Right before the morally sober Jewish holiday of Passover, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor made the following 'royal' pronouncement regarding the social safety net programs of Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security--the very programs which symbolize a societal conscience to all , especially our most vulnerable.
"We're going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs CANNOT EXIST if we want America to be what we want America to be." (Source: http://www.npr.org/2011/03/29/134942260/democrats-rally-to-support-social-security)
As I gather with dear friends commemorating the final Passover seder; those words of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor become ever more poignant--and shameful. As a fellow Jew--I am ashamed of Mr. Cantor. I am ashamed of his utter lack of compassion and moral responsibility for his fellow human beings. The budget plan designed by House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Rep. Paul Ryan symbolizes a departure not only from democracy, but a departure from decency.
Most Americans are familiar with the Passover story as retold from the Cecil B. DeMille movie, 'The Ten Commandments,' yet few of us--including fellow Jews--are truly thoughtful regarding the symbolic meaning of Passover. In contemplation of the true meaning of Passover, I refer to a talk given by Rabbi Michael Lerner which was published in the March/April 2010 issue of Tikkun.
"Passover is not meant to be merely a celebration of the Jewish victory for liberation in our past, but is rather meant to stimulate us to EXTEND THAT LIBERATION TO THE WHOLE WORLD. Such liberation would bring an end to the destruction of the environment. It would bring an end to the cheapening of cultural life by the dominance of an ethos of "looking out for number one." It would bring an end to rampant materialism and our society's belief in salvation through mechanical object and technological fixes..." (Source : http://www.tikkundaily/2010/03/24/spiritual-wisdom-for-passover-seder-haggadah)
Faced with this moral imperative to 'extend liberation'--I find Rep. Cantor's position on budget issues which can be literally 'life and death' decisions for the weakest and most vulnerable in our society--particularly offensive.
As a fellow Jew, he is held to a higher level of accountability. Living a religiously 'observant' life is more than blind obedience to rituals--it reflects on how we treat other human beings. It transcends the world of theology and encompasses everything in life--including ethical and humane government policies. When I hear of self-avowed conservatives praising the likes of Ayn Rand, the veritable queen of selfishness and cold blooded elitism--I wonder what moral credibility Cantor assigns to the lessons of Passover.
To further quote Rabbi Lerner;
"We need a movement that has a spiritual dimension and affirms and builds on what the 2008 election revealed; the deep yearning of Americans (and really all people on the planet) for a world in which love, kindness, generosity, ethical and ecological sanity, awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe, and commitment to a higher meaning for our lives are valued over the pursuit of money, power, sexual conquest, and fame, which have been extolled as central values by corporate media and enshrined in the workings of the global capitalist system. At the consciousness introduced into the discourse of secular liberal and progressive social change movements, NGOs, and liberal political parties. We invite you to make this discussion a central part of your Passover Seder this year."
(Source : http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2010/03/24/spiritual-wisdom-for-passover-seder-haggadah)
In a world overflowing with multiple bigotries, ie. racism, sexism, homophobia, and yes--anti-semitism--I find the GOP's idolatrous worshipping of Ayn Rand particularly ominous. When you are a member of a small group--every outspoken individual is far more noticed than those from a larger demographic. Consider how an extra five pounds looks on a person barely five feet tall as compared to a six footer--no notice on the taller person, but it sure is obvious on the shrimp.
Ayn Rand, as a fellow Jew ( by lineage only), became a living testimony to greed and cold blooded indifference to human suffering--- and as such--was a disgrace to Judaism--to humanity itself. For the GOP to lift such a sociopathic troglodyte to such literary heights only speaks to the very moral degradation of that same GOP.
Like that extra five pounds; Ayn Rand reflects poorly on the Jewish people. She had no understanding of what Torah commands as 'tikkun olam" (to help repair the world). Jews are under the moral imperative--to repair the world for all of humanity. This is far more vital a point than the blind obedience to religious ritual--it weighs on us as our primary 'raison d'etre' (reason for being). For a fellow Jew like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to turn his back on this very core of Judaism--reflects on all Jews.
Rep. Cantor's willingness to dismantle the social safety net--with a totally inadequate replacement plan--far more resembles Pharoah's henchmen, than what should be ...'the Moses or deliverer--in all of us. To put it more succinctly, a story about Rabbi Hillel, the most influential scholar in Jewish history can explain it far better than I ever could. To quote that story:
Hillel and the Golden Rule
"Once there was a gentile who came before Shammai and said to him: "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Shammai pushed him aside with the measuring stick he was holding. The same fellow came before Hillel, and Hillel converted him saying, "THAT WHICH IS DISPICABLE TO YOU, DO NOT DO TO YOUR FELLOW, THIS IS THE WHOLE TORAH, AND THE REST IS COMMENTARY, GO AND LEARN IT." (Source : http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Quote/hillel.html)