MANY religious Jews and Zionists will not allow anyone to say a bad word about President Trump.
For example, last week a Jewish Telegraph letterwriter refuted any criticism of him because he was “the best friend the Jewish people could hope to have” for declaring Jerusalem Israel’s capital and for surrounding himself with Jews like Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman.
I would refer the writer, Neville Brown, to the words of Rabbi Judah the Prince in the Ethics of the Fathers: “Be wary of your dealings with the ruling power, for they only befriend someone when it suits their needs. When it is to their advantage, they appear as friends, but they do not stand by them in their hour of need.”
What an astute observation, written thousands of years ago, which was so true throughout Jewish history and is still as true in today’s highly volatile political climate!
As more and more becomes revealed about the White House incumbent and his family, his Jewish connections become more and more embarrassing!
Yet on the other hand, despite the savvy warning of Judah the Prince, Jewish history is full of accounts of heroic Jews who saved their people just by their proximity to the ruling power of the day.
Joseph was second-in-command to Pharaoh, Nehemiah was cup-bearer to Artaxerxes, King of Persia and in the Purim story, Esther married the Persian king Ahasuerus and her uncle Mordechai became the king’s second-in-command.
Ever since Trump first entered the presidential campaign trail, I have been comparing the contemporary American and world scene to that of the Purim story. Now, with Purim coming up again soon, it is more Purim than ever!
To some, it would appear that we are currently living in miraculous times. Trump has recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinians, surrounded himself with religious Jews and even used his presidential pardon to free one from prison.
Yet like the Purim festivities, the times are crazy and seemingly out of control.
One of the most powerful world leaders is taunting his nemesis, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with the playground chant of “My button is much bigger than yours!”
Only it’s not a kindergarten scrap that Donald and Kim are fighting. The American president is goading the North Korean leader over the nuclear button which could endanger thousands of lives at a time when Kim is moving closer to his country’s enemy, South Korea.
Fortunately, Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem did not provoke the extent of backlash I feared, but I still find the current situation with Trump seemingly in charge of the world — including the fate of the Jews — pretty scary.
What scares me too is the extent to which so many religious Jews and ardent Zionists are prepared to overlook Trump’s countless moral failings and lack of diplomatic acumen just because he’s being good to Jews and Israel.
The biblical narrative recounts, warts and all, the history of its heroes. Ecclesiastes says: “There is no righteous person on earth who does good and never sins.”
Yet a charedi tradition has grown up that it is forbidden to find any fault in any biblical hero, despite textual proof otherwise. For example, the Bible records that David was punished for his sins with Bathsheba, whose husband Uriah he had sent to be killed in the battle frontline so that he could marry her.
Yet some rabbinic interpreters try to wriggle out of accepting that such a great person as the author of the Psalms could have had human failings for which he was punished and later repented.
The same uncritical attitude which some charedim have towards their biblical heroes, they are now bestowing on Trump. It sickens when I see his picture on billboards in yeshiva areas of Jerusalem.
It sickens me when Facebook “friends” threaten to unfriend me if I dare to criticise Trump.
The world is not black and white, made up just of heroes and villains. We are all mixtures, some more dramatically than others.
Donald Trump has many, many character failings despite the fact that some of the things he does may be good for Jews and Israel, for which we are entitled to be grateful.
But that gratitude should not blind us to his faults. Because if we do so, we are inclined to overlook our own possible faults.
By failing to see the faults in our leaders, we are in danger of condoning wrongdoing and losing our own moral compass.
If the Torah could portray its heroes in all their occasionally flawed humanity, then religious and Zionist Jews should be able to criticise the president of America for his moral lapses without being accused of treason to the Jewish people and the state of Israel.