L ast week in Charlottesville, Virginia, neo-Nazis and white supremacists clashed with leftists and Black Lives Matters members in what a New York Times reporter said “looked like a war zone.” And in the end, there was bloodshed, as one of the former — a young punk described by a former teacher as enamored of Nazi Germany — plowed his car into a group of the latter, killing a woman and injuring numerous others.

Senator Ted Cruz made the strongest, clearest statement of any political leader about the events, which was also noteworthy for having specifically mentioned anti-Semitism, present in Charlottesville in the signs held and chants bellowed by the neo-Nazis. An excerpt:

Heidi’s and my prayers are with the loved ones of those killed and injured in the ongoing violence in Charlottesville…. The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate. Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism. 

Mr. Cruz seems to have decided he doesn’t care if some on the right will construe his words as somehow caving to the left or the media, or if some on the left will seize upon his words as proof of this or that. He chose not to issue a tepid, vague statement morally equating murderer and victim, but to speak instead with honesty and moral clarity.

His future as a senator, let alone his presidential aspirations, are very much in doubt, but apparently, taking an unequivocal stand about such an unquestionable outrage was more important to Mr. Cruz than any personal or political calculation — or perhaps he feels that anyone who could possibly have a problem with his statement isn’t part of his voter base anyway. He simply refused to play semantic games that would send a subliminal message to anyone signaling that he’s really on their side.

What a refreshing change, isn’t this, from what we were so accustomed to when a prior administration would react to episodes of violence by Islamists and leftists? Then, exquisitely balanced moral equivalence was the order of the day — “cycle of violence,” “disproportionate response,” and all that. Syntactically tortured, mealy-mouthed responses to unvarnished savagery, full of verbs using the passive voice and nouns that were so general as to be meaningless, became the norm.

That stifling political correctness was an insult to our intelligence and an offense to our morality. It made one want to speak up and say to the nation’s leader, “Just stop playing these word games that we all see right through. Why don’t you speak openly and honestly against evil, and let the chips fall where they may?”

But, thank G-d, we’re now in the post–political correctness era, when we can tell it exactly like it is. Aren’t we?



WHO WILL WORRY NOW? There are many good people who work on behalf of Klal Yisrael, contributing their time, effort, and money for the sake of other Jews. But there are many fewer individuals who give of their peace of mind, who let themselves be disturbed over what is happening or what seems likely to happen to acheinu Beis Yisrael, in general or individually.

Last week, the Far Rockaway/Five Towns community — and all of us, whether we know it or not — suffered the loss of such a man, Rav Aaron Brafman z”l, the longtime menahel of Yeshiva Derech Ayson – Yeshiva of Far Rockaway. I trust I won’t be guilty of being mis’atzel b’hespeido shel chacham if I address just one of his many attributes, one so important and so unusual.

A few of those who eulogized him noted that he was a worrier, and having known him for several decades, that rang true with me. But as they noted, and as I know, what he worried about was not his stock portfolio, or the fortunes of some inane sports or political team. The focus of his concern was Klal Yisrael, and Hashem’s tza’ar, and that of His children.

People do good things for the klal for many different reasons, oftentimes noble ones, but sometimes personal interest creeps into the picture. The thing is, you can’t worry for the Jewish People shelo lishmah. There’s zero to be personally gained from it. It can only be genuine, felt, and painful.

Back when there was still a publication called the Jewish Observer, Rav Brafman’s deep concern for kevod Shamayim and his ahavas Yisrael found expression in its pages, in essays he’d contribute that presciently identified disturbing communal trends, gathering clouds before coming spiritual storms. His appearances in print were a perfect example of one of the main reasons for the JO’s existence: to provide a forum for talmidei chachamim to convey in clear, contemporary prose how to see the world through a Torah lens.

But he didn’t need the JO as the vehicle for airing his concern; he had his own tefillos before the Eibeshter, suffused with longing for a time when all the ailing would be healed and the needy cared for, all the breaches mended and Hashem’s glory over all of Creation restored. At times, he’d just approach or call up another Jew to share his apprehensions, because, you see, he really meant it, it really bothered him.

As Eliyahu Hanavi ascended to Heaven, his talmid Elisha Hanavi cried out, “My father, my father, chariot of Israel and its horsemen,” and the Gemara (Moed Katan 26a) renders Elisha’s cry of “my father, my father” as if he had said “my father, my mother.” An adam gadol is a father because he teaches and guides us, but he’s a mother because, far from public view, he worries deeply about us.

Perhaps that’s why when Dovid Hamelech, in Tehillim 35:14, sought to describe the epitome of mourning, he chose the experience of one grieving for his mother. It’s a loss that’s irreplaceable in a way that others are not. My own beloved mother left us decades ago and I still miss having that one person in the world to worry how I am and where I am.

Reb Aaron, you took leave so suddenly. Who will worry for us now? (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 673. Eytan Kobre may be contacted directly at kobre@mishpacha.com)