On My Immunity to Politics, or Why Trust Me?

Click Here to Vote in Zehut International PrimariesThe two most unctuous words a politician can say to a voter are, “Trust me.” Politicians can never be trusted.

But I’m not a politician.

One of my favorite movie scenes is from the 1987 classic The Princess Bride. The Man in Black challenges the Sicilian Vizzini to a battle of wits to rescue Buttercup. The Man in Black tells Vizzini that one of two wine cups is poisoned with iocane powder. Vizzini switches the cups when he’s not looking, and waits for the Man in Black to drink his own cup first. He does. Vizzini then drinks, certain that his cup was not poisoned.

In the end, Vizzini dies, and the Man in Black lives. How?

“Both cups were poisoned,” the Man in Black says to Buttercup. “I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.”

This, my Zehut International friends, is politics. The most pure-hearted with the best possible intentions go in idealistically, and invariably come out dirty. If you go into politics and you want to stay clean, you have to know that every cup is poisoned and you must spend years building up an immunity to it.

I spent the last few years building up an immunity to politics, and that’s why I choose to drink the cup.

How am I immune? Let me tell you a personal story. Years ago I was working in Tel Aviv in marketing. My manager and I actually were quite friendly and we got along well. We’d argue a lot, him a secular Tel Avivi, me a dati American Oleh, immigrant. One day we argued about Ma’aser, giving a tenth of our incomes to tzedaka.

I told him that while I do slip up in other areas of religious practice from time to time, I am super machmir, very strict, about giving Ma’aser. This is my mitzvah, and if there’s one mitzvah I am going to do right, it’s this one. I make sure I give a tenth of my income every month to the Tzedaka of my choice.

Why am I so strict about this Mitzvah specifically? It’s not because I’m some pious man of faith or anything. In fact, my faith and religiosity are quite lacking. I am strict about Ma’aser for quite selfish reasons actually. Because this is the only Mitzvah that we are halachically permitted to test G-d on, and I needed to test Him. In other words, we are allowed to give Tzedaka as a test to see if G-d returns the money to us in some way.

In many ways, my faith in G-d is anchored in this practice, and it has been ever since I started earning my own living. But what really cemented it as the basis for my own faith in G-d is the challenge I made to my boss in 2012. He told me he didn’t earn enough to give Ma’aser every month, though he tries. So I said the following to him, perhaps irresponsibly, but I said it. (Sometimes I’m too confrontational.)

“I bet you that before the end of the year, I’m going to get a better job and you’re going to be laid off.” He laughed. that was our type of banter. But I was serious.

In the meantime, I applied to a new job that I wanted, one that would let me stay home and write about economics. On my birthday that year, I got the new job, and went out to a nice breakfast to celebrate with my wife before I went to work. I was going to tell my manager that day that I was quitting, but since I was coming in late, he actually called me first.

He called me at breakfast and told me the company was shutting down. I was absolutely dumbfounded. And I remembered the wager I made him, but didn’t bring it up. I told him, what a coincidence, I was just going to tell you that I’m quitting.

Here’s the point though. I have been a libertarian since 2012, even before that crazy day. But ever since that day, I became religious about it. Blending religious libertarianism with halachic Judaism has not been without its challenges I admit, but my life philosophy – my immunity to politics essentially – is this:

The Gemara in Shabbos 31A says that the first question we will all be asked when we die is נשאת ונתת באמונה? Were you honest in business? Did you steal money? Did you avoid paying debts? Did you swindle people?

I am not the most machmir – halachically strict – of observant Jews, and I have my own religious shortcomings. But I have chosen this aspect of halacha as my forte, my personal mitzva that I have chosen to fulfill as perfectly and as strictly as I possibly can.

It is the bedrock of my personal Judaism and I am a fanatic about it. When I am no longer here and I have to answer that question, I will answer it with absolute confidence. I am honest with money, I am a religious Jew and a religious libertarian and I believe in redemption, geulah. These are the pillars of my life on Earth that G-d has given me and I take them seriously.

I will not be bought, I will not be corrupted, bribed with position or anything else, and I will not be bent.

I will always vote not for what will secure my political career (I don’t even want one truthfully), but for what I know is right. I will be honest with money, so I will never vote to increase taxes or government spending, but always to shrink it, in any way that becomes available to do so in the Knesset, in any realm, in any part of life, for anyone in Israel, period.

I spent the last few years building up an immunity to politics. That immunity is the basis of my identity, both as a Jew and as a human being in general.

That’s why I’m telling you, trust me, and vote for me. Because I’m honest, because I’m immune, becauseI’m not a politician, and because I will do what is right.

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Why I Will Bring the Most Votes to Zehut

There are about 300 of you, Zehut International members, last I checked. (If you’re not one, click here now and you can vote in the December 17 primaries.) There are 3 of us campaigning for your vote for slot #10 on the Zehut Knesset list.

I’ve been in contact with Rav Spitz and David Sidman. They are both great candidates. There really isn’t much we disagree on substantively. So why vote for me?

When I went to the meeting at Zehut headquarters in Tel Aviv for all our Knesset candidates, we introduced ourselves, naturally. Most of us spoke briefly about our qualifications, what we want to do in the Knesset, what we want to accomplish and why, our backgrounds and such.

When we were all finished with our schpiels, Shmuel Sackett got up and said the following (paraphrasing). “I don’t care what your background is or what degrees you have or what your qualifications are. The only thing I want to know is this: How many votes can you bring to Zehut?”

That, of course, is the essential question.

Let’s put this starkly. Besides G-d, Zehut is Israel’s last hope. I firmly believe that. Because I have faith in G-d, I also firmly believe Zehut will succeed, because we have to. At the same time, we have to elect people who will bring the most votes possible to our party in order to succeed. It’s that dialectic between reliance on G-d and hishtadlus, making a real effort and doing our part.

I will bring the most votes to Zehut for two reasons, both of which play off the other. First, I have an insatiable need to tell the truth. I cannot stop myself. No matter how ugly the truth sounds or how crazy it makes me look or how much I know people do not want to hear it initially. I can’t even sugarcoat it in the most superficial way to make it sound better. When I try to dress the truth up and blunt the sharpness of my words to make them sound more pleasant to the political ear, it just doesn’t feel right and it sounds awkward coming off my tongue. I feel like it’s someone else talking when I try.

I can’t even use nice words to convince you to vote for me!

Second, I can’t stand politicians. I just cannot play their game. Go through the actual content of what any of them (except Moshe Feiglin) say, Right or Left, very carefully, and you’ll realize there is no substance to any of it. The same generalities over and over, spoken so you’ll feel nice and gooey and apply whatever beliefs you may have to the extremely loose and imprecise language they use. Whichever empty shell of a man is best at saying nothing but making you feel that your values are somehow contained within the absolute vacuum of nothingness he spouts off, is the man that wins and runs the country.

Benjamin Netanyahu is the absolute best at doing this. He’s Prime Minister, but nobody likes him.

I am the absolute antithesis of this. A vote for me means a vote for dropping an antipolitical bomb right into the heart of the Knesset.

Now, I fully understand that a man like me cannot lead Zehut. I’m too one-dimensional for that job. I should not be permitted on the front lines and will never vie for that position, because I understand it’s not for me. That’s Moshe’s job.

But Zehut needs a man like me to make headlines, to get up in the middle of the Knesset and say straight out with an acid tongue how much I disdain the place and the politicians in it. How everything they do, almost without exception, just makes all of our lives worse, desecrates the Name of God and embarrasses the Jewish People globally. I say what all of us think and feel but don’t want to say out loud because for many it causes despair. Not for me. It gives me hope, and it will rub off on voters.

The very first thing I will do in my inaugural speech as a Knesset Member is paint a big fat target on myself and tell the MKs that I am not a “Chaver Knesset“, meaning Knesset Member or literally “Friend of the Knesset.” Rather, I am an Enemy of Knesset and I am here to stop them from abusing the Jewish People.

I won’t even be addressing other MKs whenever I speak (excluding Zehut MKs of course). I will be talking directly to the Jewish People, the ones producing value in the economy, off whose work politicians live, so we can eat and live and survive. The victims of the political class and bureaucracy who get taxed and regulated and tazered at the Temple Mount for praying to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. The Jewish People who get bombed and killed by Arabs because the politicians are too cowardly to cut a deal with the Arabs to leave our land and finally end the war because it is the war that gives the politicians the perpetual power they love so much.

The politicians that take our children into Gaza and Lebanon to fight and die with no strategic goals whatsoever, using our kids as cannon fodder for their own political power so they can give sickening stump speeches taking advantage of our nationhood screaming Am Yisrael Chai while they have absolutely no plan to actually win anything. It drives me out…of…my…mind.

The solutions are not complicated. You just need to implement them. For example, say a rocket falls on Ashkelon from Gaza and hits a house. Simply pinpoint the exact area the rocket came from, expel the people living there within an X-mile radius, seize all their assets, and offer the property and assets to the victims of the rocket attack to do whatever they want with it. Simple criminal-victim restitution practiced everywhere.

My point is this. I do not believe there is much of a substantive difference between myself and my co-runners, at least not from what I can tell. Perhaps I’m wrong and of course I’ll let Rav Bentzi and David speak for themselves. The difference between us, I believe, is a matter of style.

I am shock value. Am Yisrael is drowning in a swamp of government. We need to get their votes, and in order to do so we need to get their attention. You don’t get a drowning people’s attention by lightly tapping them on the back as they’re sinking. You grab them, pull them, scream, and wake them up before they sink.

Why will my style get the most votes? Because at bottom, everyone who is not a politician or a bureaucrat in Israel, does disdain the Knesset and the government as a whole, just like me. I just have the ability, or perhaps handicap, of being absolutely unable to hide it.

Whenever Israelis speak of the place they roll their eyes at it. They’re embarrassed by it. I remember this from as far back as when I was a kid in sleep-away summer camp. The camp had Israelis come for the summer to introduce kids to Israel and its culture. One of them, I distinctly remember, and this was back in 2000 and he was a left-winger, was talking about the Knesset.

“You come out of that place embarrassed to be Jewish,” he said.

Yes. Israelis do feel this way. It’s a real thing. I will tap into that reality and give the people some release. I’m the one who is telling them that these feelings, these true negative feelings they have towards this place, are good. They’re OK. They’re correct. They can indulge in them. It means they’re normal.

I won’t be leading Zehut. I will be adding hot sauce to the party. Zehut needs its soft-spoken candidates for sure, but it also needs a flavor of righteous anger so that frustrated Israelis can look at Zehut and say, “There’s a party that has just had enough!” Nobody does that better than me.

What will keep my head straight? What ensures that I won’t become a politician myself? Because they’ll have nothing over me, nothing on me, no leverage. I won’t be taking a salary, I’ll drive my own car that I bought with my own money, and I won’t be seeking any special positions, committees, or anything. I don’t want any of that. I just want to talk to the Jewish People and tell them I’m on your side. I’m not taking any of your money. I am fighting for you. Now get up and fight with me.

Why Rafi Farber’s Knesset Platform is So Simple

People are asking me my positions on various issues. It’s an understandable question. I’ll answer it briefly here, but I want to emphasize in the post exactly why my personal official Knesset platform is so streamlined and it doesn’t address issue by issue. My platform, to reiterate, is that I will vote against any law that expands government size or power, and for any law that shrinks it. The only exception is if I am personally convinced Israel is under existential and imminent military threat, in which case I will vote to mobilize the army even if government spending is increased as a result.

In terms of positions on specific issues, generally, I agree with much of the Zehut Platform, at least its general direction. For example, I am not a supporter of the government school voucher system per se, but I would vote for it if given the choice between the status quo and school vouchers, because vouchers do limit government power somewhat, and leave it with a little bit less than it has now. So I’m for it, relative to the status quo. Though my goal is to get rid of all government education entirely and to fire every single person in the Education Ministry and repeal the Mandatory Education Law.

So issue by issue, whatever question you may have, I will always come down on the side that I believe is less government power.

Buy why, in a deeper sense, am I restricting my official platform to simply voting against every law that increases power and for any law that decreases it, rather than going issue by issue elucidating details? It goes back to 2012, in a Republican debate in a back-and-forth between Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Santorum was asked his position on the “No Child Left Behind Act”. This was of course an asinine bill that had the Feds come in and issue these pedantic cookie-cutter exams that did nothing but waste time. Santorum, by his “principles” is against this, which is good, but he voted for it and violated his supposed principles because, in his words “Politics is a team sport.”

In other words, he may have his principles, but when push comes to shove, he has to “play the game”. Here’s the video:

Ron then skewered him, rightfully, by saying this:

Ron continued smashing Santorum beautifully on his voting for Planned Parenthood using the same “politics is a sport” logic. Listen:

Now here’s my point. We can all have specific positions on specific issues, that’s fine. However, if your positions on specific issues do not all flow from the same principle, then you are subject to being abducted into the game of politics and voting for bills you don’t agree with just to get other Knesset Members to vote on bills you want passed. This is what grows government, and I will not play this game.

I will be like Ron Paul, not Rick Santorum. I will not vote for government-funded abortion on the logic that I’m also introducing some stupid government-funded abstinence program. Or, to use the voucher example again, which is on the Zehut Platform, I will not vote for a tax raise just so I can get the school voucher program passed. It’s all a trap, and total nonsense. No deals. If we make deals like this we will never lead the country.

The way laws are passed in the Knesset is that all the menuvalim team up and play the sport and compromise with each other in order to expand the size and scope of the State in some respect, so it never, ever shrinks. I will not violate my principles and vote yes on some spending bill or on any law that restricts liberty just for the sake of having some other politician support me on some other issue. I promise I will not do that. 

So, if you’re a Zehut International member and you are voting in this primary, you should know exactly what I’ll do on every issue, and that’s why I am giving you my principle. If it shrinks government, I vote yes. If it expands government, I vote no. No games, no compromises, no teaming up and violating that principle just to get a different law passed. Zehut must be consistent or we will never lead the country. That means we should never compromise and vote for something we don’t believe in.

If that means voting against the budget even if Zehut is in a coalition, I will vote against the budget. If I’m sanctioned by whoever, then so be it. The way you survive fully human without being eaten alive and becoming a politician is by never giving an inch, just like Ron Paul.

If I win this (in order to vote for me please become a Zehut International member!) I am determined to come out human on the other side, not a politician. If I am to not become a politician, I can never break this principle.

And from this principle, you will know exactly where I stand on every single issue. It’s simply deductive logic. If this is what you want to see, then sign up to Zehut International in order to vote for me.