On learning of the death Thursday of Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer, a patriotic American and a proud Jew, I thought of two Hebrew words: Kiddush Hashem.
It’s the highest, most sublime term Judaic tradition applies to a person, living or dead, sanctifying the Lord’s name. In layman’s terms, the words refer to someone whose actions reflected commitment, faith and good deeds. Someone who made the world a better place and changed the lives of many for the better.
Kiddush Hashem is a term sparingly applied, usually to a saintly rabbi or a martyr killed because of his faith. Charles Krauthammer was no rabbi. Turns out however, he was America’s rebbe – a master teacher, a truth teller – an intellectual giant who was unafraid of the powerful and of the power-wannabees.
Krauthammer knew the difference between teaching and preaching. He taught us through the words of his Washington Post columns and other writings – and through his brilliant insights when appearing on Fox News – the difference between criticism and animus, between debate and debasement.
Charles Krauthammer was no rabbi. Turns out however, he was America’s rebbe – a master teacher, a truth teller – an intellectual giant who was unafraid of the powerful and of the power-wannabees.
He loved baseball and greeted everyone on a level playing field that he had to use a wheelchair to traverse. Charles overcame horrific injury to his body. His quiet, fierce determination was a daily reminder that paralysis never damaged his soul. He was living proof that an irrepressible spirit can defeat physical limitations.
Charles Krauthammer was always a proud Jew. He never wore it as a chip on his shoulder, but never hid his love for his people or for Israel. And he powerfully defended the Jewish state – especially in times of crisis – when Israel was falsely and overwhelmingly depicted by the United Nations, the European Union and some American commentators as a brutish goliath unfairly harassing the Palestinians and Arab nations.
Without ever giving Israel a free moral pass – something no nation deserves – and without injecting rancor or arrogance, Krauthammer brought the conversations about the Middle East back to reality. The reality of a lone democracy in a sea of extremism, of the struggle to defend one’s people and values when confronted with terrorism and anti-Semitism.
And no matter the controversy, his was always a calm voice, backed by steely determination wrapped in a Mona Lisa smile and with a twinkle in his eye. His dedication to fairness and accuracy in all he said was unwavering.
The current immigration debate has brought out some of the worst instincts in our nation; some mocking a helpless asylum seeker, others – including the former director of the CIA – cynically expropriating genocidal imagery of the Nazi Holocaust to becloud the facts and superheat an already toxic political discourse.
Seems like America has lost Charles just when we needed his integrity and truth-telling the most.
No worries about Charles Krauthammer now. I have a good idea where the Good Lord will be deploying his talents – probably playing shortstop for Zechariah’s team. That prophet’s most powerful quote has Krauthammer written all over it: “Not by might nor by power, but by my spirit …”
Welcome home, Charles. Your memory is already a blessing. All who knew you, who read your words or watched you on TV, were blessed by your wisdom.