President Bush nominated an Orthodox Jew to be U.S. attorney general.
Michael Mukasey, a retired federal judge from New York, is a conservative who has criticized Bush administration policies that have kept detainees from consulting with lawyers.
Democrats have praised Mukasey, and his selection represents a shift from Bush's combative defense of the most recent attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, who resigned last month.
Mukasey's Jewishness became an issue when a defendant in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing filed a motion to remove the judge, arguing that his allegiances to fellow Jews and Israel would create a bias against Muslim defendants. The motion was dismissed as "utterly irrelevant."
Mukasey's wife, Susan, is a former headmistress of the Ramaz Lower School, an Orthodox Jewish school in New York City.
If confirmed, Mukasey would be the second Jewish attorney general. The first, Ed Levi, served under President Ford.
Mukasey gave a lecture on the Kol Nidre in September of 2004:
Sun, Sep 19, 3 pm, $35
KOL NIDRE THROUGH THE AGES — Concert
This program explores the music and meaning of the holiest prayer in the Jewish liturgy, the Kol Nidre. Recited on the eve of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement, observed this year on September 25), the Kol Nidre has inspired numerous musical settings and instrumental compositions ... The Honorable MICHAEL B. MUKASEY, U.S. District Court Chief Judge, provides the legal perspective ... Although it carries tremendous emotional power, the Kol Nidre is essentially a legal text that absolves Jews of promises they may have made during the previous year.
The above description of the Kol Nidre (all vows) declaration is more forthcoming than usual, but it is still not correct. The Kol Nidre also "absolves" Judaics of all future vows they will make in the upcoming year.
Americans should have serious concerns about Bush's appointee, a man whose "religion" grants him permission to take an oath that he has no intention of upholding.
If Mukasey is approved by the Congress he will be sworn into office by taking the following oath:
"I (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."
But the Kol Nidre declaration that Mukasey, as a pious Orthodox Judaic, will recite on Yom Kippur this Friday evening, September 21, 2007, will "absolve" him from the responsibility of upholding his oath of office and indeed, any promise he makes at all for the entire year.
Here is the Kol Nidre declaration (in English) that Mukasey along with all of his fellow Orthodox Judaics will recite this Friday:
"All vows, obligations, oaths, and anathemas, whether called 'ḳonam,' 'ḳonas,' or by any other name, which we may vow, or swear, or pledge, or whereby we may be bound, from this Day of Atonement until the next (whose happy coming we await), we do repent. May they be deemed absolved, forgiven, annulled, and void, and made of no effect; they shall not bind us nor have power over us. The vows shall not be reckoned vows; the obligations shall not be obligatory; nor the oaths be oaths."
Now, it is common to hear the excuse made that this declaration was created as a reaction to forced conversions in medieval Europe. This is patently false. The Encyclopedia Judaica finds the Kol Nidre existing before the eighth century:
The first reference to Kol Nidrei as a collective declaration is found in the responsa of the Babylonian geonim (beginning in the eighth century). It is stated that Kol Nidrei was familiar to them from "other lands ... (Encyclopedia Judaica, "Kol Nidrei")
However, the Talmudic precedent for the Kol Nidre dates from the early centuries A.D.:
And he who desires that none of his vows made during the year shall be valid, let him stand at the beginning of the year and declare, 'Every vow which I may make in the future shall be null.1 [HIS VOWS ARE THEN INVALID,] PROVIDING THAT HE REMEMBERS THIS AT THE TIME OF THE VOW. (Soncino Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 23b)
How does the Kol Nidre square with the oath that all federal employees must take supplied above?
How does the Kol Nidre of these "elder brothers in the faith" of the Vatican prelates square with God's law:
You shall not lie, neither shall any man deceive his neighbour. Thou shalt not swear falsely by my name ... (Leviticus 19;11,12)
The answer, quite simply, is that it doesn't. Not by any stretch of the imagination.