Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Why Yossi Gestetner is correct in his op-ed regarding Weprin
As a reader of Yeshiva world, I was astonished at Andy Branower’s response earlier this week in which he questioned Yossi Gestetner’s op-ed regarding the Jewish Democratic candidate David Weprin who’s running in a special election for NY-9, Weiner’s former seat, and the Jewish voters who will in all likelihood determine the winner of the seat.
Branower focused on two out of the four separate points of Gestetner’s article; A- that Weprin doesn’t respect Judaism as seen in his support of same-gender marriage B- Weprin supported the cigarette tax. Branower responded that although Gestetner claimed the two votes were “unJewish” Gestetner didn’t back up his arguments with proof. Surprisingly, Branower either didn’t bring any proof to support his claim. I therefore, as a pretty new blogger, decided to put fingers to keyboard, and join the discussion by defending and adding to Gestetner’s piece.
Branower wrote; accepting that same-gender marriage is prohibited by Torah; does that tell us that a Jewish legislator in a pluralistic, democratic society must absolutely vote against a statute that authorizes conduct prohibited by the Torah?
Open up a chumash in to parshas Noach perek vov passuk yud beis and see why the mabul came! Hashem brought a mabul because of toevah (abomination), by the people (there was no Jewish nation yet) as well as the animals (see rashi). Hashem despises immorality and he demands the same from us – we are commanded to follow in the path of Hashem. So yes, we must be a light upon other nations and fight for morality no matter what. And embarrassingly enough, there are many religious non-Jews who proudly proclaim and defend their beliefs of traditional marriage and pro-life, which is similar to the Torah viewpoint on those topics, while Weprin and others like him support toevah in the name of Judaism!
Majority of New York did not want to change the definition of marriage. It was Cuomo and his cohorts who fought for it, in order to promote themselves in the eyes of the Democratic Party heads and its supporters. Weprin too sold his soul, as Yochonon Donn from Hamodia aptly described it, in order to receive the appointment as the Democratic nominee for Weiner’s congress seat!
When Weprin was interviewed by the Hamodia and other newspapers last year during his campaign for the Assembly, he stressed his Yeshiva background and presented himself as “one of us,” who shares our values. He purposely omitted details such as his support for abortions and a change in the definition of marriage, which are antithetical to Jewish values. He expected and got Jewish votes as “one of us” who share our values, and didn’t inform the Jewish voters of his support for.
Weprin spoke to the Assembly prior to the vote explaining his support to legalize same-gender marriage. He said that he asked his Rabbi if he would officiate a wedding between a Jew and a gentile, to which his Rabbi replied, “Absolutely Not.”
Weprin then used this to “prove” that just as no law would enforce his or any religious leader to do the above, the current law won’t mandate any religious leaders to act against their belief. Weprin finished off with expressing pride on his vote for this “civil rights” bill and encouraging others to throw their support behind it as well. So Weprin wasn’t just an extra or quiet vote, he encouraged and possibly influenced others. Secondly, he said he was proud as a Jew to vote for the bill, as though such a vote is the correct thing to do according to Judaism. What a chillul Hashem!
When Weprin ran for his seat, he seeked and received the Jewish vote because of his Jewishness and supposed support of Jewish values. What do we Jews get out of voting for a Jew if he doesn’t share our values and votes in a manner similar to his non-Jewish Democratic buddies?
This is enough of a reason for us to support Turner rather than Weprin.
However, since Gestetner's and Branower’s articles debated Weprin’s support of an increase on the cigarette tax, I felt it necessary to discuss it as well. But first a disclaimer: I don’t smoke nor drink, never did, and don’t plan to ever do either of the two.
Branower wondered how the cigarette tax relates specifically to the Jewish vote. It affects us in two ways: Firstly, as Yossi explained, just as Weprin voted to “tax people out of habits” regarding smoking, he’d support increased taxes such as on alcohol which we use every Shabbos and Yom Tov.
There’s a deeper point, though, that must be explained regarding the cigarette tax, since I saw in the comments that most people felt it was the correct step from a Jewish point in order to stop or prevent smokers.
Dennis Prager, a talk-show host who’s gone to Yeshiva and is an observant Jew, has explained it as follows: The Torah says Lo Signov – One Shall Not Steal. Stealing doesn’t only mean sticking one’s hand into another’s pocket, or snatching an item out of another’s hand. Stealing can be defined in countless manners including the removal of money or an object whether through force, trickery, or any other method. The removal of money from one person’s pocket through taxing a specific purchase, in order to put that money into another’s pocket – using it to fund other projects -- that too is included in the sin of Lo Signov. How can we support a candidate that supports and promotes stealing?
Taxes on items such as cigarettes are different than traffic or other ticketing because the money demanded is a consequence for an illegal act, and is often instead of arrest. Those laws are generally passed for the safety of others, such as speed limits and no-parking at fire hydrants, or to keep law and order, such as double parking and alternate side parking. If the politicians truly have the people’s safety in mind, then cigarettes should be outlawed just as many other dangerous substances are. Not that I support the banning of cigarettes, I simply want to point out that making money off it is wrong.
The above also applies to Weprin’s vote of support to extend the millionaires’ tax, which taxes those that earn above a certain income an additional tax since the politicians decided those people have too much money and it should be given to others. That’s highway robbery!
If certain individuals are rich, it is their choice what to do with the money just as any other citizen. They have the right to hold it, invest it, hire more people, grow the economy, give to charities they choose to support, go on vacations thereby boosting the economy etc. Success usually comes after hard work, and should not be punished. It’s anti-democratic for the government to tell people they’re earning too much and then take their money and decide where it should be spent.
So the question is; are we allowed to vote for politicians who fight for above policies which fall under the category of stealing? Again, the above examples are different than regular taxes because the government has the right to extend a tax over the people so it should have money to protect its residents and money for all its other needs. These two examples however, are targeting specific individuals because of the profitable outcome for the government.
This brings me back to the same-gender vote and how Weprin could support it and still have religious supporters.
It can be understood best with a question. What is a more serious Torah transgression, not putting on tefillin (phylacteries), or making fun of someone?
Whoever I asked, automatically responded – of course, tefillin! However, the opposite is true. Shaming or hurting another person is forbidden according to the Torah while wearing tefillin is only a command from our rabbanim. How have we come to the level that a Torah command such as shaming has become trampled upon and not treated properly while tefillin is regarded with utmost respect by the same people who have no issue joking about others? How could something that appears in many people’s eyes as a minor sin is really the greater transgression than tefillin which most people view as more serious?
The answer is one word -- liberalism.
Liberalism is the crowning of emotions as ruler rather than acting according to laws or logic. People follow that which feels right or just doesn’t feel right, even if facts are the opposite. Liberals see poor people and rich people, are overcome with compassion, and force the rich to give to the poor. It doesn’t matter that this causes the poor remain poor while hurting the rich.
People acting upon emotion see two people wishing to get married and are banned from carrying the same title. Sympathy overtakes them and suddenly it becomes civil rights issue. It doesn’t matter that you’re destroying the definition of marriage that has been around ever since the world has been created. Nor does it matter that these couples have a no future. Compassion is the name of the game.
It gives you the right to compare same-gender marriage to slavery where slaves were tortured, families torn apart, young children were forced to do backbreaking work daily, and slaves not treated as humans at all, but as property.
Sadly, this phenomenon has infiltrated our world, which explains why people can make light of serious sins such as shaming, while being careful with less serious sins such as tefillin.
It also explains why many of us often find themselves voting for a Jew just because he’s Jewish without looking at his positions. It is a vote based on emotion and not logic (and definitely not Torah.)
It says in the Torah that one is not allowed to do toevah and one is not allowed to support toevah. If an individual proudly stands up to defend and encourage others to support gay marriage while pointing out at the same time his being an observant Jew, that can only be done out of acting upon emotion.
I’ve asked many individuals when Bush ran for his second term why they weren’t supporting Bush because of the Iraqi war. The first response I’ve always received was that programs came first. My reply to them was, if someone points a gun to your head and demands money or life, wouldn’t life always be considered more important than money? Even if one can’t be sure if the gun is empty or loaded, would one take the risk?
Glenn Beck, a talk-show host questioned a caller on his radio show in front of millions of listeners what is the caller’s most important thing that makes him happy. When the response was money Beck responded: Money? Is money everything? What’s money without family, health, friends, religion, values etc. Why is it that many religious non-Jews like Glenn Beck can understand that money is by far not everything? If he was able to say this as a non-Jew in regard to their worthless g-d kal vachomer v’kal v’chomer does a Jew have to get up and proudly proclaim that our values are more important than our money!
Oh how proud Hashem would be and what a Kiddush hashem it will cause if all Jews would oppose Weprin because of his chillul hashem and vote him out of office.
For more about Weprin and his shameful acts read my previous article:
NY-9: Do you really need David Weprin who used swastikas against his opponent and dumped his religious values to promote himself?