourselves to Torah, Hashem will reward us with much blessing and will remove the plague from our midst.
In a world where all is fiction, the only truth is Torah. In a world where people are crass and busy with foolishness, the only eternal values are those found in the Torah. In a world where the leaders are deceitful and dishonorable, the only honesty and sincerity are found in Torah. In a world of fraud and superficiality, the only sincerity is in Torah. In a corrupt world, the only fairness and justice are in Torah.
Ignore the rest. Throw yourself into learning. Occupy your mind with Torah. Seek to understand and internalize its messages, and you will find happiness as you forge another link in the glorious chain going back to Rabi Akiva and Rabi Shimon bar Yochai, all the way back to Har Sinai.
These days leading up to Shavuos, the Yom Tov of Kabbolas HaTorah, are the perfect time to get working on it.