We Should Know Better

I cannot watch television as the world is turned upside down in a religious frenzy over the new "Messiah." On banners, signs, tee shirts, and pins are the single word slogans of "Hope" and "Change."  With no earthbound basis, no accomplishments, no proven deeds for belief in the new leader, the devotees of Obamania believe in HIM with the leap of faith that was once due GOD. Among the revelers are many conscientious and well-meaning Jews, who should know better. We should know how a charismatic speaker can promise citizens "hope" and unleash "change" that represses and then crushes. We should know that we have experienced and almost perished as a people as a result of blindly following another false Messiah.

It was the middle of the 17th Century and the condition of the Jews in Europe was desperate. In the midst of bloody pogroms, poverty, and uncertainty (times far worse than our temporary financial setbacks), Sabbetai Tzvi made his appearance and offered salvation. His popularity and fame grew with amazing speed . He counted as his supporters many prominent rabbis and even intellectuals who saw in him the possibility of bringing about "a revolution in all things." (Spinozae Epistolae No 33) (Obama is not the first who offers to "heal the world.")

With bands of wildly enthusiastic followers never questioning his mortal limits, and immense contributions (Maybe equal to a $600 million-dollar campaign budget) of his wealthy supporters. Sabbatai, assisted by his wife, became the sole ruler of the community and used his power to crush all opposition.(If the analogy seems stretched, note the future of conservative radio talk shows.)  On a journey to Constantinople, he was advised that his interests, and perhaps his life, were in danger because of his beliefs, so without much hesitation, Sabbatai donned a turban and converted to Islam and thereafter lived most of his life in wealth and comfort. At the first test of his courage and conviction, his own welfare and advancement always preceded the well-being of his community. For his adherents, the illusion of false hope turned into decades of despair and misery from within the community and scorn and ridicule from outside.

We Jews should know better than to dance like wild worshippers in the Grant Park orgy of self-delusion. I cannot watch the spectacle, but I pray that on the day this new leader is tested, euphoria does not once again end in despair and betrayal result in devastation for the people of Israel.