Shemot 5781

The Final Hour?

There arose a new King in Egypt who did not know Joseph [Exodus 1:4].

In life, we are ultimately judged by our final hour, not our by our finest one. At the outset of his administration, President Trump promised the deal of the century that would put an end to Israeli-Palestinian hostility. The Abraham Accords deserved to be celebrated in the White House last October as a fine hour. Sadly, however, his destructive behavior following the election culminating in the siege and occupation of the halls of Congress, will long be remembered as his legacy.

Whatever fine hours were created during what has been a bitterly controversial administration will be rightfully overshadowed by the horrifying siege of the Capitol.

The Bible records that the enslavement of our ancestors in Egypt began with the new King who did not know Joseph. Given the trauma of the famine, the economic revolution that resulted in bringing great treasures to the Crown, is it really possible that Joseph would not be remembered? Thus, whether it was the existing King or a new one, we must conclude that he preferred not to remember Joseph.

The brutal enslavement of the Israelites ended with devastating defeat for the Egyptians that climaxed with the slaying of the firstborn and then the calamity at the Red Sea. Regardless of what the Pharaoh accomplished, he is ultimately judged by the enslavement that led to the final hours of Egyptian misery, devastation and defeat.

There is virtually universal condemnation of Donald Trump’s calling for the gathering of thousands of his supporters in Washington for a gigantic “Stop the Steal” rally. He brazenly egged them on to march to the Capitol and then remained silent for hours as the building was besieged and then occupied. It is a blight that will forever be associated with him and will define his final hour. Also bearing blame and shame are the many who gave open or tacit support to his two-month long vendetta protesting the conspiracy that he felt had denied him re-election.

The Trump administration is effectively over, but sadly, those who enabled him to perpetrate his calumny, dismissing it as an understandable temper tantrum or defending it as his right to pursue all legal remedies, are continuing in their elected positions. Hopefully their support, whether overt or silent, will be remembered by their electorates.

The challenge before our nation is to take to heart Santayana’s cogent observation that those who do not remember the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. May these final hours of the Trump administration and the overt and silent approval of its actions be stamped on our historical memory. May all future transitions be conducted in respect, dignity and peace. Honor and respect for our democratic values and traditions demand no less.

From the holy city of Jerusalem my best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorach, a Shabbat of peace and blessing.

Rabbi Arnold M Goodman
Senior Rabbinic Scholar