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Friday, August 21, 2009

Should the schmuck have said Shana Tova?

Ed Morrissey takes the Obumbler to task for saying Shana Tova to a conference call of rabbis on Wednesday.
How hard is it to greet a group of rabbis when trying to sell health-care reform as a religious obligation? For one thing, you could just say, “Hello,” but that may not have the shmooze value of speaking Hebrew or Yiddish. Fortunately, the greeting “Shalom” pretty much works in every situation, but apparently Barack Obama decided to be a foigel — and wound up with egg on his punim:
The purpose of the call was for President Obama to enlist the rabbis to support his health-care reform efforts: “I am going to need your help in accomplishing necessary reform.” The reference to the “who shall live and who shall die” prayer was strange in two respects. First, as Paul Bedard noted, the Jewish New Year won’t take place until September 18th. In fact, today marks the beginning of the month of Elul, the last month before the New Year begins. And yet the president said “shanah tovah [happy new year] to all of you.” This is kind of like wishing people “Merry Christmas” on Thanksgiving.

Second, and more surprisingly, is this really the context in which he wishes to discuss health reform — a powerful and unseen being making determinations of life and death? One would think that he would want to avoid anything that could raise the specter of rationing, death panels, or the like.
He's right about the second part, but I would cut the President some leeway on the first part.

While Obama did many things wrong in that meeting, wishing the rabbis a Happy New Year actually almost was not one of them.

Jewish custom is that if you do not anticipate seeing someone again, you can wish them a Happy New Year from the first day of the month of Elul - which happens to be today. I guess Obama doesn’t plan on talking to the rabbis again in the next month.

It is also customary that when you send someone a letter on or after the first day of the month of Elul, you should wish them a Happy New Year.

If the meeting had taken place late in the day on Thursday, there would have been no question that wishing people a Happy New Year would have been appropriate (the Jewish day starts the night before). That the meeting took place on Wednesday means that Obama appropriated a license for himself to use the expression early.

By the way, that was not the only bit of Jewish symbolism in the meeting - the 40 days was a lot more annoying.

And Obama is still a schmuck.


At 2:54 PM, Blogger Nannette said...

Obama wished the rabbis Shana Tova, because he thinks that our New Year is the same as Ramadan, which started 21st August and 22nd August in north America!

And he sent the worlds Muslims a Ramadan message...


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