The Issue of Character

I have a lot of admiration for Dennis Prager. His ability to articulate common sense conservative values and politics without resorting to dogma or hyperbole is refreshing; his passionate defense of Israel against the groupthink of Western academics and politicians is reassuring.

However, even the best and the brightest sometimes wander off the reservation.

Read my rebuttal here.  Then go to the JWR homepage to read Mr. Prager’s sincere but unconvincing response to his critics.  More on that soon, I hope.

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  1. #1 by david dubin on December 13, 2011 - 10:27 am

    Sorry, but the rabbi’s attempts to vindicate King David is tendentious and certainly not universally accepted. It is not a “superficial” reading that condemns David, it is the text itself.
    Besides, David did not just see a “pair of legs”, he was not absolved by G-d when he admitted his sin (there was no one else to ask forgiveness anyway, since the husband was already dead), Solomon was not a mamzer because the child of the illicit union died and Solomon was conceived after Nabal’s death, and the list of incorrect statments in the column goes on.
    Mr Prager may be wrong in his opinions, but you are wrong in fact. That is worse.

  2. #2 by L on December 13, 2011 - 1:58 pm

    Your rebuttal:
    The simple answer is that the presidency is more than just a job. The office is a symbol, and the president is charged not only with piloting the ship of state but with upholding the standards personal integrity that lie at the core of American values.

    Thank you…I was aghast when I read Mr. Prager’s commentary – my heart sank – especially considering the website that referenced it – a Christian website. Character and integrity do matter – David’s transgression tortured his soul – his sincere confession satisfied the L-rd.

    David was not a serial adulterer – there is no contriteness in that sort of behavior. Where is the accountability before the L-rd?

    I see MUCH rationalization from religious conservatives to support candidates that lack in moral character. What ever happened to a clear conscience before the L-rd?

  3. #3 by torahideals on December 13, 2011 - 4:10 pm

    Alas, we see the problems of trying to engage in reasoned and civil discourse in the internet age.

    The irony of the superficiality of many of the respondents to my article on superficiality will not be lost on astute readers. Doubtless, I will not change the minds of critics, but thoughtful readers may be interested in my answers.

    D.D. claims that G-d did not absolve King David. Of course He did, reversing the death penalty imposed on David by Nathan the prophet through Nathan himself. D.D. claims further that Solomon was not a mamzer, evidently unaware of the Torah law that an adulterous relationship remains adulterous even after the dissolution of the original marriage. Why D.D. brings in Nabal, the husband of Abigail, I have no idea.

    Joshua embarrasses himself with his comparison to Bill Clinton. The former president’s parsing hardly begins to carry the weight of the Biblical and Talmudic records, which are as easily misconstrued by laymen as are the rules of quantum mechanics. His reference to David’s cover-up raises a legitimate point. In fact, the Tosfos commentary in the Talmud identifies David’s sin as a failure to operate openly through the system of Torah justice. None of that, however, exempts Uriah from being guilty for refusing to follow David’s orders and his disrespectful address before the king.

    In other comments, Ric asserts that Nathan condemned David as an adulterer. A close reading of scripture reveals that Nathan never mentions David’s actual transgression, except indirectly through his allegory of the rich man and the poor man. Bill argues that David was guilty of adultery with Abigail, clearly unaware that in Biblical times a man was allowed to have more than one wife.

    Superficiality has been around as long as human society. Consider that the Big Bang theory was dismissed as metaphysics when it was first proposed, that Galileo was branded a heretic for proposing that the earth was not the center of the universe, and the Louis Pasteur was ridiculed by the scientific community when he advanced germ theory. By the same reasoning, Albert Einstein was a fool to suggest that the universe is a closed system in which light will ultimately return to its source, since any fool can see that space goes on forever.

    The Talmud says that one who wants to misunderstand will misunderstand. Considering the possibility that surface appearances rarely present the whole story is a sign of both intellectual maturity and true wisdom.

  4. #4 by Alan Lasnover on December 13, 2011 - 4:18 pm

    In your rebuttal to Mr. Prager, you mention the “desirable” qualities of our presidential leader. Mr. Prager provides superb examples of men who were good leaders and simultaneous adulterers. He provides two excellent examples of a basis for adultery (rather than divorce). Human beings are hardly fallible and I have come to believe that personal behavior is not always a reflection of the quality of leadership. You are an excellent writer––in this instance, Mr. Prager is correct. The welfare of our country and the world may well be at stake in the forthcoming November election

  5. #5 by Ric on December 13, 2011 - 5:12 pm

    A close reading of scripture tells us that David’s first child with Bathsheba died. Where did this child some from if not for adultery? No the scripture does not use the term, nor is it required. The tale from Nathan about the rich man taking the poor man’s sheep would not make sense if Uriah was not living at the time. His relationship with Bathsheba ended because he died. Why would Nathan point the finger and tell the tale to David if Uriah was not alive at the time?

  6. #6 by Canuck on December 13, 2011 - 5:42 pm

    Dennis Prager is mistaken not just about King David, but in his understanding of what adultery is. Jewish law does not consider a married man having an affair with an unmarried woman to be adultery, although it considers that sinful. Adultery only occurs when a man (married or not) sleeps with another man’s wife, and that is a death penalty offense in the Torah.

    Thanks Rabbi for pointing out that it is a mistake to conclude that King David committed adultery with Bathsheba. Perhaps Bathsheba was not Jewish until she later married King David. Or, if she were Jewish, perhaps her husband Uriah the Hittite hadn’t converted, and so his marriage to Bathsheba would be invalid. Or, perhaps Uriah along with all Jewish soldiers in King David’s army, divorced their wives upon leaving for battle, as a way to enable their widows to remarry more easily in case they were lost in battle. After King David’s incident with Bathsheba, David called Uriah back from battle from battle and practically ordered him to spend the night with Bathsheba (so if Bathsheba was pregnant, the child would be attributed to Uriah, not David. But, Uriah slept outside rather than spend the night with Bathsheba, so perhaps he had no intention of resuming his marriage.

  7. #7 by stephen b. shore on December 13, 2011 - 5:50 pm

    I found your article on the Issue of Character very interesting. I certainly agree with your assessment of the importance of personal integrity and the reasons for the decline of our society. However, you should have offered your set of “standards” for character traits against which all candidates for President should be measured. Would Bill Clinton fail today? Would Newt Gingrich fail? Would Mitt Romney pass? Does one’s character (virtue) have to be “pure”, virtually “pure”, almost “pure”, more “pure” than not, to have the right character attributes to run for President?

    Based on your statement that we need a president who will inspire us to recover our individual and collective responsibility to live up to our mottos, how do you judge President Obama’s performance? I sense the answer may have been telegraphed in your reflection that “our country is foundering on the cultural waves of entitlement and immediate gratification”. What say you?

  8. #8 by Canuck on December 13, 2011 - 10:39 pm

    Americans prefer elected representatives to be sober and happily married, but still that is generally secondary to ideological stances. Expecting politicians to be generally truthful with the public is expecting too much.

  9. #9 by torahideals on December 14, 2011 - 9:50 am

    You are making the same mistake made by Dennis Prager, i.e., confusing a recognition of the moral and civic inadequacies of our leaders with the abdication of moral standards. It is possible to live in the real world without abandoning clarity of right vs. wrong and good vs. evil.

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