Joe Biden, Mensch

June 25, 2020

Joe Biden’s campaign is sharing personal stories about Biden — this one was shared originally in September 2019. It’s a way to get to know him, and to show his character (or lack of it).

This one, you should read. It’s the Joe Biden I met first in 1974, and the Biden I know him to be. But I hadn’t heard this story before.

I Know Joe Biden: Rabbi Michael Beals

The story I’m about to share with you about Joe Biden is special — in fact, I’m fairly certain I’m the only living person left who actually witnessed it firsthand.

It was about 16 years ago, and I was a young rabbi, brand-new to Delaware, on my way to lead a shiva minyan — a worship service following a death of a Jewish person. I was from California. Back then, I didn’t know Claymont, Delaware from Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Rabbi Michael Beals and Vice President Joe Biden

A quick bit of background: When someone passes away in the Jewish faith, we observe seven days of mourning, called shiva. We gather a group of ten Jewish adults together — a minyan — to say the Mourners’ Kaddish. It usually happens in a person’s home — somewhere intimate.

In this case, the deceased individual — her name was Mrs. Greenhouse, of blessed memory — had not been a person of means. She had lived in rent-controlled senior housing in a tall high-rise building off of Namaans Road. Her apartment had been too small to fit everyone into, so we conducted our worship service in the building’s communal laundry room, in the basement of the high-rise.

We assembled the ten elders together, and it was in this most humble of places that I began to lead the kaddish. Toward the end of the service, a door at the back of the laundry room opened, and who walks in but Senator Joe Biden, his head lowered, all by himself.

I nearly dropped my prayer book in shock.

Senator Biden stood quietly in the back of the room for the duration of the service.

At the close of the kaddish, I walked over to him and asked the same question that must have been on everyone else’s mind: “Senator Biden — what are you doing here?”

And he said to me: “Listen, back in 1972, when I first ran for Senate, Mrs. Greenhouse gave $18 to my first campaign. Because that’s what she could afford. And every six years, when I’d run for reelection, she’d give another $18. She did it her whole life. I’m here to show my respect and gratitude.”

Now, the number 18 is significant in the Jewish faith — its numbers spell out the Hebrew word chai, as in “to life, to life, l’chayim!” But it’s also a humble amount. Joe Biden knew that. And he respected that.

There were no news outlets at our service that day — no Jewish reporters or important dignitaries. Just a few elderly mourners in a basement laundry room.

Joe Biden didn’t come to that service for political gain. He came to that service because he has character. He came to that service because he’s a mensch.

And if we need anything right now when it comes to the leadership of our country — we need a mensch.

I know this is such a simple, small story. But I tell it to as many people as will listen to me.

Because I think that, in their heart of hearts, when people are trying to think about the decision they’ll make next year — this is the kind of story that matters.

Joe Biden is a mensch. We need a mensch.

Thanks for reading.

– Rabbi Michael Beals of Delaware

This article was first published by the Biden campaign on Medium, I think. This is the earliest version I’ve found. It’s been excerpted on Twitter, for example by Stanley Krute, and probably on other platforms, too.

I know of no similar story about Donald Trump. Do you?

Trump has played voters as chumps for 463 days; no taxes, but a fog of corruption and graft

September 22, 2016

Donald Trump has stiff-armed American voters on releasing his taxes for 463 days since he announced his candidacy. It’s a long-simmering scandal.

A sign for Arkansas Route 463. Rt 463 will carry a voter 20.59 miles from Payneway to Jonesboro, about 20.58 miles farther than Donald Trump's policies will carry America. Wikipedia image

A sign for Arkansas Route 463. Rt 463 will carry a voter 20.59 miles from Payneway to Jonesboro, about 20.58 miles farther than Donald Trump’s policies will carry America. Wikipedia image

Should we be concerned? Sure. Careful investigation by reporters such as David Fahrenthold at The Washington Post reveal uncomfortable, immoral and illegal shenanigans in transferring funds from Trump’s various foundations to cover Trump business fines and buy trophies for Trump properties, screwing charities out of much needed money.

Can Trump’s taxes show he’s not a grifter? Either way, America needs to know. The last national candidate who didn’t reveal his taxes was Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew. It was later discovered he’d accepted bribes for issuing state contracts. In place of trial and prison, Agnew agreed to resign as Vice President. The entire affair tied up national government for many days, contributing to the fall of President Richard Nixon.

We cannot afford not to be sure Trump is not a crook. 


463 was a powerful K-27 “Mudhen” locomotive for the old Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in Colorado, pulling loads that pushed America’s economy. Trump shouldn’t sully that image of 463. He should release his taxes today.

A Trump foundation gave $100,000 to Fisher House, a charity. Will Trump's tax returns reveal he illegally deducted this as a contribution from his own bank account? Is that why he won't release his taxes? Washington Post image

A Trump foundation gave $100,000 to Fisher House, a charity. Will Trump’s tax returns reveal he illegally deducted this as a contribution from his own bank account? Is that why he won’t release his taxes? Washington Post image


463 puts you at Madrid Plaza on the Madrid Intercity Buses. 463 puts you up Vote Feces Creek if you're a U.S. citizen trying to figure out just how corrupt Donald Trump really is.

463 puts you at Madrid Plaza on the Madrid Intercity Buses. 463 puts you up Vote Feces Creek if you’re a U.S. citizen trying to figure out just how corrupt Donald Trump really is.




“Why should I read Shakespeare? Why should I study history?”

November 2, 2007

David McCullough might answer that question this way:

In conclusion I want to share a scene that took place on the last day of the year of 1776, Dec. 31. All the enlistments for the entire army were up. Every soldier, because of the system at the time, was free to go home as of the first day of January 1777. Washington called a large part of the troops out into formation. He appeared in front of these ragged men on his horse, and he urged them to reenlist. He said that if they would sign up for another six months, he’d give them a bonus of 10 dollars. It was an enormous amount then because that’s about what they were being paid for a month—if and when they could get paid. These were men who were desperate for pay of any kind. Their families were starving.

The drums rolled, and he asked those who would stay on to step forward. The drums kept rolling, and nobody stepped forward. Washington turned and rode away from them. Then he stopped, and he turned back and rode up to them again. This is what we know he said:

My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected, but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you can probably never do under any other circumstance.3

Again the drums rolled. This time the men began stepping forward. “God Almighty,” wrote Nathanael Greene, “inclined their hearts to listen to the proposal and they engaged anew.”4

Now that is an amazing scene, to say the least, and it’s real. This wasn’t some contrivance of a screenwriter. However, I believe there is something very familiar about what Washington said to those troops. It was as if he was saying, “You are fortunate. You have a chance to serve your country in a way that nobody else is going to be able to, and everybody else is going to be jealous of you, and you will count this the most important decision and the most valuable service of your lives.” Now doesn’t that have a familiar ring? Isn’t it very like the speech of Henry V in Shakespeare’s play Henry V: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers . . . And gentlemen in England now a-bed / Shall think themselves accursed they were not here”?5 Washington loved the theater; Washington loved Shakespeare. I can’t help but feel that he was greatly influenced.

He was also greatly influenced, as they all were, by the classical ideals of the Romans and the Greeks. The history they read was the history of Greece and Rome. And while Washington and Knox and Greene, not being educated men, didn’t read Greek and Latin as Adams and Jefferson did, they knew the play Cato, and they knew about Cincinnatus. They knew that Cincinnatus had stepped forward to save his country in its hour of peril and then, after the war was over, returned to the farm. Washington, the political general, had never forgotten that Congress was boss. When the war was at last over, Washington, in one of the most important events in our entire history, turned back his command to Congress—a scene portrayed in a magnificent painting by John Trumbull that hangs in the rotunda of our national Capitol. When George III heard that George Washington might do this, he said that “if he does, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

So what does this tell us? That the original decision of the Continental Congress was the wise one. They knew the man, they knew his character, and he lived up to his reputation.

I hope very much that those of you who are studying history here will pursue it avidly, with diligence, with attention. I hope you do this not just because it will make you a better citizen, and it will; not just because you will learn a great deal about human nature and about cause and effect in your own lives, as well as the life of the nation, which you will; but as a source of strength, as an example of how to conduct yourself in difficult times—and we live in very difficult times, very uncertain times. But I hope you also find history to be a source of pleasure. Read history for pleasure as you would read a great novel or poetry or go to see a great play.

And I hope when you read about the American Revolution and the reality of those people that you will never think of them again as just figures in a costume pageant or as gods. They were not perfect; they were imperfect—that’s what’s so miraculous. They rose to the occasion as very few generations ever have.

David McCullough, from a speech delivered at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on September 27, 2005, “The Glorious Cause of America.”

Do your students know that speech from Henry V? Do your students know the story of Cincinnatus?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Collecting My Thoughts.

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