From The Other Side Of The Bench
By David J. Seidemann, Esq.
Yes, my Ohio State Buckeyes prevailed last night and won the college football playoff game. It was a game for the ages, as no one expected Ohio State to win. Their starting quarterback, Braxton Miller, was injured before the season started, and his replacement, J.T. Barrett, broke his leg the week before the conference championship game. Enter Cardale Jones, who hadn’t played a snap all year long. He directs the Buckeyes to the Big Ten conference championship, defeats the number-one team in the nation in the Sugar Bowl, and then leads the Buckeyes to an upset victory over Oregon in the national championship.
Time after time over the last three games, Jones was in the right place at the right time, avoiding the defensive pressure, scrambling for gains on third and fourth downs when the team’s back was against the wall. Last night in the national championship game, he overcame four turnovers and, together with his teammates, dispatched of the favored Oregon Ducks led by their Heisman Trophy quarterback.
Now I realize that I might have lost a good portion of the readership that does not follow football. So allow me to make it a little bit more relevant for you: the Buckeyes won because their leader showed up, took the bull by its horns, assessed the opposition, recognized the opposition for what it was, and devised a plan to defeat the opponent. You can’t defeat the enemy if you don’t show up, if you act with cowardice, if you refuse to recognize the enemy, refuse to properly define the enemy, and refuse to confront the enemy with a plan that works.
If going to Ferguson means something, then staying away from Paris also means something, Mr. President. And irony of ironies, while world leaders marched to combat evil, Mr. Obama was stateside watching football. He could learn a lesson from the Ohio State team.
Moses became the leader of the Jewish people after he walked the streets of Egypt and saw the pain of his brothers. He witnessed an Egyptian man strike a Jew. Moses’ instinctive reaction was to rise to the defense of that Jew. And the next day Moses is walking the streets again—not staying home and watching football, but walking the streets again—and he sees two Jews engaged in a verbal spat. “Evil man,” says Moses to the aggressor, “why do you hit your neighbor?”
The Torah never states that the Jewish aggressor hit his victim, yet Moses castigates the one Jew for hitting the other. Why? Because Moses knew that incendiary rhetoric would lead to jihad. Moses knew to take threats seriously and to define evil at its source.
Moses felt the pain of his brethren, which a true leader can only feel if he is walking the streets, arm in arm with them, arm in arm with other leaders who are not afraid to confront evil.
While Moses was the messenger, he took a staff with G‑d’s name etched into it, for the leader should always have his presence be felt. It makes a difference, Mr. Obama, where you go and where you choose not to go. It makes a difference what you call out as evil and what you fail to term as evil. At the very least, it exposes who you are and what you believe in and creates a legacy from which you will not be able to escape.
One who cannot confront evil might similarly be challenged in defining good, and therefore one has to approach the next few years with extreme caution in terms of this country and its ability to provide goodness to the world.
If one cannot recognize evil, he cannot wage war against evil. If one cannot discern between good and evil, he cannot build anything of true value.
The ability to walk the streets, and therefore to feel the pain of another, is lost on him (except when it fits a political agenda).
Now contrast this behavior to the following. Rav Hershel Schachter, the world-renowned Talmudic scholar and dean at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, was in Lawrence this past Shabbos. The sage was a Shabbos luncheon guest at my neighbor’s home. At around 2:30 p.m. on Shabbos afternoon, I went next door to wish the rabbi a gutShabbos. We have known each other for years from my days at Yeshiva University in the 1980s and for all these years since then from working on various divorce cases together.
I shared with Rav Schachter two disturbing cases I am involved with now in which I represent the Orthodox Jewish woman and where the husband is refusing to tender a get. Now I’m not talking about the rabbi’s eyes welling up with emotion. And I am not describing how the plight of these women brought a singular tear to become dislodged from the rav’s eye and roll down his cheek. What I witnessed as I described the absolute desperate state of these two women was Rav Schachter heaving, sighing, and having a complete breakdown into a flood of tears. Rav Schachter does not know these women. Never met them. But he cried for them in the middle of his Shabbos lunch.
But I know Rav Schachter and I am convinced he cries like that whenever he hears of situations like this. That is the definition of a man who walks the streets with his sisters and brothers.
Although I surely do not equate them, the replacement players who stepped forward for the Buckeyes—specifically Cardale Jones, who turned his personal life around to become the instant hero that he has become—and, on a completely different screen, in a completely different game, Rav Hershel Schachter, who weeps for Jews he never met, can teach us all a lesson in walking the streets with our brethren.
It makes a difference where we walk and whom we walk with. It makes a difference whom we lock arms with and whom we cry for.
Some people just don’t get it. They will never be champions of anything.
David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or firstname.lastname@example.org.