Hold onto your hats. I’m going to have something nice to say about the Bibi and the Donald.
Let’s start with Netanyahu. I actually felt sorry for him this week.
As you may know, recently three Palestinian terrorists murdered two Israeli policemen at the entrance to the Temple Mount, the area that is the holy center of the holy city of Jerusalem. As a result, new security measures were put into place by the Israeli police, including metal detectors through which all Muslims who want to enter the Temple Mount had to go.
They were not happy about that. Especially because they were egged on by the Grand Mufti, their religious leader. Yet another very sad example of how most religious leaders today, of all faiths, are far more concerned with being self-righteous than righteous, with inciting their followers to follow their worst instincts, their basest instincts, to show just how faithful they are by showing how outrageous they can be, using alleged allegiance to G-d as cover for their extreme political viewpoints.
Instead of urging calm, the mufti incited his followers, telling them their prayers wouldn’t count if they passed through the metal detectors, calling on them to protest the metal detectors by attacking Jews.
And so one did. On Friday night, when the Salomon family was sitting down for Shabbat dinner, he entered their home and killed the father, the daughter and the son. The mother managed to flee upstairs and protect her five other children, and so she and they now must live a life without her husband, their father, her other children, their brother and sister, must live with the trauma of having been in the house during the massacre.
Palestinians also reacted with rioting and a variety of protests and other attacks. The bottom line is that Bibi had a choice to make. Remove the metal detectors, which he knew in the insane Middle East would be seen by the terrorists as a sign of Israeli weakness, emboldening the terrorists to believe they had achieved a great victory, or keep them in place, which would have led to more rioting, more killing of Jews, escalating tensions and constant stirring by the Grand Mufti and others.
Not an easy choice. And while I believe the Bibi has made so many wrong decisions in his long time as prime minister, wasted so much time, squandered so much goodwill toward Israel among the nations of the world, degraded both Israeli democracy and its mission of being a light unto the nations, I really felt for him in making a decision about something that seemed to be a lose-lose proposition.
In the end, he decided to remove the metal detectors, which I believe was the wise way to go, saved Jewish lives, turned down the temperature of what could have really gotten way out of control. And so I give him credit for doing something that his most fervent followers didn’t want him to do, believing as they do, that force is the answer to everything, that all other considerations be damned.
I also felt bad for Bibi when I went to Facebook and saw how some of his followers reacted, saying the vilest, ugliest things about him, calling him a traitor, calling for him to be jailed, calling him an appeaser and worse. I’ve had my criticisms of the Bibi over the years, said some harsh things about him, but I have never, would never say the things about him that these ultra-right wing and ultra-religious had to say about him, the names they called him.
I think he often makes mistakes but I do not and have never thought he is a traitor, have never and would never say he should be jailed, have not and would not compare him to biblical figures who failed to heed G-d’s word. These super Jews who criticized him for what had to be an agonizing decision should be ashamed of themselves, but shame is not something they are familiar with, except for causing it.
Okay, so there I am feeling for Bibi. Now let me say something positive about the Donald and that is that he is the best teacher of Judaism alive today.
No one is better at teaching Jewish lessons, no one is instructing us on Jewish values better than the Donald. He is bringing to life so many of Judaism’s principles, in ways very easy to see and understand.
Let us look at some of them. First is hakarat hatov, the teaching to be grateful to those who have done us a good. It is an important Jewish value to be appreciative to people who have been nice to you, helped you. When someone is there for you, Judaism calls on you to express your thanks.
Donald has shown us how ugly it is when you don’t do that. No one did more for Trump during the campaign than Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani. They campaigned their hearts out for him. And so did he reward them with positions in his government? Not at all, he ignored Newt, belittled Christie and made Giuliani hang in the wind.
And of course we have Jeff Sessions, the first senator to endorse him. Trump did show hakarat hatov by appointing Sessions as attorney general. But he has spent the last week publicly humiliating him in the most disgusting ways possible.
But to me the sickest example of exactly what hakarat hatov is not is Sean Spicer. Make fun of him all you want, but the fact is he did everything Trump asked him to do, even to the point of ruining his own reputation. Trump asked him to lie about the number of people at his inauguration and Spicer did as he was told. And kept doing so.
And yet when Trump visited the Vatican, he purposely did not include Spicer, a devout Catholic, in the delegation that met with the pope, but did include Jewish Prince Jared and Jewish Princess Ivanka. Thus teaching us about another Jewish concept, nekama, the prohibition against taking revenge against someone, like Catholic Spicer.
When it comes to the Jewish value of caring for the less fortunate, of tikkun olam, of looking out for the widow and the orphan, of providing for the needy, again Trump has shown us the beauty of that Jewish value by doing the opposite.
It is mind boggling to me that he truly does not care what Congress sends him in a health care bill. It can do everything he said he opposed while campaigning — deprive people of coverage, damage Medicaid, kick people off their health insurance, that’s fine with him since all he wants is to sign something, doesn’t matter who it hurts. Judaism teaches us that the first question we must always ask is will something we do hurt someone else. Trump has shown us how valuable that teaching is by never doing it.
Then we have anivut, modesty. Jews are taught to always practice modesty, to always be humble. Which doesn’t mean false modesty. We are to recognize the gifts and talents G-d has blessed us with, acknowledge them and use them for good. For instance, Moses, the greatest of all leaders, did not hesitate to argue with the Almighty if he thought his cause was righteous, but that same Moses is described as the most modest person ever. Meaning he knew his gifts and abilities but never let it go to his head, never thought himself better than others.
Contrast that with our leader, the Donald, who tells us how smart he is, how rich he is, how he has the best words, how his recent speech in Poland was the greatest speech ever given on foreign soil by any president, how he has done more in his first six months than any president and on and on. Not a drop of modesty, big dollops of gyva, which means haughtiness, arrogance, something Judaism is very adamant about us avoiding.
And as sinful as he is when it comes to modesty, the Donald is an even greater example of how not to treat the truth. Emet, truth, is another foundational value of Judaism, something we are commanded to always tell. Fact is the Donald lies more often than he is honest. The New York Times counted up all the public lies Trump has told since he took office and came up with a list of almost 900. Since he’s been president a little more than 180 days, that’s about five public lies a day. That’s not counting all the lies he no doubt tells in private.
We are also taught to remember that ‘you were once strangers in a strange land,’ that because Jews suffered as slaves in Egypt, we must be compassionate to those who suffer, are being mistreated, find themselves in places and circumstances that are harsh and evil. And yet Trump is obsessed with keeping immigrants fleeing persecution out, doing nothing to help Syrians living under hellish conditions. He wants to build a wall, to keep the stranger out, forgetting that we all in some way were once strangers. It is why I personally so love the United States, for it took in my mom and my dad and my grandparents who didn’t speak the language, had no possessions, but who had endured the horrors of the Holocaust and needed safe refuge.
Then we have the Jewish teaching that ‘justice, justice shalt thou pursue.’ The Donald has illuminated that teaching by showing us that to him justice, justice shalt thou squash. He fired the head of the FBI and will no doubt soon fire the special counsel. He is doing everything to undermine the Justice Department, everything to protect the Russians. Pursuing justice means letting the investigators do their thing and finding the truth. He clearly is making sure that pursuit comes to an end long before it can deliver justice.
Which brings us to shmiras halashon, watching what you say about others. One of the biggest sins in Judaism is lashon harah, evil talk, meaning gossip, nasty comments about others, name calling. Judaism is very big on telling us to be very careful never to harm anyone by what we say about them. Indeed lashon harah is compared to murder for your words can often bring so much harm, do so much damage to others. You must always be aware of the words you utter.
Clearly the Donald says whatever pops into his head without thinking or caring how hurtful it might be, how nasty it is, how destructive it can be. When it comes to lashon harah, as with all other Jewish values, Trump is literally the opposite of what Judaism teaches, thus highlighting what Judaism teaches.
And so thank you Donald Trump for doing so much to make us all better Jews. By watching and listening to him, we can see the true beauty of Jewish values, and by watching and listening to him, we can see vivid examples of exactly what we should not do and what we should not be.