Sunday, 13 November 2011

Rick Perry, Joshua and the Forgetfulness of Arrogance

As I’ve already said, I will be blogging from very much a British Jewish perspective. Having said that, I do like to keep tabs on what’s going on across the pond, and how could I miss this excruciating yet wonderful clip from the Republican Presidential Candidates’ debate:

The first thing to point out is the somewhat depressing fact that it would be better for his presidential aspirations if he were to have finished that sentence, and named the third federal department that he planned to close (it was Energy, in case you were wondering).  But I would also like to point out the dangerous precedent (sp?) of forgetful leaders, especially as we draw ever closer to the inevitable military confrontation with Iran (תמורה טז,א):

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב בשעה שנפטר משה רבינו לגן עדן אמר לו ליהושע שאל ממני כל ספיקות שיש לך אמר לו רבי כלום הנחתיך שעה אחת והלכתי למקום אחר לא כך כתבת בי (שמות לג) ומשרתו יהושע בן נון נער לא ימיש מתוך האהל מיד תשש כחו של יהושע ונשתכחו ממנו שלש מאות הלכות ונולדו לו שבע מאות ספיקות ועמדו כל ישראל להרגו אמר לו הקב"ה לומר לך אי אפשר לך וטורדן במלחמה שנאמר (יהושוע א) ויהי אחרי מות משה עבד ה' ויאמר ה' וגו'
Rab Judah reported in the name of Rab: When Moses departed [this world] for the Garden of Eden he said to Joshua: ‘Ask me concerning all the doubts you have’.10 He replied to him: ‘My Master, have I ever left you for one hour and gone elsewhere?11 Did you not write concerning me in the Torah: But his servant Joshua the son of Nun departed not out of the tabernacle?12 Immediately the strength [of Moses] weakened13 and [Joshua] forgot14 three hundred laws and there arose [in his mind] seven hundred doubts [concerning laws]. Then all the Israelites rose up to kill him.15 The Holy One, blessed be He, then said to him [Joshua]: ‘It is not possible to tell you.16 Go and occupy their attention in war, as it says: Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spake;17 and it further says; [Prepare you victuals for within three days, etc.].18
(10) On any points of law.
(11) I.e., I have no doubts.
(12) Ex. XXXIII, 11.
(13) I.e., he took offence at Joshua's remark, which implied he had no longer need of him.
(14) He was punished for causing this weakness of Moses.
(15) Until he should tell them the laws.
(16) These laws, since the Torah is not in heaven.
(17) Josh. I, 1.
(18) Ibid. II. The bracketed words are inserted with Bah; v. also Sh. Mek. 
(Soncino translation and notes)
This passage, part of a short but fascinating discussion on laws and insights supposedly forgotten between the giving of the Torah and the Rabbinic era (a passage I will probably come back to in a later post), displays the consequences of an arrogant and dismissive leader, who thinks he knows it all but when the moment arrives comes up short. So this excerpt calls to mind two questions:

1.  Which is worse: to forget one federal agency, or three hundred laws?

2.  Can you imagine an inept and unpopular leader engaging a nation in war merely to distract the population from his ineptitude and unpopularity?

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