The Action Is the Reward
Each allegation proved more dubious than the one before
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
he Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 52:3) understands the word olamo in a verse in Koheles (12:5) — "Because man goes to his eternal home (olamo) and the mourners go about the streets" — to mean that each of us upon death goes to the precise Olam Haba that he has forged for himself through his actions. In other words, the reward of Olam Haba is a natural consequence of our thoughts and actions in This World.
Even in This World, however, we can occasionally gain hints of reward as the natural outgrowth of one's own good deeds. I have a close friend and neighbor whose late wife (also a dear friend of my wife and mine) was on dialysis for several years. Because of the likelihood that she would one day need a kidney transplant, my friend undertook to donate a kidney so that she would have priority on the list to receive the kidney she needed. (A spousal donation gives one priority as kidneys become available, just as donating blood gives family members priority.)
But when he went in to donate the kidney, the doctors detected something on it, which turned out to be malignant. If not for his great desire to provide every possible advantage to his wife, the cancer of the kidney, which is largely asymptomatic, would have very likely proven untreatable by the time it was discovered. That my friend is still alive today is a direct consequence of his chesed.
Over Succos, I shared the preceding story with a couple visiting our succah, and they added one of their own. The wife suffers from chronic back pain. About an hour and a half before Shabbos one week, she was experiencing some unusual symptoms and called her doctor. Her doctor told her to go immediately to the hospital and check herself in.
Our friends had been invited out for Shabbos and had absolutely nothing in the house — no challos and no grape juice. But they did know who to call in such a situation — a friend of theirs who is always prepared to host extra guests. They explained to her over the phone their predicament and arranged to pick up a care package on the way to the hospital.
When they drove up, their friend was standing on the sidewalk with a large bag, which she handed to them through the car window as they headed for the hospital.
The wife's doctor had called ahead, and upon arriving at the hospital, they were quickly checked in and ushered to a private room. The husband began unloading the large bag, and discovered not just challos and grape juice, but enough delicious food to last them for several days.
As he was marveling at the amount of food that their benefactor had put together on short notice, there was a knock at the door. My friend opened the door. Standing there was the husband of the woman who had put loaded them down with delicious repasts. To say that my friend was puzzled would be a great understatement.
It turns out that the woman who supplied the care package is a diabetic, and has to be very careful not to do anything that might trigger an insulin reaction. No sooner had she passed the care package through my friends' car window than she noticed that one of the triggering conditions — one that requires immediate intravenous delivery of antibiotics — was developing. She and her husband drove immediately to the hospital, with Shabbos fast approaching. The challos, grape juice, and sumptuous food that she had prepared in excess ended up as the Shabbos meal for her own husband, who would have had absolutely nothing to eat had her care package not preceded them to the hospital.
I have no doubt that the same mitzvos that delivered their own immediate reward in This World will also deliver far greater reward in Olam Haba.
More Isn't Better
The battle over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court — now, thankfully, over — has only reinforced the insight of Chazal that adding on often makes things worse. Chava's adding on a prohibition against touching the Tree of Knowledge to that against eating of the fruit provided the Snake with the opening he needed. When he pushed the fruit against Chavah and she did not die, he was then able to suggest that eating from the fruit would similarly have no consequences.
Something of the same fate befell Senate Democrats in recent works. Senator Dianne Feinstein waited until the last minute to unveil a charge of assault against Kavnaugh by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. The charge could not be corroborated. But neither could it be refuted at a distance of 36 years, since Ford could not specify the exact location or date of the alleged assault or remember how she got to or left the party at which it allegedly occurred.
Ford's charge was soon followed by another in the New Yorker from Kavanaugh's college days. Even the New York Times refused to publicize the claim of a college classmate of Kavanaugh's after being unable to find a shred of supporting evidence. But that did not stop the New Yorker from doing so, despite also acknowledging that corroboration was absent, that the woman advancing the claim admitted she was very drunk, and that she was herself uncertain about the accuracy of her recollection, until she spent six days with her lawyer trying to summon forth old memories.
Next up, attorney Michael Avenatti, a shameless self-promoter, dug up a third woman. Those charges broke down almost as soon as they were raised both because of their implausibility and her long history of documented lies. Finally, Democratic senators publicized, and the mainstream media dutifully reported, anonymous tips received by their offices.
In this fashion, the Democrats sought to place Kavanaugh in the context of various recent cases involving powerful men — in which the initial charges brought many more in their immediate wake — and thereby refute the testimony of almost every woman who has interacted with Judge Kavanaugh over the course of his professional life, as well as the 65 who knew him in high school, who testified of his respect for women and absolute propriety with them.
The strategy backfired big-time, as each allegation proved more dubious than the one before. The Democrats and their media allies succeeded only in bringing out their willingness to do anything to tarnish Judge Kavanaugh, just as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had said they would do within seconds of his nomination being announced.
Nothing better demonstrated the partisan nature of the process than the media's remarkable lack of curiosity about far more contemporaneous and better-documented charges — including a recorded 911 call — of abuse against the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee and candidate for Minnesota attorney-general, Congressman Keith Ellison.
The ever-multiplying list of implausible and unsupported charges roused the somewhat milquetoast Kavanaugh to a passionate, even angry, defense of his honor reminiscent of Justice Clarence Thomas's characterization of accusations against him in his Senate confirmation hearings as a "high-tech lynching." The gentlemanly Southerner Lindsay Graham, the leading advocate of bipartisanship in the Senate, was transformed into a bulldog of righteous indignation at what was happening to Kavanaugh.
In addition, the ever more implausible charges directed more scrutiny at Dr. Ford's emotional Senate testimony. Many of the pertinent details of her story, it turned out, had changed multiple times over the years. An old boyfriend testified that she had never mentioned the incident in question over the eight years of their relationship. Her claim that she had been left permanently traumatized and unable to fly was proven to be bogus. As was the assertion that she had entered couples therapy over an ongoing argument with her husband about installing a second front door to alleviate the claustrophobia caused by her trauma. The second front door had been installed years before the therapy started for the purpose of renting out part of their house.
The Democratic scorecard now reads: Judge Kavanaugh confirmed; Republican enthusiasm approaching the midterm elections up 20 percent; and a Rasmussen poll showing Donald Trump enjoying positive personal popularity for the first time in his presidency. Good work, Democrats.