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Manis Friedman – The Neighborhood Bully

Manis Friedman – The Neighborhood Bully

Associate Editor

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

In this week’s article on Manis Friedman, a colleague suggested inserting the line that Dylan cemented his reputation as an anti-war singer. I inserted it. Now I’m second-guessing myself. How do we know that Dylan would be in his anti-war mode regarding Manis’ words if Dylan hasn’t said anything about it? Dylan wasn’t anti-war when it came to Israel using a military option. The only song Dylan ever wrote about Israel and her Arab neighbors, and therefore the most pertinent song to the Manis story, was “Neighborhood Bully,” which you can read here and listen to (on YouTube) here.

That song suggests Dylan would be far more sympathetic to what Manis was trying to say, and to Likud-Jabotinsky perspective than he would to some of the leftists who have screamed longer and louder about Manis than they ever did about the unrelenting rockets falling on Sderot. The critics of Manis are some of the same ones who scream loud and long about the treatment of terrorists in Gitmo – more than they have to protest the obscene conditions in the Gaza prison where Shalit is being held and no doubt tortured. The same critics who damn Manis Friedman for saying he doesn’t accept the “Western morality” of war (and therefore under a non-Western morality it is permissable to kill “men, women, children and cattle”) are as ignorant as Manis, for “Western morality” is in agreement with the arguement that Manis was making before he apologized. (He certainly should have apologized for being crude, unclear, and not realizing that you can’t “give over” this kind of Torah on one foot.)

Western morality is on his side: If Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt didn’t bomb everything that moved in Germany, pulverizing that most evil of countries into surrender, Auschwitz would still be open. Slavery only ended after Lincoln’s scorched earth policy that shredded the Confederacy, cattle and all.

The critics of Manis are more like the people Dylan clearly despises in “Neighborhood Bully,” not the Israelis who drop bombs to save Jewish lives. It is with the Jews who aren’t squeamish about fighting back, the Jews who don’t give a damn what “the world says,” the 5,000 Jews killed or wounded by Arab terrorists – the Jews that Manis loves like his own children, it is with those people — with us – that Dylan shares a Jewish heart.

And one final thought on Manis. A man should be judged by his best moments, not his worst. Manis has had 40 years of those “best” moments in the rabbinate, almost entirely unreported. He’s saved lives, he’s comforted thousands, he’s been a brilliant teacher of Torah. That he should have received his greatest publicity for his briefest moment of indiscretion reflects more poorly upon his critics than it does upon him.

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