Like so very many people over the past weeks we have mourned the death of Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States. For some reason, I kept noticing how often commentators noted that he was president number 40. I began to wonder about that because I knew that the number 40 is extremely important in the Bible. So many things revolve around that number that it has to be seen as significant.
It is so strong in the Bible, that it has taken on special meaning in Judaism as well. According to Rabbi Shraga Simmons, “The Talmud tells us that a Mikveh must be filled with FORTY measures of water, and a person, must completely submerse himself in it. After being submersed, he leaves the Mikveh ritually pure. It is no accident, that in the story of Noah, the rain poured for FORTY days, and surrounded the world with water. And just as a person leaves a Mikveh pure, so too when the waters of the flood subsided, the world was pure.”
There is no way to conclude that there is some spiritual significance to Ronald Reagan being the 40th president, but he was surely a significant president. Peggy Noonan believes that history will place him in the top ten. Surely, she concludes, the presidents of the 20th century will be FDR and RWR.
It is probably meaningless to place presidents on a scale in relation to one another because the challenges each of them faced were different. No one could ever face again what George Washington faced at the birth of a nation. No one else besides Abraham Lincoln ever had to fight a war between the states. Each president is defined by the challenges he faces and by his response to those challenges. Franklin Roosevelt had to deal with World War II. Reagan had to face the possibility of WWIII. Both of them were winners.
Both of them were men with great personal charm. Reagan was certainly one of the most likeable men ever to sit in the oval office. Some might even say, lovable. Perhaps one reason was because he loved us so much. I mean he loved the country, and we are the country.
I believe Ronald Wilson Reagan will be rated among the greatest of American presidents. In an age of decline, he reversed the course of history, if only for a little while.