Jewish Journal: Pirkei Avot: A guidebook for the new administration

Isn’t this Jewish supremacist to argue that our traditional texts should guide the goyim? Yes, it is Jewish supremacist. I have no problem with Jewish supremacy. I believe Judaism is awesome. I believe in God and I believe this God gave the Jews His Torah and made them his Chosen People.

Because I have no problem with Jewish supremacy, I have peace with other groups asserting their supremacy. Much of sports and popular culture reflect black supremacy. There are a tiny number of whites who want to create whites-only countries. That’s fine with me too. If the Jews and the Torah designate that there can be no other religions in the Holy Land and no citizenship for non-Jews, I can allow the same exclusivity to others.

My main objection to Jewish supremacy is when we overreach and the goyim react badly. Every action precipitates a reaction. This is my same objection to other forms of racial and religious supremacy. There’s no problem feeling that your group is awesome, divinely chosen, but that does not make your group immune from consequences. If Hitler had stopped expanding in 1938, and then only concentrated on building up Germans in a peaceful manner, and presuming that Stalin and company did not invade him, he may have gone down as the greatest political leader of the first half of the 20th Century. Chutzpah is a common human affliction and when you over-step your boundaries, you might not like the repercussions.

By Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg:

The Bible instructs every Jewish king that he must have one book with him all the time: the Torah. He should read it every day so that he will know three things: that he is accountable to God for his behavior as ruler; that he is bound by the Torah, the Constitution of his people, and is not above the law; and that he must not become arrogant and carried away by his power.
Last week, in a Forbes magazine profile, we learned that Jared Kushner, President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, has one book prominently displayed in his company headquarters: Pirkei Avot, or “Ethics of the Fathers.”
Pirkei Avot is a collection of life wisdom sayings from the rabbis who wrote the Mishnah, the core of Judaism’s second most sacred text, the Talmud. What guidance or wisdom might he glean for his important role in the coming Trump administration if he reads the book every day?
As the author of “Sage Advice,” a translation and commentary of Pirkei Avot, I have more than a few thoughts on that question.
First, Kushner should be aware of when and why the book was written. The Mishnah/Talmud was written in the aftermath of the collapse of the ruling class of the Jewish state (Judea). The political/religious establishment was totally invested in the Temple-based religious system. When the Jews revolted, the Romans crushed the rebellion, destroyed the Temple and ended Jewish sovereignty. The establishment insisted that the Temple must be restored. To them, there was no other alternative but to repeat the past policies. They spent the next century trying to recover the Temple by military and political action — in vain. Exhausted, they disappeared from history.
The rabbis rose from obscurity, a marginal place in Jewish society. They brought with them a new policy option that saved the Jewish future. They would cut a deal with the Romans to accept Roman sovereignty in return for allowing the Jews to build an autonomous community, without a military or foreign policy. Within that society, Jewish values and religion would be rebalanced and revitalized. The people, led by the rabbis, would take greater power within the religion and build a better way of life — more local, more communal, more familial, more participatory, with more individual responsibility, religiously and socially. “Ethics of the Fathers” was edited to communicate to the masses this new religious and political path. The book consists of pithy wisdom statements from 66 rabbis, designed to guide people to live a more mature, more responsible, individual life and to build a better society.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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